Canutt was a rodeo cowboy who ended up in Hollywood where he worked as a stunt man, writer, director, and actor. He got his start in silent westerns. He often doubled for such stars as John Wayne and Clark Gable, but his real talent was in staging major stunts such as stampedes. One of his greatest feats was staging the chariot races in Ben-Hur. In1966 he received a special Oscar for his contributions to the movie industry.