Hooper (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Hal Needham
Written by Thomas Rickman
Bill Kerby
Story byWalt Green
Walter S. Herndon
Produced by Hank Moonjean
Starring Burt Reynolds
Jan-Michael Vincent
Sally Field
Brian Keith
Robert Klein
Cinematography Bobby Byrne
Edited byDonn Cambern
Music by Bill Justis
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • July 14, 1978 (1978-07-14)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$6 million [2]
Box office$78 million [3]

Hooper is a 1978 American action-comedy film [4] [5] directed by Hal Needham and starring Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jan-Michael Vincent, Brian Keith, Robert Klein, James Best and Adam West. The film serves as a tribute to stuntmen and stuntwomen in what was at one time an underrecognized profession. At the time of filming, Field and Reynolds were in a relationship, having met on the set of Smokey and the Bandit the previous year.



Sonny Hooper (Burt Reynolds) is the stunt coordinator on the action film The Spy Who Laughed at Danger, directed by Roger Deal (Robert Klein) and starring Adam West (playing himself). Sonny's antics and wisecracks are a trial for the egotistical director and his officious but cowardly assistant, Tony (Alfie Wise). Years of numerous "gags" and his use of alcohol and painkillers are beginning to take their toll. Sonny lives with his girlfriend Gwen Doyle (Sally Field), whose father Jocko (Brian Keith) is a retired stuntman.

Sonny is coerced by a friend into performing at a charity show, where he meets Delmore "Ski" Shidski (Jan-Michael Vincent), a newcomer who makes a spectacular entrance. They become friends after a barroom brawl, and Sonny invites Ski to work with him on the film. They begin a friendly rivalry in which the dangerous stunts escalate. After a freefall from a record 224 ft (68 m), Sonny quietly consults with his doctor, who warns him that one more bad fall could render him quadriplegic.

Roger decides to change the film's ending, adding a climactic earthquake complete with many explosions, fires and car crashes. Sonny and Ski would race through the carnage to a nearby gorge, where the bridge explodes before they can cross it. Roger suggests they rappel down one side of the gorge and up the other to safety, but Ski proposes jumping a car over the gorge, with Hooper adding that a rocket car can make the 335-foot (102 m) jump. Roger loves the idea, ignoring the warnings that Sonny and Ski might not survive the landing even if the car lands on its wheels. Max Berns, the movie's producer and a longtime friend of Sonny's, warns Roger that the film is already over budget and they can't afford the $100,000 Hooper wants to perform the rocket car jump. Roger tells Max he wants the rocket car ending and to make cuts elsewhere. Tony is sent to talk Hooper down from his high price, but fails.

Meanwhile, Jocko suffers a stroke, but denies the gravity of his condition. Seeing Jocko in the hospital motivates Sonny to promise Gwen that he will quit the business after the film wraps. Then, Sonny's assistant and best friend Cully (James Best) reveals the rocket car stunt and Sonny's secret visit to his doctor to a horrified Gwen. Sonny later tells Roger that he is backing out of the gag, but Max convinces him to reconsider, as no qualified stuntman is available, or willing, to replace him and Ski cannot do it alone. Having no other choice, and even after Gwen threatens to leave him, Sonny goes through with the gag.

Sonny and Ski perform the first part of the gag perfectly. As they arrive at the now-demolished bridge, they find that the rocket pressure is below the minimum needed to make the jump, but they attempt it anyway. The rocket car clears the gorge, but overshoots the prepared landing area and lands hard on the far side. Ski emerges from the car on his own, but the impact is more of a shock to Sonny's system. Gwen tearfully pushes her way through the gathering crowd as the chief engineer extracts Sonny from the car. Sonny slowly comes out of his daze and takes Gwen in his arms.

As Sonny, Ski, Gwen, Cully and Jocko view the bridge lying in the river and the gorge the rocket car had jumped, Roger comes up to them and tries to apologize for all the grief he gave him during filming, but he comes off as trying to justify himself. Sonny's response is to knock Roger out with a single punch. He, Gwen, Ski, Cully and Jocko then triumphantly walk off the set.



The film was initially called The Stuntman and Reynolds committed to the film early and inexpensively. Lamont Johnson was originally due to direct in 1975 but the project was shelved in 1976. [1] The project was reactivated in 1977 with Hal Needham as director and with Lawrence Gordon joining later as executive producer. [6] [1]

It was rumored that the Roger Deal character in the film was a send-up of Peter Bogdanovich, who had made two films with Reynolds. [7]

The "destruction of Los Angeles" sequence that concludes both The Spy Who Laughed at Danger and Hooper was filmed in the Tuscaloosa, Alabama area, with all but the final rocket car jump staged at the by-that-time-disused Northington General Hospital, a World War II military hospital near the University of Alabama. The huge stunt sequence was referred to by the crew as "Damnation Alley." [8]

The rocket car jump took place on US Highway 78E between Sumiton, Alabama. and Graysville, Alabama over the Locust Fork River (Lat.33°42'17.84"N Long. 86°59'33.74"W). The bridge was in the process of being demolished due to damage from a traffic accident Involving a fuel truck.


Hooper enjoyed success at the box office being one of the top ten films of 1978, but ultimately the film was deemed a letdown in comparison to Reynolds' Smokey and the Bandit , second only to Star Wars in box office gross the year before. Hooper opened in 97 theaters and grossed $1,049,831 in its opening week. It expanded to 454 theaters and grossed $4,614,456 the following week before expanding again to 849 theaters and grossing $9,437,484. [9] After 70 days of release, Hooper had grossed $55 million. [1] It was withdrawn from release by year end [10] having earned Warners' rentals of $31.5 million. [11] The film was reissued in May 1979 and earned Warners a further $3.4 million [12] bringing its rental to $34.9 million and its gross to $78 million in the United States and Canada, [3] nearly 40% less than the gross of Smokey in 1977 ($126 million). [13] The film has a score of 67% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on 18 reviews. [14]

Janet Maslin wrote in The New York Times , "Mr. Reynolds is one of the most effortlessly appealing movie stars around, but consolidating his following has always been a problem: There are fans who like to watch him tearing up the highway, and there are fans who enjoy his delightfully flippant self-mockery, with all the covert thoughtfulness it implies. This time, Mr. Reynolds has made a movie to please fans of all persuasions, and to please them a great deal." [15] [ verification needed ] Variety wrote that the work of the four lead performers was "a delight" that "boosts an otherwise pedestrian story with lots of crashes and daredevil antics into a touching and likeable piece." [16] [ verification needed ] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film three stars out of four and wrote, "None of this makes very much sense. But sense is not the point in Reynolds-Needham films. Just thrills, spills, and Reynolds' leer. That's proving to be one of the most potent combinations in today's film industry." [17] [ verification needed ]

Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times praised the "excellent" script, "inspired " casting, and direction by Needham that "brings such affection and amiability to the film that its people seem real even when what they're doing is patently fake—not in their awesome stunts but rather in their off-hours shenanigans." [18] [ verification needed ] David Ansen wrote in Newsweek , "'Hooper' doesn't dig very deep into its Hollywood subject, but it's a good example of decent, no-frills filmmaking that lets a surprising amount of feeling seep through the cracks of its all-action formula." [19] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post called it "a rousing and sweet-tempered sentimental comedy" that "should finally secure Reynolds a preeminent position in the affections of contemporary moviegoers." [20] Penelope Gilliatt of The New Yorker was less enthused, calling the film "trite" and containing "frolicsome humor that is not contagious." [21] [ verification needed ]

The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Sound (Robert Knudson, Robert Glass, Don MacDougall and Jack Solomon). [22]

"Blooper reel" credits

Hooper was also one of the first films to make use of the blooper reel credit roll. The technique showed a smaller screen of outtakes from the film to one side while the film's credits roll slowly up the other side. Needham refined this technique for later films such as Smokey and the Bandit II , Stroker Ace and the Cannonball Run films. (In Hooper the credit reel was mostly a montage of many of the stunts performed in the film itself, owing to the film's tribute to the stunt industry.) This technique was later used in other films, including the CGI animated Toy Story 2 and A Bug's Life , for which the bloopers were intentionally created, and in TV series including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Home Improvement . Most of Jackie Chan's films also feature blooper reel credit rolls, due to his experience in The Cannonball Run.[ citation needed ]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 Hooper at the American Film Institute Catalog
  2. Taylor, Clarke. (October 8, 1978). "LARRY GORDON ROLLS HIS DICE". Los Angeles Times. p. n35.
  3. 1 2 "Hooper, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo . Retrieved June 24, 2012.
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  5. "Hooper". www.rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  6. Klain, Stephen (September 6, 1978). "Gordon, Ex AIP Prod. Head, Gets Payoff From Indie Flexibility". Variety . p. 26.
  7. Maslin, Janet. (August 4, 1978). "Film: Burt Reynolds In Action in 'Hooper': Moviemaking Fun". New York Times. p. C11.
  8. IMDb.com, "Hooper", Trivia. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077696/trivia Retrieved April 8, 2015.
  9. "Sooper Hooper (advertisement)". Variety . August 16, 1978. p. 25.
  10. "'Superman' Bestest Initial Pace Film In Warners Annals". Variety . August 8, 1979. p. 3.
  11. "Big Rental Films Of 1978". Variety . January 3, 1979. p. 17.
  12. "Big Rental Films Of 1979". Variety . January 9, 1980. p. 21.
  13. "Smokey and the Bandit, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo . Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  14. "Hooper". Rotten Tomatoes . Retrieved March 13, 2022.
  15. Maslin, Janet (August 4, 1978). "Film: Burt Reynolds In Action in 'Hooper'". The New York Times . C11.
  16. "Film Reviews: Hooper". Variety . July 26, 1978. 20.
  17. Siskel, Gene (August 9, 1978). "Action, Burt's charisma make 'Hooper' super". Chicago Tribune . Section 2, p. 4.
  18. Thomas, Kevin (August 9, 1978). "Reynolds as an Unsung Hero". Los Angeles Times . Part IV, p. 12.
  19. Ansen, David (August 21, 1978). "Stunt Man". Newsweek . 67.
  20. Arnold, Gary (August 4, 1978). "The Fall Guys Take a Bow". The Washington Post .
  21. Gilliatt, Penelope (September 4, 1978). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker . 95-96.
  22. "The 51st Academy Awards (1979) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences . Retrieved October 6, 2011.