By on October 12, 2007

bullitt.JPGCar buffs around the world have wasted countless hours debating whether the automotive stunt work in Bullitt or The French Connection qualifies as The Mother of All Car Chases. Obviously, Bullitt is the correct answer. Bud Ekins was the man behind the man behind the wheel. But first, Ekins performed the over-the-fence motorbike jump in "The Great Escape;" the most famous motorcycle stunt ever performed in a movie. After that immortal movie moment, motor mad actor Steve McQueen tapped Ekins to create the superhuman driving in "Bullitt." The movie earned Ekins his place in Hollywood legend– even though the studio insisted on crediting McQueen with the driving. (Ekins didn't mind; he valued his friendship with McQueen more than industry accolades.) Ekins went on to work on other super-stunt films such as "Blues Brothers" ("They got everything in this mall") and "Diamonds are Forever" (two wheel driving through an alley). When his pal and fellow race car driver McQueen died in 1980, Ekins retired from stunt driving, heartbroken. He spent his remaining days restoring and collecting Triumph motorbikes. His only regret in life? "Opening a Triumph dealership, instead of working for Honda."

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10 Comments on “Bud Ekins, Stunt Man, R.I.P....”

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    The choppy editing of the French Connection’s chase scene makes Bullitt the only right answer.

    Thanks for the memories, Bud. Say hi to H.B. Halecki for us.

  • avatar

    Sajeev: The choppy editing of the French Connection’s chase scene makes Bullitt the only right answer. Well… The French Connection chase scene was REAL; they strapped a camera on a car and just went for it. So bonus points for cinema verite. Still, Bullitt has the better soundtrack. Man, those engines sounded sweet. So I agree with you for different reasons, and join you in raising a glass to Bud's gift. Salut!

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Not to diminish Elkins work, stunt driver Bill Hickman’s 1973 The Seven-Ups car chase is comparable.

    As he did with Bullitt and The French Connection, Philip D’Antoni again utilized the work of stunt driver Bill Hickman (who also has a small role in the film) to create another chase sequence for this film. Upper Manhattan is the place of choice for this sequence, which was edited by Jerry Greenberg who also has a producer credit here and who won Academy Awards for his editing work on Bullitt and The French Connection.

    The chase sequence is regarded as one of cinema’s greats, and is located near the middle of the film. Hickman performed yet another memorable chase sequence in which he drove the car being chased by Roy Scheider. The chase itself lends heavily to the Bullitt chase, with the two cars bouncing down the gradients of uptown New York (a la San Francisco’s steep hills in the earlier film) with Hickman’s 1973 Pontiac Grand Ville pursued at wheel-breaking speed by Scheider’s Pontiac Ventura.

    Everything is rendered to painstaking detail, the gritty realism and danger of each tire-busting slide, accompanied by close camera angles and camera-cars moving at high speed, parallel to the action car, added to which an almost complete lack of dialogue and music. Location shooting was done in upper Manhattan, on the George Washington Bridge, and on the Palisades and Taconic parkways.

  • avatar

    For those who have never seen this chase:

    I have to admit, it’s a very good chase.

  • avatar

    Everyone knows the greatest car chase in the history of movies was in The Blues Brothers. Who else has ever made a “cop car” do a back flip over Nazis?

    Bullitt? They can’t even spell…

    /major sarcasm

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    The Seven-Ups car chase is pretty good. But the editing isn’t nearly as poetic as Bullitt, and that Pontiac Nova (Ventura?) used the same soundtrack as the Bullitt Mustang.

    I still rate ’em this way.

    1. Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
    2. Ronin
    3. Bullitt

    Every other chase pales in comparison to these three in terms of content, editing and cinematography.

    No one had the balls of Halecki to film such an elaborate chase on public roads.

    Gone in 60 seconds (part 4)

    And nobody chose cars and film’d them (driving against traffic on a freeway) like Frankenheimer. M5, S8, and an old school MB 450 6.9L? And that unedited footage of a Peugeot doing a perfectly executed 4-wheel drift? Wow…

    Ronin chase (part 2)

  • avatar

    Bud was a legend. It was he who jumped the motorcycle near the end of "The Great Escape" 

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer


    Ronin! Yes! I’ve seen that movie about 15 times.

    Wish I had seen the 1974 Gone in 60 Sec movie, though. Can’t get it here.

  • avatar

    Sorry, but the Seven-ups was a cheap Bullitt rip-off transplanted to the East Coast. Apparently they even used the same sound effects as Bullitt. Just how do you double clutch an automatic?

  • avatar

    Sorry your gone “Bud”..I’m sure Steve is waiting with beer in hand to go over the old days..R.I.P.

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