R.I.P. Bud Ekins

Written by Joe D on October 9th, 2007

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Bud Ekins in The Great Escape

Bud Ekins, the champion motorcyclist and stuntman has died. Probably his most famous stunt was doubling for Steve McQueen in The Great Escape. Bud did the jump over the barb wire fence at the Nazi POW camp. Everyone thought McQueen did the stunt himself but it was Bud.
budekn.jpgMr. Triumph

He also did a lot of the riding in the opening credits of the television series Then Came Bronson starring Michael Parks. It’s hard to get copies of this show but it’s definitely worth it, a very cool show and some of the shots of Bud, driving across an incredible bridge over Bixby Creek in Big Sur, zipping along the beach just at the edge of the breaking surf, are inspiring.

Bronson commercial featuring Bud

By the way Michael Parks is one of the stars of my film One Night With You. Joe Montgomery, my DP, grew up in Hollywood and told me he used to go to Bud Ekins motorcycle shop and watch Von Dutch pinstripe bikes. Bud Smith, an old friend and great editor, was an associate producer and editor on William Friedkin’s Sorcerer. Bud Smith was good friends with Bud Ekins. Ekins did stunt driving on Sorcerer and Smith told me he was in the cab of the truck with Ekins driving when they crossed the rope suspension bridge. If you look at the poster for Sorcerer there’s a picture of the truck on the bridge, it’s a frame enlargement from the 35mm original picture negative. In the next frame the truck falls off the bridge into the river.

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The Truck goes over in the next frame!

The two Buds were in the cab. Bud Smith said Ekins was cool as a cucumber, remembering to hold his radio and his cigarettes up over his head so they didn’t get soaked. Bud Ekins did the motorcycle stunt in Bullit as well, sliding across the highway during the great chase scene just before the climactic finish.

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That’s Bud doing the jump

I heard him on the radio one time telling of how Steve McQueen would buy whole batches of motorcycles from him, then he’d forget to make payments, Bud would have to go up to Steve’s house and repossess the bikes, then McQueen would find out , come down to Bud’s shop, yell at him, pay up, take his bikes back and they’d be friends once again! Goodbye Bud, you led a colorful life and gave us a lot of thrills at the movies.
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Check out the dents in the front wheel!
Here’s a quote from Trailblazers about Bud’s racing career:
“In the 1950s, Bud Ekins was one of the first Americans to compete in Europe in the World Championship Motocross Grand Prix circuit. He also earned gold medals in the International Six Day Trial (now International Six Day Enduro). When he returned from Europe, Ekins dominated desert events. In 1955, riding a Triumph, Ekins won the Catalina Grand Prix. He also won the Big Bear Run - three times!”