Burt Reynolds in Fine Form at ‘Deliverance’ Screening: Plus, Video!

Burt Reynolds, who turned 82 last month, was this week mocked in the press for appearing frail and using a cane.

Reynolds gave us a helluva Q&A. (All images by Matthew Rettenmund)

At a Metrograph screening of his classic 1972 film Deliverance, he was moving slowly but looked heartier than in recent years, and was incredibly gracious toward every fan who approached for a photo or an autograph.

Reynolds seemed touched by the outpouring of support.

As soon as the searing thriller ended, Reynolds entered the room and plopped into a comfy armchair. Mocking his age, he joked, "Good night!"

During his generous, charismatic Q&A, Reynolds got teary-eyed while praising 2017's Dunkirk, stating that his dad was in that battle, and when talking about making "one of the worst pictures ever made, Navajo Joe (1966).

Choice quotes:

On his acting idols:

When I was growing up, it's hard to believe, but there was three theaters and it was nine cents to go to the westerns, you know. You saw The Durango Kid [1940] and a lot of kind of B-westerns, they called them, but I thought they were great. And then you got up to 14 cents, which was the Palace Theatre, which was a big deal. And I remember seeing people that I thought, "Jeez, this is the A-list." And when I got to Hollywood and I was doing films, I suddenly found myself working with a 14-cent actress and wow, I suddently understood why they got the big bucks and why they were so special. Myrna Loy [1905-1993] played my mother [in The End (1978)]. I got to pick my mother and father, it was so great. So I picked her and Pat O'Brien [1899-1983]. It doesn't get any better than that.

On working with Clint Eastwood (b. 1930):

We got fired at the same time. They said, "Mr. Eastwood, you've got that Adam's apple that sticks out too far and you talk too slow and you've got that chipped tooth you won't get it fixed." I said, "Well, what's the matter with me?" "You can't act." So we were walking to his truck and I said, "You know, you're in a lot of trouble," and he said, "Why?" and I said, "Well, I can learn to act ..."

Reynolds in Deliverance (Image via Warner Bros.)

On Deliverance (1972):

It changed my whole career ... I was doing a lot of pictures with cars and trucks ... John Boorman [b. 1933], best director I ever worked for ... Driving the car, [Jon Voight, b. 1938] gets the giggles — because when he's scared to death, he gets the giggles ... and he kept saying, "Burt! Burt!" I said, "Lewis, you dummy."... He's the sweetest man.

John, like all great directors, wanted total control, and I think that's why you haven't seen any pictures since then. The studio took it away from him and made cuts and did things, make you crazy. I can't tell you what that's like when you put your heart and soul in a movie and some guy in a little room somewhere changes things.

... Ned Beatty [b. 1937] should've been nominated for an Academy Award, I don't care what anybody says. It makes me angry — well, the Academy makes me angry every year ...

John Boorman said, "Where am I gonna find these [mountain] people?" ... I brought a guy in, his name was Cowboy Coward [b. 1938] and he said, [stuttering], "Burt, I can't read the first sentence." I said, "Don't worry about it. I'll tell you what it says and you then say it whatever way you want." The first line was, "Get over against that tree and take your pants down," and said, [stuttering], "Get over against that sapling and take your panties down," and John Boorman said, "You got the part." ... "You got a mighty pretty mouth — that was an ad-lib."

On having writer James Dickey (1923-1997) on the Deliverance set:

James Dickey ... uh ... was a pain in the ass. And he really was, I mean he was just so arrogant. I remember we would eat dinner at this place and he had everybody cornered ... I was at the bar trying to get a date with the girl who was waiting on us and he came over, Dickey came over, and said something to me, and I said, "Mr. Dickey, tomorrow at 6 o'clock in the morning, I'll be whoever you want me to be, but now, it's my time. So I want you to get your big, fat ... butt ... away." And he said, "That's exactly what Lewis would've said!" ... He thought I was Lewis.

With Cybill Shepherd (b. 1950) and Madeline Kahn (1942-1999) in At Long Last Love (Image via 20th Century Fox)

On At Long Last Love (1975):

I'll talk about Peter [Bogdanovich (b 1939)], I don't wanna talk about At Long Last Love. I kept telling him, "Peter, I don't want to do a musical — it's just not what I do," and he said, "Yes, you can. Everybody can." ... It wasn't a happy experience ... The opening of the picture, I have one song — and everything was live, by the way, you really did sing live — and I was in a car and the orchestra was on a flatbed trailer driving along beside, and it was really strange. But I did like it. I mean, if I could sing, I probably would've had the best time ever.  [Told the film has been reappraised and is a cult classic] Who, who, who reappraised it? Oh, well, God bless you.

(Image via UA)

On The End (1978):

It's hard to do a comedy about dying, but it did well, and it got big, big laughs.

On working with friends, and missing them:

Dom [DeLuise, 1933-2009], I miss every day. God, I miss him. Charles Nelson Reilly [1931-2007]. I miss those people because they're irreplaceable, you know? Jon Voight and I keep saying we're gonna do another movie together ... He sends me a script, he says, "I've got a great script," and I said, "I don't have any lines." He said, 'Yeah, but you're so good."

In The Longest Yard (Image via Paramount)

On The Longest Yard (1974):

I was happy as a lark, 'cause I was doing what I wanted to do my whole life, was playing football and getting paid for it. I didn't like Ray Nitschke [1936-1998] thinking he was in a game. He almost killed me. I remember saying, "Ray it's just a movie." "Not to me."

On The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982):

Dolly was a double ... thrill ... But she was the best gal, she was just always happy. The crew loved her and everybody did and I don't blame them. She's a wonderful lady.

On regrets:

Well, I'd say: Don't work with Kathleen Turner [b. 1954, in 1988's Switching Channels]. I gotta stop that, because I'm so mean. I have to stop that. Not right away.

On Cop and a Half (1993) and doing family movies:

[Deadpan] Well, Deliverance is a family movie ... I do the best movies that are offered me. I don't get offered a lot of familiy movies.

On Sally Field (b. 1946):

I have some films that I like because of Sally. She was so wonderful. I remember we were trying to figure out who we were gonna get for the leading lady and I said, "Sally Field," and they said, "Well, she's not sexy," and I said, "You guys are idiots. Talent is sexy," and they looked at me. They figured it out about halfway through the movie. She's an amazing talent.

On whether Boogie Nights (1997) was his first time punching a director (Paul Thomas Anderson, b. 1970):

I plead the Fifth Amendment.

On aging:

I'm old. I'm gettin' really old. And I hope wherever I go, I hope it's not too hot there, because I love to be able to watch movies. And that'll be my treasure, you know, to watch old movies. I love 'em. I love the pictures they don't make anymore.

Highlights from the Q&A, on video — no permission granted for use of video on TV or Web — only embedding allowed:

Burt was on hand to plug his upcoming film The Last Movie Star, which releases March 30. Check out the trailer:




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