The part of Snake River Canyon that Evel Knievel attempted to fly a rocket across in 1974 is over 150m high and more than 400m wide. The famous daredevil didn't make it to the other side because of a parachute malfunction on board his Skycycle X-2 rocket. More than 40 years later, Hollywood stuntman Eddie Braun decided he wanted to make the jump to honour the memory of Evel Knievel, whose dramatic – and dangerous – feats inspired him as a young boy. Ray D’Arcy started his chat with Eddie by asking him what his favourite stunts are from his long career. And it quickly became clear that Eddie’s been in a lot of movies and TV series:
"I was involved in all three of the Jackie Chan Rush Hour movies, which were favourites of mine, because they were really fun and action-packed. My favourites are a movie with Charlie Sheen called Navy Seals, which I did a lot of years ago and then there was the Ben Affleck-directed movie called The Town. Those are my personal favourites, as far as film."
Eddie stars in a new Disney+ documentary called, em, Stuntman, which details his efforts to make the jump that Evel Knievel failed to make back in 1974.
"I met him as a child and he inspired me – I mean, I think everybody wanted to be like Evel Knievel. I certainly wanted to as a child. I mean, the man wore a cape, for goodness’ sake."
After meeting his hero, Eddie spent his time riding his bike around, attempting to jump over things. His first injury was a broken arm, the result of trying to jump over bins on his bike. The injury only made the young Eddie feel more like Evel Knievel. Jump forward to 2016 and Eddie hooked up with Scott Truax, son of the rocket scientist Bob, who had designed Evel Knievel’s Skycycle.
"He had a lot of the spare parts and he all the drawings and blueprints, so we decided to build pretty much the same rocket and I would get it across the Snake River Canyon."
Eddie told Ray that he undertook the stunt for many personal reasons and after a lifetime of crashing cars and getting blown up in Hollywood, for once he had a chance to ride off into the sunset.
"What better way to go out or to wind down a career than to pay homage and finish out the dream of my hero? I’d venture to say not many people can say that they've done that."
Well, not when the homage involves getting strapped into a steam-powered rocket and being shot across a giant canyon, no, probably not. Especially given the way Eddie describes his chosen mode of transport:
"This thing is built with some screws, rivets, a bunch of duct tape and a hammer."
Eddie makes light of it with Ray, but there was a genuine danger that he might not make it and he had asked his son Decklan to do him a favour if things didn’t work out:
"I have three daughters and the hope and the prayer was that, if I did not come back, that my son would represent me at each one of their weddings and walk them down the aisle. That was the one request I made because there was a very real possibility that I may not come home."
You can hear Ray’s full chat with Eddie Braun by going here. And Eddie’s documentary, Stuntman, is on Disney+ from Friday 23 July.