A new Disney film about a Hollywood stuntman will include a 600-metre rocket jump that carried the ashes of a Calgary Evel Knievel fan.
Knievel failed to do the stunt in 1974, trying to fly a steam-powered rocket across Snake River Canyon in Idaho. This lead to a fellow stuntman, Eddie Braun, paying homage to the star by trying the jump himself more than 40 years later.
However, before successfully attempting the stunt five years ago, he took the ashes of his friend along for the ride.
Braun, who has been a stuntman for over four decades, told the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday he met Calgarian Todd Swayze several years ago at in Butte, Mont., at Evel Knievel Days — an annual festival celebrating the legendary daredevil.
“Todd was such a sweet man and we connected and we talked about all things Evel,” he said.
After finding out Swayze had died from lung cancer in 2016, Braun reached out to his wife, Tamara, with a “strange offer.”
“I said, ‘If she wants to let him take part … I’ll make room in the rocket for him. And him being a die hard Evel fan, he could cross the canyon with me.”
Preparing for the stunt
The famous stunt is a lot harder than it sounds. Despite Knievel planning it down to the final detail decades ago, it didn’t work.
This time around, Braun says he teamed up with the son of NASA scientist Bob Truax, who famously helped design the rocket Knievel used for the jump.
“I met his son, Scott, and he had his dad’s spare parts, he had his dad’s blueprints. And, you know, he always wanted to prove that his father’s designed rocket would have worked,” he said.
After teaming up, the two learned that the problem in the original stunt was the parachute.
“The parachute came out early, which kept him from crossing the canyon, so we just paid special attention to the parachute system,” Braun said.
“Basically, had Evel tried it again, he would have been successful.”
And because the famous jump went forward, Disney chronicled the journey in the new film, Stuntman.
“It’s very surreal and it’s very unusual for me because I’m usually the face you never see,” Braun said.
However, he says he owes it all to Knievel.
“He inspired me, and after a pretty successful, long career of actually doing stuff, being a stuntman, I thought, ‘What better way to pay homage than to finish out the dream of my hero? I mean, how many people can say they can do that?'”
Stuntman is premiering worldwide on Disney+ this Friday.
With files from Calgary Eyeopener.