Black Stuntman honored by Mississippi Legislature
By Joshua D. Copeland
Willie Harris was one of the first Black stuntmen in Hollywood. And recently, he has been honored by the Mississippi Legislature… for getting shot.
Harris was known best for his iconic stunt in the 1971 classic film “Dirty Harry,” when he got shot by the 44 magnum of Clint Eastwood.
Eastwood was in the middle of eating his hot dog for lunch when a bank robbery interrupted him. That’s when he shoots Harris with one blow before saying the iconic line:
“You have to ask yourself one question — Do I feel lucky? Well, do you, punk?”
According to Harris, many people still remember that scene to this day. “I haven’t found too many people who don’t remember that scene,” says Harris, 73, who grew up in the Holmes County (Mississippi) community of Howard. “When I tell them that was me falling down the steps, they wonder if I’m joking.”
Nope. The 6 foot 8 Alcorn State alumni was one of the first to open the door for many Black actors in Hollywood. Especially for stuntmen.
Back then, there were very few Black people in the industry, and Gordon Parks would become the pioneer for Black producers in Hollywood:
“In the late 1960s, there was one Black movie producer that we knew of — Gordon Parks,” Harris says. “There were no Black people in wardrobe or makeup or operating cameras. I don’t like for it to come off as bragging. Young people will just say, ‘Aw, you’re full of it.’ But we changed Hollywood. We busted down the doors for a lot of Black people in the movie industry.”
As president of the Black Stuntmen’s Association, Harry was honored by the Mississippi Legislature earlier this month at the Capital in Jackson. He is one of the 14 of the original 22 cast members that are still a-live. Out of that 14, only 8 made the trip.
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