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Monte Hellman (1929–2021), “Two-Lane Blacktop” director

by Linnea Crowther

Monte Hellman was a director whose cult classic films include “Two-Lane Blacktop.”


Hellman’s directorial career began with the 1959 horror movie “Beast from Haunted Cave.” It was produced by Roger Corman and his brother, and the cult film legend helped launch Hellman’s career. Hellman went on to direct several films starring the up-and-coming Jack Nicholson, including “Flight to Fury” (1964) and “Ride in the Whirlwind” (1966), before creating the 1971 road movie “Two-Lane Blacktop.” Starring musicians James Taylor and Dennis Wilson (1944–1983), the movie followed young street racers across the U.S. and inspired the legendary cross-country race the Cannonball Run. Though critics liked “Two-Lane Blacktop,” it didn’t do well in theaters, and it wasn’t until years later that it would reach cult film status. Hellman went on to direct other films including “Cockfighter” (1974), “Iguana” (1988), and “Road to Nowhere” (2010). He also directed several action scenes in “RoboCop” (1987) and was an executive producer of “Reservoir Dogs” (1992).

Notable quote

“I have a reputation for ‘fighting the system,’ ‘not selling out,’ ‘doing my own thing,’ etc. In reality, I have always been a hired gun. I have usually taken whatever job came my way.” —from an interview for the 1987 book World Film Directors


Tributes to Monte Hellman

Full obituary: The New York Times

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