Phil Rawlins was born to film director and editor John Rawlins—probably best known for Arabian Nights (1942)—in 1930 and grew up on his father’s sets performing odd jobs. As a teenager, Rawlins became heavily involved in calf roping, a sport he competed in his entire life, which led to his start as a stuntman in western films and television series early in his career. During this time Rawlins doubled for such western stars as Clint Eastwood and Randolph Scott on the series Rawhide and Gunsmoke, as well as the feature films Massacre River (1949) and Gun Fury (1953).
After 10 years as a stuntman, Rawlins joined the Directors Guild as a 2nd AD for the series Fury. For years he worked as a 2nd AD, before moving up to 1st AD, on Warner Bros shows such as Hawaiian Eye, Cheyenne, Bronco, 77 Sunset Strip, Surfside 6, The Texan, The Outer Limits, F Troop, Star Trek, and Adam-12. In 1966, Rawlins made his directorial debut on the season one finale of F Troop and directed almost a third of the second season’s episodes. Rawlins also directed several episodes of the series Adam-12 and The High Chaparral, before moving back to 1st AD, and later UPM, working almost exclusively in feature films. Rawlins’ later credits include the television series Shaft, as well as the films The Wild Bunch (1969), The Wind and the Lion (1975), The Big Bus (1976), Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), First Love (1977), Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), Kiss Me Goodbye (1982), Gremlins (1984), Arthur 2: On the Rocks (1988), and Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990).
In 2007, Rawlins was bestowed the honor of receiving a star on the Newhall Western Walk of Stars.