Okay, I realize I’m pushing it by making Evel Knievel the Cool Actor of the Week, but dammit, I freakin’ love Viva Knievel! (1977), and Evel did a pretty kick-ass job of playing himself in that movie. Sure, maybe what he did wasn’t really a heck of a lot like acting, but he sure delivered the groceries — putting feminist reporter Lauren Hutton in her place, busting a drug-crazed Gene Kelly out of the psych ward, going toe-to-toe with Marjoe Gortner, and battling the sinister plot of drug lord Leslie Nielsen.
Sadly, aside from an uncredited appearance in 1974’s Freebie and the Bean, Viva Knievel! marked Evel’s one-and-only foray into acting before his career hit an obstacle he couldn’t jump, when he took a baseball bat to Shelly Saltman (Knievel’s own promoter for the Snake River Canyon jump), whose book Evel Knievel On Tour painted a pretty unflattering picture of the King of the Daredevils.
Directed by Gordon Douglas (Them!, In Like Flint and many other cool flicks), Viva Knievel! is a must-see. Check out Evel’s anti-drug speech in the clip below and tell me it ain’t all kinds of awesome. Knievel died November 30, 2007, and I think there are plenty of folks who will agree that a world without Evel Knievel is a much poorer place.