There are actors who’ve attained notoriety, and then there’s Burt Reynolds, who made roles into pop culture icons. In the process, he became a pop culture icon himself.
The often-mustached Reynolds is best known for the 1977 action-comedy Smokey and the Bandit, and a couple others.
Smokey and The Bandit
Thanks to Reynolds country-boy charm, the character of Smokey has become a well-known trope in movies; the daredevil driver who casually takes on police and outruns them without breaking a sweat.
Smokey and the Bandit outran even Star Wars at the box office that year.
That wasn’t all that Reynolds did that year. The car from Smokey and the Bandit; the black 1977 Trans Am, became an instant classic. Sales soared, and two more movies were made to capitalize on the popularity of the Trans Am, Reynolds, and his portrayal of Bandit.
“So That’s How it Is”
Burt Reynolds, although a tough-looking guy, was quite the comedic actor. This was evidenced beyond just his role as Bandit.
He put his comedy skills on show for The Longest Yard. He played Paul “Wrecking” Crewe, a disgraced quarterback who ends up in prison. To settle a dispute with the Warden, and his guards, Crewe heads up a football team to win a high-stakes game against the guards.
Crewe, who’s somewhat unscrupulous himself, agrees to take a dive so the Warden will give him preferential treatment. However, after taking a few too many hits, and seeing his own team getting demolished, Crewe attempts to renegotiate a deal.
Only for the Warden to double-cross him.
After getting up off the grass from a particularly grueling sack, Crewe shakes his head, grabs the ball, and says “So that’s how it is.”
From that moment on the inmates play tougher, harder, and meaner football than they’ve ever played. And Crewe’s the worst of them all.
Reynolds would go on to play in the remake that was released in 2005. He would play a disgraced football coach who would end up coaching Adam Sandler in the titular role of Paul Crewe. It wasn’t bad as far as remakes go. The good news is Reynolds was just as funny as Coach Scarborough as he was playing the original Crewe.
Although Reynolds would be nominated for an Oscar for his role in Boogie Nights, he’s best known for his role as Lewis in Deliverance.
Reynolds played the outdoor enthusiast Lewis in a troupe of four who decide to canoe the fictional Cahulawasse River. It’s not the adventure they bargained for when they run into local folk who don’t take kindly to outsiders.
There are a few dead bodies by the end of the movie while Reynolds and the remainder of the party try to cover up what really happened.
Thanks to Reynolds popularity, the movie did well at the box office. There’s some debate surrounding why the film didn’t win for any of the three categories it was nominated in. Or why Reynolds, or the rest of the cast, didn’t receive acting nominations.
But that’s history now.
Reynolds enjoyed a successful career as an actor, and sometimes stuntman.
He’d earn a few more awards for his roles and quite a few Razzies. But make no mistake, Reynolds could act. When he did, his films did well at the box office.
On September 6, 2018, Burt Reynolds passed away due to a heart attack at the age of 82.
He will be missed.