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Joe Zimmerman


Owner of The Chase

For several decades only a hand full of people in the motorcycle world and entertainment industry held a trade secret that millions had never known.  That screen legend Steve McQueen, known for doing much of his own stunts, had actually not done the iconic motorcycle jump sequence in the classic WW2 prisoner-of-war motion picture The Great Escape.   Although McQueen did virtually all his own riding in the film’s finale, and even stunt doubled other riders chasing his character, for contractual and insurance reasons, Steve had to hand over that barbwire (really rubber bands) fence jump to his friend, and fellow motocross racer, Bud Ekins.  Although Ekins did an amazing job and the sequence made cinema history, it would inevitably take many, many years before Ekins received the recognition he deserved for his contribution to that climactic sequence.  In so, it’s long overdue that proper credit be given to another remarkable two wheel performer who also secretly pulled off cinema magic, and who helped create one of, if not the best and engaging motorcycle chase scenes ever lensed on celluloid – a chase that overwhelmed and entertained audiences throughout the world.


As decades pass and history is being written, let it be known that in Hollywood’s Warner Bros. production of James Caan and Alan Arkin’s movie Freebie and the Bean, there was one person who truly deserved ownership to its film’s iconic motorcycle chase - and it wasn’t the actor.  The rightful owner of the chase was the actor’s stunt double, the incredible, Mr. Mike Bast.


Born January 6th, 1953 in Los Angeles, California, Bast hails from a family of motorcycle racers, from his older brother Steve, to his Uncle, Harlan “Pappy” Bast Sr., to his cousins, Bart Bast and Harlan Bast Jr.

(Below) 1970’s Speedway Champions, and brothers: Mike and Steve Bast.


Mike lived and breathed motorcycles since he was 9 years old when he started riding in 1962 and then racing within a year later in 1963.   In his teenage years you could find him competing in Speedway racing competitions all along the West coast as a pro motocross racer.  He had the distinction of being one of six riders with the first American Speedway test team to ride in Australia and New Zealand.  And, in 1971, at the ripe old age of 18, he won his first of seven American Speedway Championships.  Between 1975 and 1979, incredibly Mike held American Speedway Championship titles consecutively for 5 years in a row.  

(Below) If ever there was a true competitor, Mike was it.


After an 18-year career, he had won over 4,000 racing events (roads, dirt, motocross – he rode them all).  He’s considered by the best of the best to be the greatest Speedway rider in U.S. history, for which he was ultimately inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Trailblazers Hall of Fame in 2016.  But what many don’t know is that Mike Bast is one of the most underrated, yet the most accomplished Hollywood stunt rider of all time.  To underscore this, one only needs to see his work in the motion picture Freebie and the Bean.


For one to understand the true influence this champion’s contribution had in the film Freebie and the Bean, one has to understand the movie and its history.  The film featured two huge stars at the time - James Caan, known to audiences around the world as Sonny Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather and Alan Arkin, whose credits included favorites like Catch-22, and The Russians Are Coming! The Russians are Coming!  Their (very often improvised yet close to the script) performances in Freebie and the Bean commanded box office attention and the movie was a smash hit when it was tactfully released in December of 1974 because of competing theatrical releases of other films.  Caan and Arkin were big stars with a supporting cast that included the likes of Loretta Swift (M*A*S*H) and Valerie Harper (Rhoda) who coincidently was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in the film.


Freebie and the Bean was so revered that legendary director Stanley Kubrick (The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove, Spartacus) was a huge fan of the movie and was noted in a Rolling Stone article to have said, “Freebie and the Bean was the best film of 1974”, and director Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction) is said to have called it “nothing short of a masterpiece”.


Without getting into the film’s plot, or the truly brilliant performances by Arkin and Caan as bantering maverick detectives, one significance of Freebie and the Bean, is that it is credited to be the very first off-beat comedy-action buddy-cop film, that led the way for future copycat spinoffs like:  Starsky and Hutch (Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul), Lethal Weapon (Mel Gibson and Danny Glover), 48 Hrs. (Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy), Bad Boys (Will Smith and Martin Lawrence), and so forth.  Freebie and the Bean was so well received that CBS turned it into a prime-time Saturday night (but short-lived 9-episode) television series in 1980, starring Hector Elizondo and Tom Mason.

(Below) CBS capitalizing on the success of the motion picture develops Freebie and the Bean as an episodic television series starring Hector Elizondo and Tom Mason. 


Another key significance of Freebie and the Bean was that it introduced the world to the incredible talents of motocross Speedway superstar, Mike Bast.  Mike was James Caan’s motorcycle double in the film.  But, Mike, a 19-year-old kid at the time, wasn’t just a stunt double in a motorcycle chase scene - he was the scene.  Mike’s contribution to Freebie and the Bean was so significant, that Warner Bros. used clips of his sequence in the film’s commercial trailers to help sell the movie which went on to gross over $30,000,000.00.  In today’s market, that would be equivalent to $156,020,689.66 in 2020!  Mike’s sequence was also strategically incorporated into the artwork for the film’s international posters to help market the movie overseas as well.  There is no doubt Mike’s work was exceptional and utilized by production to help make Freebie and the Bean one of, if not the top grossing Warner Bros. film in 1974.

(Below) Mike’s performance being utilized in commercial trailers to help sell tickets for Freebie and the Bean.


(Below) Mike’s performance utilized on POSTERS and LOBBY CARDS advertising and promoting Freebie and the Bean around the world in such markets as the Middle East, Latin America, Japan, Yugoslavia, the United Kingdom and so on.


You have to ask yourself why Warner Bros. hadn’t put actress Loretta Swit or Valerie Harper on all their international posters, yet made sure to include the motorcycle.  Could it be because the producers knew Mike’s value with the bike and capitalized on it?  You can bet your sweet exhaust pipe they did!  But, they were right and audiences embraced Caan’s, I mean Mike’s, bike performance across the globe.

(Below) After Mike Bast’s performance in Freebie and the Bean, Warner Bros. Pictures implemented his sequence into the poster artwork.


Although Freebie and the Bean is known to have 4 great chase scenes in addition to reportedly over 100 automobile crashes (which Caan and Arkin weren’t very happy about because they felt upstaged by the action sequences), the bike segment was distinctive, a precisely executed and artistic ballet of genius comedic skill and daring-do that stayed in the minds of audiences long after the movie was over.  It was memorable, as a performance like that was unseen in 50 years since the silent film era when Buster Keaton hopped onto the handlebars of a Harley-Davidson Model F in his 1924 classic film Sherlock Jr.

(Below) Not since several decades earlier when the genius comedian and stuntman Buster Keaton bounced onto the handlebars of a Harley-Davidson Model F in his 1924 classic film Sherlock Jr., had audiences seen such a precisely timed artistic riding-performance now masterfully executed by Mike Bast in Freebie and the Bean.


The premise of the bike scene was simple.  After James Caan and Alan Arkin are unable to continue their pursuit by car because their automobile was destroyed during a chase which caused a huge and historic traffic jam of piled-up vehicle-wreckage, Caan snatches a passing bike messenger’s motorcycle and commandeers it to continue his pursuit after the bad guys, who are escaping in a white van.  It’s kind of presumed that Caan’s character can’t ride very well because during most of the chase through and over jammed cars, human and stationary obstacles his bike seems to have a mind of its own and is controlling him more than he is controlling the bike - not an easy task to perform, especially in a dramatic and fast pace yet humorous manner.  But with the brilliant and whimsical soundtrack composed by Dominic Frontiere (On Any Sunday), Caan does it, and does it magnificently.  Oh, wait.  Despite the brilliant editing, it is just a little-bit obvious (to any biker at least) that Caan doesn’t really know how to ride a motorcycle very well.  His left hand over the clutch for security and his knees gripping the gas tank like a baby to its mother’s hip, you can tell he’s a bit uncomfortable.

LobbyCards (3)USE.jpg

Notwithstanding Caan’s brilliant performance throughout the film before and after this chase scene, it’s truly time we pulled the curtains to unmask the true owner of that chase sequence (and prove it).  And when I mean owner, I mean owner.  Because Hollywood is, well Hollywood, that scene was presumed to be owned by Caan for too many years, in the sense that the rider is Freebie and Freebie is Caan.

(Below) Throughout the internet as you can see on such websites as YouTube  and, Caan is credited for Mike’s performance.


So, let us break away from the make-believe world of fiction and finally focus on fact.


Since the 1600’s we’ve all heard of the proverb “possession is nine-tenths of the law.”  It’s an expression that basically means that ownership of something is easier to maintain if one has “possession” of something.  And with this chase scene, actual screen time is equivalent to “possession” for us to distinguish who owns the chase.


To better explain, as an example, Steve McQueen’s screen time in the final motorcycle chase sequence of the 1963 classic, The Great Escape, can be calculated in the following manner to see who owned that chase sequence, Steve or his stunt double, the great Bud Ekins.


The Great Escape motorcycle chase sequence ran approximately 6 minutes - about 360 seconds.  Minus 6 seconds or so where both Steve and Bud are not on screen, Steve’s stunt double (Ekins) had a total of approximately 6 seconds on screen using the Triumph T6 while McQueen’s screen time of riding that bike was around 348 seconds.  Steve’s percentile of ownership to that chase sequence is in the realm of 96.67% while Ekins’ is 1.67%.  That qualifies McQueen of proper ownership to that chase scene. 


Now, if you break down the (presumed owner) James Caan bike chase scene in Freebie and the Bean with his stunt double, Mike Bast, it would look like this:  Freebie and the Bean chase sequence ran 2 minutes and 50 seconds - that’s 170 seconds.  James Caan’s screen time on the Montesa Cota 247 was a total of 25 seconds, while his stunt double’s was 145 seconds.  That places Caan with a 14.71% ownership of the chase while his stunt double, Mike Bast’s stake is 85.29%, clearly placing ownership of this iconic bike chase to Mike Bast.


This definitively clarifies in screen time (and performance) who this scene belongs to.  Although work like this is a collective effort between the star and his stunt double, the double in this case, Mike, who owns over 85% of the sequence, is truly the forgotten hero who dazzled millions upon millions of people from all corners of the earth only to receive virtually little to no historical credit for his ownership. 


Although I myself spent years performing stunts, I don’t put myself in that category of “owning” anything, as I usually made it a habit to sit in the star’s trailer and convince them to do their own stunts while I snacked at the craft service table.  But, regardless of my lack of ownerships, when it comes to something as iconic as the motorcycle chase in Warner Bros. Freebie and the Bean, the credit needs to go where the credit is due (and I mean a very looong overdue) to Mike Bast. 

(Below) For 50 years even bit-part players like an “Ambulance Attendant", and “Woman at Stadium” received higher screen billing than Mike Bast (the man whose sequence helped sell the movie and make it so memorable).  Seriously, can anyone even recall the ambulance attendant?


I know a lot about receiving little to no credit at all for film work, I have had my share as well.  But it had to be especially rough when you’re just a kid doing stunt work in your first film on location with a big budget motion picture studio company and you don’t know anyone.  It can be intimidating and credit isn’t on your mind.  For Bast, a complete unknown, stunt doubling the star of a major “stunt” oriented movie, I can tell you, it must have been a little difficult for him, as the stunt world is a tight click, and for a good reason (reputations are on the line, safety and trust needs to be assured, and friends simply need to make a living.  And yes there’s a bit of ego involved in the stunt community).  So, the political atmosphere on a stunt set can at times have an underlying cloud of pressure throughout the shoot for an outsider.  I’m very sure the seasoned-veteran stunt-performers on Freebie and the Bean weren’t too happy or thrilled about catering to and focusing their efforts for several weeks on a wet-behind-the-ears 19-year-old whiz-kid from Van Nuys, California.  But, the director and stunt coordinator saw an amazing talent, and a goldmine they were going to cash in on.  And, Bast I’m sure was thrilled to go along for the ride.  In fact – honestly, to uncover the truth (and the man) behind that brilliant motorcycle chase sequence, and his incredible ride through the Hollywood industry, who better to speak to about it than the legend himself, Mr. Mike Bast.

Joe:  Mike.  Thank you for speaking to me.  I have so many questions for you I don’t know where to start.  So, let’s start from the beginning.  How did you get the gig as Caan’s bike double on Freebie and the Bean?


 Mike:  You’re welcome, Joe.  Well I grew up and went to school in a little suburb North of Los Angeles, in Van Nuys.  I heard a rumor from a friend of mine, that Warner Brothers studios was looking for someone to play the part of a motorcycle rider in a movie.  I thought it was a farce so I said to my friend “give me the telephone number, I’ll do it.”  Again I was thinking this was a complete farce but I ended up calling the guy at the studio and found myself speaking to Chuck Bail, the Second Unit Director and Stunt Coordinator for the movie.  He said if I could be there in the morning with a bike, he’d see me.  He was looking for a trials rider.  Consequently, I wasn’t a trials rider; I was a TT rider, Speedway rider, scrambles rider.  But, the next day I rented a trials bike from Nick Nicolson’s Motors in North Hollywood and loaded it up in my van, which I was using for my Speedway racing and I went down to the studio.

(Below) The location where Mike Bast rented his first trials bike used to audition for Freebie and the Bean (although he had never ridden one before).


Mike (Cont.):  So at the studio I pulled out this trials bike which I never rode a trials bike in my life before.  They’re a little bit different of course.  It’s a long story but they have different gear ratio, different gear box, goes real slow and there’s a balance variance.  So anyway they took me to the back of the Warner Brothers studio lot in Burbank and Chuck Bail had a big ramp set up about the size of a standard Ford van.  So, he said, go up this ramp and then ride off the ramp.  Well, Joe, I didn’t ride off nothing.  I’m just used to jumpin’ like I wanted to fly.  So I rode up the ramp and along the top of the van and jumped off it about 6 feet high, landed on my rear wheel like I was asked out at the TT (Tourist Trophy racing), and then I rode back in and they were absolutely at awe.  They said you’re the guy we were looking for.  He said you got the job, and that was it.

Joe:  You didn’t have any competition?  There weren’t other riders who showed up to audition for the job?


Mike:  Oh, there were plenty of guys who showed up but they were all standard trials riders.    And, if you’re a trials rider you jump with your front wheel first, but I flew off the roof of the van with the rear wheel, like I was Evel Knievel basically.  And they were so excited they took me further down the back lot to the end of the studios where there was a long stretch of road or open parking lot and asked me if I could do a wheelie.  They said “could you do us a wheelie?”  Well, trials bikes are really easy to do wheelies on because of the real low gear ratio.  So, I did a wheelie for them for about a block or two.  I was doing slaloms and dancing with the bike kinda showing off because I didn’t really think I was going to get the job.  But I did.  They were telling me, I was the guy and they were gonna add stuff to the movie because of me.  And I just couldn’t believe it, Joe.  Richard Rush was the director and producer and Chuck Bail was the Second Unit Director and Stunt Coordinator and they wanted me to just show up in San Francisco, February 10th, or whenever it was in 1972.  And sure enough I showed up to Candlestick Park where I actually had to meet them with my trials bike in the back.  In the mean time I didn’t know it but they had already bought 3 brand new 1971 Montesa Cota 247 trials bikes from the Montesa factory in Spain for me and basically re-wrote the script for my part.


So, I started riding around in the parking lot out there for the stunt gaffer, Chuck Bail and it’s there he introduced me to the producer/director, Richard Rush.  Richard had never seen me before and wanted to know what I could do.  So they put a bunch of cones out and I slalomed for a block or so and then I turned around and they said do it again and I did and then they told me they were going to send me down town near Embarcadero Center and build up some ramps and some boxes and things I could go over.  They started adding scenes for me after they could see what I did.

(Below) Rare behind the scenes photo of the elaborate setups production added and created for the film’s chase sequence specifically for Mike. 


(Below) Mike Bast, only 19-years-old, dazzles on screen while doubling James Caan on Freebie and the Bean, flying through imaginative obstacles created specifically for him.


Joe:  I know filming took about 3 months to complete.  How long were you on location there working with the crew?


Mike:  I was probably there for about a month and met some great people.  Because of the movie, I got my SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card.  In fact, the producer, Richard Rush ended up sending a personal letter to the SAG union saying he thought he found the greatest motorcycle stunt man in Hollywood, Mike Bast.  And I’m thinking this can’t all be true?  My ego was all blown up and I’m still racing Speedway to be the champion there and the studios were calling me wanting me to do more stunts here and there at different locations.  So, it ended up to be a pretty good side career for me I’d say for on and off about 10-15 years.

(Below) Mike Bast on location working at Sidney Walton Park in San Francisco.


Joe:  Could you tell us a bit about how the bike gags were done and how much input you had in creating them?  I mean, in films we usually see stunt guys riding their motorcycles down staircases, but you in fact were riding your bike up staircases.  How were the sequences staged?  I mean who set up the gags for you?


Mike:  Richard Rush, the producer/director who was a beautiful human being was in charge.  He would set stuff up for me without even asking and said, here’s what we’re gonna do today.  Both he and Chuck, the stunt-gaffer had a sixth sense after watching me that I just about could do anything they wanted me to do.  So, I didn’t ask any question and just winged it and did it.  I even went over 10 cars too (laughing).  I think I was the first guy to ever do a thing like that.


Joe:  Speaking of you riding over the cars, there were people standing outside alongside their cars on the packed street as you rode over the roofs of their vehicles - were they stunt performers strategically placed to spot you in case you tipped over because the drop down to the concrete was several feet?


Mike:  Actually, no Joe, not at all.  They were extras.  There were a couple of stunt guys in there to spot me, but I had been practicing for about a month before because Chuck had told me to get an old car and ride over it with my trials bike.  And I did that and practiced and practiced and practiced.  And so, when I got up to San Francisco and my day comes up to go over the car, they had 10 of these cars lined up and I’m going whoa, whoa!  I didn’t know that!  That was a surprise to me.  But, yeah, with my ability on a motorbike and my agility and balance, I went up windshields and along the roofs and then down the back.  The cars were bumper to bumper of course.  But it was truly a piece of cake and when I jumped off the back of the last car with my rear wheel, not the front wheel, the rear wheel like I had done at the studios when I auditioned for the part, I just took off and kept going.  And then they just kept re-writing the stunts for me after they saw what I did.


Joe:  So you guys never storyboarded any of the action?  I mean you basically just winged it after you got there?


Mike:  I just winged it.  Absolutely, and that’s a fact, Joe.  But I didn’t do anything that I didn’t think I could do.  They put up chain-linked fences and were asking me if I could go up the fence.  I told them I could probably go through it.  I could wheelie up into it.  So we tied the fence up every 6 to 8 feet to allow the fence to break in.  I was a little bit nervous because that kind of stuff can be unpredictable but I’d practice, fall off and get back up again and we just did it.  I basically just did what they asked and winged it and thank god without getting hurt.  It came out great and it really helped me out.

(Below) Rare behind the scenes images of Mike rehearsing the improvised and added bike gag over the chain linked fence.


Joe:  Did you ever take any hard spills or need to repeat a gag, like going over that fence?


Mike:  No Joe, the fence gag was actually easier than I ever thought.  Going up the stairs was no problem.  Going through the fountain was no problem.  Going over the cars was no problem.   And it all looked good, better than I could have imagined it would.  Actually, the only thing we did twice come to think of it was the slide at the end when I dropped the bike before it flew off the building.  We had a pre-run rehearsal day where they told me to go ahead and practice going and stopping.  And of course they were going to rig me with a jerk vest line (safety harness with a line).  I would keep an eye on my previous skid marks for visual points where to let the bike go so it would go sliding off the edge and drop 3 stories down to the ground.  The next day was the real take and so I knew exactly what to do.  So in a sense that was the only thing we did a double take on, even though it was more of a rehearsal.


Joe:  Again, it’s amazing to learn here that your stuff wasn’t storyboarded or preplanned.  I mean when I worked on Jurassic Park, Spielberg had every action sequence not only storyboarded on paper but pre-shot on animation to duplicate from, using the video assist monitors while he was shooting.


Mike:  Yeah, I understand.  But our stuff was all winged.  This was in the days when there weren’t any big old lawsuits and they just said, get out there and if you break a bone, well you break a bone and if you don’t, then you did good.  That’s how it was.

(Below) Director Richard Rush previously stated in interviews, when referring to the motorcycle chase having been all staged and generated with what he had on hand:  “I had never seen the location or equipment when I wrote the stunts”.   What Rush had on-hand was the world’s best rider and a huge stage within the Gateway Plaza / Embarcadero Center in San Francisco as his location.


Joe:  Crazy.  That’s amazing.


Mike:  Of course I had the time of my life though.  When you’re doubling the principle you get all the benefits that go along with it.


Joe:  Right, well over 85% of the chase sequence is you doing the star’s riding; do you have any memories of working with James Caan?


Mike:  Yeah, as a matter of fact I remember one day when he had to do one little bit of 10 feet stretch of riding on the bike to get his face on camera I was explaining to him to stay in first gear because he had no idea how to ride a motorcycle.  So I do remember spending a little time with him for that.

(Below) A very rare behind the scenes WB publicity still photo of Mike Bast and James Caan used for editorial, promotional and publicity purposes for newspapers and other periodicals for “Freebie and the Bean”.


Joe:  Right.  In regards to the bike, did you do any modifications to it?  Or did you ride it stock?


Mike:  I rode it exactly how it was.  We didn’t do anything to the geometry of the frame or anything.  But, we did put some saddlebags on the rear of it because the bike was supposed to have belonged to a bike messenger.  So that was the reasoning for that.  But otherwise I just rode it stock.


Joe:  Who came up with the staircase sequence?  Normally in films like in an Eveready Energizer Bunny Battery commercial I worked on the motorcycles were shown like they usually are in action scenes, going down a staircase.  But you, you defied gravity without computer effects and went up a flight of stairs, actually 2 staircases.  Who came up with that idea, to ride up those staircases?


Mike:  Chuck Bail asked me.  He said do you think you can go up these stairs?  And I said, "oh hell yeah.  That ain’t nothing".  So I just went up their like I was walking.  And he laughed and laughed and kept saying we’re definitely going to put this in the movie.  I mean, I’ve climbed really steep mountains with bikes like the TT500s and the Triumph 650s out in the deserts so that didn’t even bother me.


Mike (Cont.):  And at that point and time they instituted the part of me going around the fountain.  They made sure to tell me, “whatever you do, don’t hit and fall into the fountain!”  And, if you watch the movie you’ll see me hitting the curb there next to the fountain and I done near lost it.

(Below) Mike nearly loses control of the Montesa after his rear wheel slams hard across the curb while in hot pursuit of the bad guys in the white van.


Joe:  If you had to pick one gag, which one would you say was the hardest or scariest one to do?


Mike:  Dropping the bike and doing the slide was the scariest part for me.  I mean I had to let the bike go at a certain precise time.  I did practice the day before but I was practicing without the jerk back harness.  But Chuck Bail was nervous and said he was afraid I was going to lose control.  It was around 5 o’clock in the evening and I was getting kind of tired.  So, that was pretty scary because if I did lose control, I’d get killed.  And that’s something that stays in your head, I mean possibly losing control.  But, with that jerk back wire I was being pulled off before my skid marks, so of course you don’t see that on film.  So it worked out great.  They did put water down for me which was really better because when I hit the brakes, the bike just really left me. 


Joe:  You said production got you 3 of those 1971 Montesa Cota 247’s.  What ever became of those trials bikes?


Mike:  They gave me all 3 of them.


Joe:  What did you do with them?


Mike:  Well, I sold 2 and I kept 1 for about 20 years.  I carried that one Montesa that I kept in my van and took it just about everywhere I went because I found myself in many situations where I could see a park or place with a down tree with broken limbs that I could practice on.  I just always kept practicing on stuff like that.  One quick funny story about that trials bike with my wife Dee who was my girlfriend at the time, during our first date when I was around 20 years old I asked her if she’d want to go for a ride on my bike and she said, “well, ok sure”.  So, we went over to her high school and I was showing her how I could go over the park bench, one of those lunch benches.  And we’re having a good old time with her watching me act like I’m the stuntman of the world and the next thing I know, I hear police sirens and then here comes a cop heading right toward us.  And he stops and looks at us and says on the speaker, “hey come over here!”  So I looked over to Dee.  Since it was her school, I asked her where the nearest exit gate towards her house was.  So she pointed the way and got on the trails bike and I said “hang on” and peeled out of there and we ditched the cop with her on the back.  I went through the open gate and rode to her neighbor’s house and threw the bike in their garage and then we went out and sat on the front lawn and watched the police car go by, and we never got caught.  Today Dee says if she had to do it all over again she wouldn’t do it because she didn’t realize how crazy I was (laughing). 

(Below) A very rare photo of an edited out sequence of Mike doubling James Caan, riding over and along park benches with the Montesa Trails Bike.


Mike (Cont.):  I should have never gotten rid of that bike, but I did finally end up selling it.  I actually had about 15 bikes at one time and I ended up moving and probably sold that bike about 10 years later around 1980.


Joe:  Right, at any time working on the picture did you ever have the jitters or that twisted stomach feeling the night before doing any of the stunt gags?


Mike:  No, not really.  Not on Freebie and the Bean.  But on another one I did, called The Gumball Rally in 1975 with Michael Sarrazin, Raul Julia, Gary Busey and Harvey Jason, yeah, I did have a few of those nights because they had stuff in that movie that I didn’t know if I could do - But, not on Freebie.  Actually Joe, the most nights I had those feelings on were my American Speedway Championships.  Because the American Speedway Championships that I won, I think there were 7 of them, you had to win the World Championships on one night.  It was a one night affair so I would get pretty butterflied-up those nights.


Joe:  I can imagine.  Speaking of The Gumball Rally, you did the bike gags on that film too.  You doubled Harvey Jason.  I couldn’t tell which gags you did because Harvey Jason’s character wore a helmet.  Did you happen to do that memorable jump sequence through the large billboard sign?


Mike:  Absolutely I did.  I actually did every single bike stunt in the picture.  It was all me.


(Below) Actor Harvey Jason, (left) and his motorcycle stunt double, Speedway Champion Mike Bast (right), in Warner Bros. Picture, The Gumball Rally.


Joe:  You know it was impressive watching you.  In the opening sequence where you’re exiting the starting building and you ride over the detective’s car, when you came down from the hood and hit the pavement you had to veer left immediately to miss the camera rig.  You did it by inches.  People don’t understand how difficult that is because you’re not riding a light trials bike in that film.  You’re riding a bigger bike this time, a Kawasaki KH 400.


Mike:  Exactly.  I’m riding, jumping, and climbing over cars using a standard road bike that was heavy and ill-handling for serious stunts on that one.


Joe:  Since we’re off topic of Freebie and the Bean and talking about your other motion pictures, you also worked on the 1977 movie Fast Charlie, The Moonbeam Rider for Universal Pictures.  What did you do on that one?


Mike:  Oh, I doubled David Carradine on that film.  I did all the bike stunts on that too.  The picture was set around 1919, so I was riding a makeshift 46 Indian Scout with those side hand shifts.  That was pretty crazy.


Joe:  Yeah, I heard the movie was actually originally written with Steve McQueen in mind, or for him.  Did you know Steve or his bike double, Bud Ekins?


Mike:  Sure, and Dave Ekins as well, Bud Ekins’s brother.  We did a lot of riding together back in the 60’s and 70’s.  As for Steve, I rode several Grand Prix with Steve McQueen.  I knew Steve real well.  What a human being that guy was.  He was a real motorcycle enthusiast and we rode a couple of 1968, 1969 Viewfinder Grand Prix down in Elsinore.  And there was an old track at Corriganville out in Simi Valley years ago in the late 60’s, that we rode around at too.  Yeah, let me tell you, Steve was one of my heroes, as was Bud and Dave Ekins.  I worked with Bud too.


Joe:  Anything that we’d be familiar with?


Mike:  Well, if you can remember a movie called “Earthquake”, I worked with Bud on that one.


Joe:   Sure, with Charlton Heston and George Kennedy.  What did you do on that movie?


Mike:  I actually doubled Richard Roundtree (SHAFT).  If you watch the film I doubled him riding a motorcycle up and around a loop in a kind of an amusement park obstacle course.


Joe:  You did that famous loop stunt?!


Mike:  I did the loop.  Absolutely, that’s what I did.


Joe:  That was insane.


Mike:  Funny story about that.  That was at Universal Studios, with Bud Ekins.  I was sitting on the ground and he turns to me and he says “okay, Bast your turn”, because nobody else would do it.  So I jumped in there and said “what the hell”, I thought I’d better give it a try because I figured I needed to make a name for myself.  You know, when you’re a young man, you’re willing to do anything, I think.


Joe:  That was an insane stunt, Mike.  So you’re saying there wasn’t more to it?  You just sat there on the ground and Bud said go do it, and you just did?


Mike:  Yeah, I just did it.  There was another stunt double there for Richard who I worked with in The Gumball Rally, who doubled for actor Wally Taylor in that film, he was a really great guy, and he did all the riding for Richard and we kind of talked about who should do the loop stunt, but I ended up going to do it.  So basically I was told to just put the motorbike wide open in first gear and I’d make the loop.  I had to follow a yellow line and had just made it up high enough to be upside down and feel how a pilot would feel like flying in fog.  But what happened was I flew out of the loop at about 1:00 o’clock and was lucky I didn’t get killed.  I didn’t know how to do a loop.  But we ended up craning the bike back up with a cable and did a pick–up and got the shot off anyway.


Joe:  You know, no one knows you did that gag.


Mike:  Yeah I didn’t really get any credit on that.  I didn’t really have any coming to me.  I just did that one stunt.  That’s all. 


Joe:  Only the one stunt that everyone remembers… truly amazing.

(Below) Left: Richard Roundtree as Miles Quade (who’s wardrobe is obviously influenced by Evel Knievel during the day) wearing a black bell-bottom jumpsuit with yellow lightning bolts in the star-studded disaster film Earthquake,  and Right: his double, Mike Bast performing the radical 360 degree loop-the-loop sequence long before Moto X-Games ever existed.


Mike:  Yeah, I just did the one thing there.  Bud said, “hey Bast, it’s now your turn.”  It just took a few minutes.  So I didn’t expect any credit on that one really.


(Below) Mike Bast is beyond modest.  His death-defying stunt has not only been uncredited for nearly 50 years, but has been widely and mistakenly given to his friend Bud Ekins.  A quick search online and it becomes apparent that history would show Mike had never performed this incredible stunt, but that Bud Ekins had, and there was nowhere you could find that stated otherwise.  YouTube, IMDB, blogs, and google searches all lead to Ekins.  Like McQueen receiving years of credit for Ekins’ jump in The Great Escape, it appeared that now Ekins was receiving credit for Bast’s insane 360 loop in the megahit film, Earthquake.


Joe:  Well, Mike the stunt was truly amazing.  And it is about time the truth about your participation in these films is finally told.  The one movie that I wish you would have been in was Bruce Brown’s 1972’s Academy Award nominated motorcycle documentary, On Any Sunday.


Mike:  Well, Joe I was in it.  But Bruce cut it all out.  He shot a lot of Speedway segments but edited it all out.  The movie was running too long and so-forth, but he wrote us a letter saying he was sorry, Barry Briggs was the world champion at the time, and they were so hooked on Mert Lowell, and Malcolm Smith, they just didn’t have enough time.  You know what they say, Joe - if you run all the sequences shot for a movie that goes up on the big screen, that they only end up using 10% of the shots they took.


Mike is completely right.  But, thank god some directors had the sense to keep a lot of his work in their films, like Freebie and the Bean.  Thank god audiences to this very day after 5 decades still get to see the talents of this Hollywood stunt pioneer.  Not only did he mesmerize movie audiences, but helped develop, promote, and advance the sport of motorcycle riding and racing as well.  Great work is never forgotten and Mike’s is no exception. 


At a time when CGI couldn’t help an action star perform a ramp jump, and fast-paced close-up camera editing and trickery wasn’t yet part of the Hollywood equation, cinema’s leading men would have never become screen heroes without the services of real life-risking heroes like Mike Bast - a shining star who rode over and across 10 cars on his stock Montesa, and defied gravity and rode his bike up park fences and concrete staircases filled with hurdles of human bodies.  Riding stock period bikes like Honda’s XL 250 and Kawasaki’s KH 400 and taking them places no one ever had before like upside down through the air and flights across and through large billboards, history needed to be clarified.


Time has a way of making things right and clearer.  And what’s now clear 50 years later is that this hero behind the heroes is finally (and rightfully) getting the credit he deserves.   No gimmicks, no computer effects, no high performance stunt-modified bikes.  What history showed on screen was basically what audiences got.  And what audiences around the world got to see when Mike performed, well, was truly the best of the best.

(Below) Mike Bast, Legendary Stunt Performer and Race Champion.


Images/photos: Courtesy of and graciously provided by renowned photographer Scott Daloisio ( / scottdaleoisiosports store on Ebay)©.  Additional credits: Speedway Bikes (Pat Brady)© and Trailblazers Motorcycle Club©

With the support of his wife, Dee, and his wonderful family, still recently performing death defying stunts, though this time in the form of battling the aftermath of a serious ischemic stroke (which was caused by an interruption of blood supply to the cerebral artery in his brain), Mike like all his other incredible feats, is again out and about after extensive rehabilitation and physical therapy.  Similar to other legends of our time like Elvis, Bruce Lee and Steve McQueen, Mike Bast is and always will be an eternal riding star, and everlasting inspiration of exceptionalism.

(Below)  Decades after their first date where Dee jumped on the back of Mike’s Trials Bike so they could both out run the police who were in hot pursuit; our married couple, of 46 years, are still on the lam together today.  Nothing will ever “stop” what is meant to ride.



Freebie and the Bean is available on DVD, released through Warner Bros. Studio Archive Collection:


(Contributing assistance to this article by Aaron Zimmerman)


Photos: Courtesy of and graciously provided by Mike and Dee Bast.  With additional contributions by renowned photographer Scott Daloisio ( / scottdaleoisiosports store on Ebay).  (Additional user uploaded photos and scans are used for informative, promotional, editorial, and educational purposes only.  All images, logos, and other respective materials are copyright by their respective owners.  No rights are given or implied in any way).

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