While I was processing the passing of the legendary Burt Reynolds, I was reminded of David Bowie’s passing. With either man, I can’t remember when I became a fan, they were just always there when I was growing up. I can’t count the number of times I sat in front of the TV as a kid watching Smokey and the Bandit or Cannonball Run or The Longest Yard.
Burt could be as badass as Clint Eastwood, but he also had a softness — a manly vulnerability — and a goodness that always showed through. He was hilarious and elevated any movie he was in. His career began in television, in shows like Gunsmoke, but his break through hit was in John Boorman’s 1972 film Deliverance, a shocking slice of hicksploitation. He could easily swing between action and comedy, but he was more than just an actor. Burt directed Gator, The End, Stick, and Sharky’s Machine as well a number of episodes of various TV series, including Amazing Stories and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Burt loved the business and he kept working, right up to this year, in the unreleased Defining Moments. Adam Rifkin wrote and directed a tribute to Burt, called The Last Movie Star, where Burt starred as a fictional version of an actor like himself. I’m still waiting to see the film, but I’ve watched the trailer a number of times and it’s beautiful. Burt had done a lot of work in films are considered junk (Cop and a Half), but he always found a way back from any lull in his six decade career. I remember going to see Boogie Nights when it came out and above anything else, the thing that struck me most about the film was how fucking good Burt was. He never lost it.
Burt was in a class all his own. I can’t think of anyone to even compare him to. I feel like I have a lot more to say, but at the same time this is so fresh I’d like to just let it go for a bit and go watch him and Sally Fields vex the hell out of Jackie Gleason. We should all spend the weekend honoring his work. Farewell, Bandit.