Michael Caine wrote a very interesting account of this stunt on the fall off the rope bridge by Joe Powell in his autobiography, “The Elephant To Hollywood”. The stunt was a 100 foot drop in the ravine to an accumulation of cardboard boxes and mattresses below.
The drop was so tight and set on the edge of the ravine that if the stuntman’s aim was off slightly or if the wind picked up, he would have fallen surely to his death. After Joe expertly dropped dead center on the boxes, the director John Huston turned to Michael and said, “That’s the damnest stunt I’ve ever seen.”
“The thing is,” explains Powell, “you don’t have time to be scared – if you stop to think about what you are doing you wouldn’t do it.
“These days you still see stuntmen falling off cliffs and going straight into a perfect dive. I didn’t have any training so when I performed a stunt the audience were literally seeing someone fall off a cliff – it made it more realistic.”
That is the great thing about Powell. Although his life-story reads like a Hollywood blockbuster you know it is a real-life story and that realism makes it all the more enthralling.
It’s very interesting to add that Joe’s brother Eddie was also an outstanding stuntman in his own right. He started out on the old Hammer Horror films doubling for Christopher Lee and was doing stunts into his late sixties. Stunt performers usually have family members that join the business as the stuntmen really feel like they have to have people they can really trust and count on to be on their crew. There are a lot of stunt families where the children carry on the stunt tradition created by their parents. An example of this is with the Needham family, the Canutts, Armstrongs and many more of the movie stunt legends. The Man Who Would Be King was directed by John Huston for Columbia Pictures.
Things to look up (go to IMDB):
Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!