On Sunday, July 19th, while the screening of his 1981 film “Sharky’s Machine” was being shown at the 10th Annual Macon Film Festival, Burt Reynolds appeared at a press conference to talk about his vast career. Also sitting in with Mr. Reynolds, was Todd Vittum, Executive Director of the Burt Reynolds Institute. Reynolds was born in Waycross, Ga. and went on to star in over 170 film and TV shows, including his Academy Award nominated performance in “Boogie Nights” (1997). Reynolds not only acted, but produced and directed films and TV shows including “Gator” (1976) and “The Last Producer” (2000). Burt Reynolds continues to teach acting at the Burt Reynolds Institute for Film & Theatre in West Palm Beach, Fl.. Burt Reynolds memoir, “But Enough About Me” will be published by Penguin Random House in November.
Burt Reynolds: Fire away!
Have you had a good time at the Macon Film Festival?
Burt: I always have a good time when I am here. I usually sneak around and get by with no one knowing I’m here. But, this time they kind of know.
Todd Vittum: The entire staff of the festival has been amazing. It’s a great film festival and one of the emerging film festivals, not only in the Southeast but the entire United States.
What’s it mean to you when you come to a film festival like this and people are excited to see you?
Burt: If that’s true, then I am very happy about that. I think it’s important that film festivals take place in towns like Macon. I have always said that Georgia is my good luck state. I think I have made ten or eleven movies here. It’s been wonderful how they have treated us here.
What was your favorite part in “Sharky’s Machine?”
Burt: Rachel Ward. She was stunning. I was reading people for the movie, and she walked into my office. I looked over to my assistant and said “If she can talk, she’s got the part.” She was just wonderful but had never done anything. I worked with her a little bit to see how she would take direction, and she was terrific. It turned out to be her first film, one of many.
Todd: You helped her out to develop her voice.
Burt: Yeah, she had a problem, her voice was just terrible. I had heard this story about Lauren Bacall when they were making “Key Largo.” When she went to read for John Huston, he didn’t like her voice. He told her to go out and scream all night. Well, she did and she came back with that raspy Lauren Becall voice. So I gave Rachel the same advice. She looked at me like I had just fallen out of a tree. But she did it and came back with a great raspy voice, which was wonderful, and she still has it. I felt bad about it for about a minute.
How important was it to set your films in the South?
Burt: I was always kind of angry on how the South was presented. We don’t all go around with overalls with patches everywhere. I just felt we weren’t represented correctly in films. People who misrepresent the South forget all the great music that came out of the South. The great writing that comes out of the South. We have some incredible writers that have come out of the South. It’s just not fair…it’s not right. Some of the best actors in the world have come from the South.
What advice can you give young people who are just now entering the film industry?
Burt: The thing I always tell my students, when they go off to New York or L.A., get in everything you can get into. Get into every play you can get into. Go read for everything you can read for. That’s something that really important. When I went to New York, I got my first part on my own. I just walked in, and they said “You look just like Marlon.” And I said, “Marlon who?” They didn’t think that was amusing. I didn’t care much what they thought. I wanted to represent myself. I didn’t want to act like Marlon, even though he was one of our greatest actors. He was truly one of the best actors we ever had.
You initially wanted to be a football player, with aspirations to play in the NFL. Didn’t you kind of fall into acting?
Burt: I played football in high school and college. Then I hurt my knee and the only activities at the college that had any girls around was the drama department. I went over there, and it was clear to me that the guys in the department were not interested in girls. They weren’t as lusty about women as I was. I felt that it was the place for me, and I read for the first play I went for and got the part. It was called “Outward Bound” and John Garfield played the part in the movie. I loved John Garfield and thought to myself, this can’t be bad if John Garfield played the part. I did the play, and it was successful. Because of the play I won a scholarship to the Hyde Park Playhouse in New York. I went to New York, and there was a play that they were doing where the leading lady was Joanne Woodward. She took me under her wing, and I thought she was amazing. I mean I was in love with her, and I thought she might like me. She said one day, I want you to meet my boyfriend. I said O,k., thinking I would just blow him out of the water. Then I met her boyfriend, Paul Newman and I didn’t know which one I like the most. He was the most gorgeous man I had ever seen. We become great friends, Paul, Joanne and I.
You stated making films in Georgia when not a lot of films were being made here. What attracted you to making films in Georgia?
Burt: I think there is a lot of talent here. I think that the mistake that people make when they come here is bringing people in from New York or LA. instead of using the local talent.
Did you do all your own stunts in “Deliverance?”
Burt: Yeah, everything you see on the screen was us doing our own stunts.
Todd: This September, Burt will be the first non-stuntman to be inducted into the “Stuntman Hall of Fame.”
Which film did you have the most fun on and which do you think is your best film?
Burt: “Deliverance” was my best film and by far. The film I had the most fun on was “Smokey and the Bandit.” And I still have one of the Trans Am’s from the film.
What was it like to make out with Dolly Parton?
Burt: I’ve never heard it put that way, “Make Out.” Dolly is great fun and one of the most natural actresses I ever worked with. I don’t think she has ever studied with anybody, and I hope she never does. She is perfect the way she is. We had a great time making “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” I don’t know how good that film ending up being, but it was a lot of fun to shoot.
You’ve written a memoir, called “Enough About Me,” who do you want to play you if it becomes a movie?
Burt: I don’t think it will become a movie, and I don’t know who I would want to play me. I could play it myself, but I don’t think I would be right for the part.
What sports film did you have the most fun on making?
Burt: That would be “The Longest Yard.” I always had a great time making movies about sports but that picture because of football, was great fun for me. The problem I had with making that film was Ray Nitschke, who was a great professional football player. Ray was part animal, and he liked to play kill the movie actor. He used to hit me so hard. It was unbelievable how hard he hit. After getting killed by him play by play, I said, “Ray, it’s just a movie.” And he said “Not to me.”
Talk about a film that you were in that not many people have seen, “Starting Over.”
Burt: That’s my favorite movie in terms of my performance. I feel that it was as close to the real me as anything I have ever done. I loved the script and doing that film. It kind of gets ignored in terms of the movies that I have done, but I am very, very proud of it. Jill Clayburgh and Candice Bergen were both nominated for Academy Awards. In fact, everyone got nominated but me from that film.
How did you enjoy playing “Boss” Hogg in “The Dukes of Hazard”?
Burt: It was fun. It’s not a great film, but it was fun to make. And I got to hang out with my friend Willy Nelson.
How did you get Jerry Reed to appear in “Smokey and the Bandit”?
Burt: I went up to Nashville to meet him. He was amazing. He talked so fast that you almost couldn’t follow him. I told him I wanted him to be in the movie, and he asked who he would play. I told him he would play himself. He said, “Son, I can’t act.” And I told him that he could. I kept after him, and finally I talked him into it. He was just terrific in the role.
There was always a blooper reel at the end of the “Smokey” movies. Is there a blooper reel from those films that you can’t show the public?
Thank you so much, Mr. Reynolds.
Burt: It’s been my pleasure.