It’s hard to believe that film legend Burt Reynolds has appeared in over 100 films and that he still teaches acting in his hometown of Juniper, Florida. Born in 1936, (remarkably we share the same birthdate) and, at 75 years old, he’s still going strong. He’s won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award. Known for completing his own stunts on set, Reynolds takes pride in his moviemaking physical work and spoke about that in regards to the film “The Longest Yard”.
We met on April 14, 2011, in Chicago at The Witt hotel. He was in town promoting a Burt Reynolds film festival at Hollywood Palms and Hollywood Blvd. cinemas in Naperville and Woodridge. Reynolds was as pleasant and charming in person as I imagined him to be and very easy to talk with. Dressed in a dark gray shirt and sweater with a bold stripped wool scarf, he looked dashing as ever.
Sarah Adamson: I’d like to talk about your very good friend Dom DeLuise, that wonderful guy.
Burt Reynolds: Ah yes, I miss him everyday. When I think of him, I smile. I’ve never had anyone make me laugh so much – anytime, anywhere, anyplace. The strange thing was I could make him laugh anytime, anyplace, anywhere, which became kind of a catastrophe when we were trying to get a shot done. Because when he had the giggles, I had the giggles. He was also petrified of pain. So, I would step on his foot in the middle of a take and he’d try to finish it without crying. They were silly things. They were like 9-year-old tricks that we pulled on each other. Gosh, there will never be another one quite like him.
Q: He must have made movie making a lot of fun for you.
A: He made it a joy.
Q: I loved your movie with Dom DeLuise, “The End.” Could you talk about that for a little bit? It was one of my favorites, honestly.
A: I’m glad you liked it. I directed it.
Q: You did? I didn’t realize that!
A: It was a picture that has a little history to it. I loved it, but it was impossible to get the studios to do it. You can imagine saying – “I have a comedy and it’s about dying.” No one wanted it. Warner Brothers wanted me to do a picture about stunt men but I kept saying, “No, I won’t do it unless you do this picture.” “The End” was, at that time, about a million and a half dollars, which today would be eight, seven million dollars, you know? It was very difficult to get anybody. I then went out and got some friends who were in the picture. I had an amazing group of people who did guest parts, like Sally…wonderful, wonderful actors.
Q: Fantastic. I’d like to talk to you a little bit about Sally (Sally Field). I read somewhere that you were really fighting for her to be in a movie that the director thought she might not be…
A: He thought she wasn’t sexy.
Q: If this is true, you had your own take on that…
A: I said, “Sexy is talent. Look at her work.” It happened after the picture – in the middle of the picture they still didn’t get it. She did, “Sybil” right after this picture and these directors, who shall remain nameless, came up to me and said, “My gosh, she’s sexy.” And I wish I had a tape recorder.
Q: I used to watch the “Dinah Shore Show” (and I thought it was really cool you were really romantically involved)…I do remember the “At Long Last Love” show where she brought the whole cast and you sang and danced. I loved your singing!
A: (Jokingly) What are you drinking?
Q: (Laughs) It’s water!
A: If it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t have made it through the picture. She was the one person who I truly trusted. She kept saying, “You’re on pitch. You’re doing all right. It’s better than okay!” Dinah is one of those people who never had a bad word to say about anybody. Anybody!
Q: You kind of already answered my question but do you think she helped your career?
A: There is no question about it. People had a problem with our relationship because of the age difference. Those people really don’t deserve to be on this planet. Falling in love with someone has nothing to do with how old they are. It has to do with how much they respect each other, care about each other and love to be with each other. Most of all, they make your moments with them…every moment better.
Q: That is so well said. Two of my favorite Burt Reynolds’ films are, “The Longest Yard” and “Boogie Nights.” Could you talk about those for a little bit, please?
A: Well, “The Longest Yard” was wonderful for me because I got to do what I always wanted, which was play football and get paid for it! I did have a couple of problems because we had four pro football players in the picture that thought it was their job to kill the movie actor. Ray Nitschke used to tackle me, take my head off and run with it towards the other end zone. He literally would hit me so hard. At the end of the day, (this is what I live for), they’d say, “That’s a wrap.” I’d be limping back to the locker rooms. He’d come up beside me and say, “You’re doing great, kid.” That I will take to the bank. More than any award, any Golden Globe, any Oscar nomination – I will take those words to the bank.
Q: That’s fantastic. I’ve read that “Deliverance” is your favorite film. Is this true, and if so, why?
A: I think because of, first of all, Jon Voight and I are so close. We respect each other’s idiosyncrasies. When we are together, I promise him I won’t talk about certain things like his daughter, and he won’t talk about certain things like politics. So, we get along and make each other laugh. I adore Jon’s sense of friendship. He knows what friendship is, regardless of whether you get along in certain departments or not.
Q: You’ve taken a few risks in your career; do you have any advice for aspiring actors?
A: I think most actors have to understand that every time you take a chance, whatever it is, it makes you better. It may be a small part that you may think is a little beneath you. Well, nothing is ever beneath you. It is a question of what you can bring it up to, where it is palatable. It makes you better. The way you learn how to act is to act.
Q: Do you have any regrets in life?
A: You haven’t got enough time.
Q: Jane Fonda said she regretted she didn’t have more children. I actually had another child because of it (laughs). But seriously, people really do listen to that! They appreciate wisdom.
A: Well, I wish I had ten.
Q: Really? You wish you had more children?
A: Of course.
Q: Well, I’d like to end by talking about the mustache. Have you ever shaved it off?
A: Of course, I shaved half of it off on “The Tonight Show”.
Q: That’s right! With Johnny Carson!
A: Steve Martin said, “You don’t have the guts.” Of course, he put me in a very awkward position so I asked for a razor and suddenly one appeared with a mirror. I don’t know if you think about shaving off a mustache with an electric razor but it is very painful – like pulling hairs out one at a time. I shaved half of it off and put the mirror [between the two sides] and had the audience vote. They liked the mustache better. I said, “Well thank you, but I don’t think I can grow the other half back by tomorrow.”
Q: (Laughs) Well thank you so much for chatting with me.
A: You’re very sweet.
Q: It’s been my pleasure.
Sarah Adamson© April 14, 2011