Feb. 11 was the 80th birthday of Burt Reynolds. For a time, in the very early 1970s, some (such as director Guy Hamilton) thought he could have been a good James Bond.
That wasn’t meant to be, but the actor’s milestone birthday is worthy of a pause for reflection.
Reynolds was a better actor than a lot of his critics gave him credit for. At the same time, for a long time, Reynolds was quoted as acknowledging that he accepted some roles because it would be fun, rather than stretching his acting chops.
Regardless, Reynolds worked his way up. For a time in the early 1960s, he was a supporting player on Gunsmoke as Quint Asper, a half-Indian blacksmith in Dodge City. Reynolds also had a memorable guest appearance on The Twilight Zone, where he played a pompous actor, doing a spot-on impersonation of Marlon Brando.
Reynolds later became the lead actor in police dramas such as Hawk and Dan August.
The latter, which aired during the 1970-71 season on ABC, was a turning point. Not because it was successful, but because Reynolds took a copy of the show’s “blooper reel” with him on talk shows. (See the book Quinn Martin, Producer for more details.) For the first time, audiences could see what his colleagues already knew — Reynolds had a sense of humor.
Reynolds could be serious when he wanted to, such as the 1971 movie Deliverance. But, for some (such as the Spy Commander), one of his best performances — where drama and comedy were required — was 1978’s Hooper.
In that Hal Needham-directed film, Reynolds played the lead stunt man on a James Bond-like movie being directed by an “A” list movie director (Robert Klein). The latter character was based on Peter Bogdanovich, who directed 1976’s Nickelodeon, a film where Reynolds worked as an actor and Needham as stunt coordinator.
In 1978, it was inconceivable that an “A” list director would ever do a Bond movie. So, in some ways, Hooper was a sort-of preview of the Sam Mendes-directed 007 films of the 21st century.
Anyway, here’s a hearty happy birthday for Burt Reynolds.
Filed under: James Bond Films | Tagged: Burt Reynolds, Dan August, Deliverance, Gunsmoke, Guy Hamilton, Hal Needham, Hawk, Hooper, Marlon Brando, Nickelodeon, Peter Bogdonavich, Sam Mendes, The Twilight Zone | 5 Comments »