Remembering the legendary Burt Reynolds: Three of his most memorable roles

photo courtesy of crypticimages.comBurt Reynolds in Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights, one of my personal favorite films that wouldn't be what it is without Mr. Reynolds, and widely considered one of the best films he was featured in. 

Legendary actor Burt Reynolds leaves behind a legacy and iconic movies in his stead.

This man was smoother than James Bond. Burt Reynolds is a household name, there is no doubt in my mind about that. His first breakout role was Deliverance (1972), and that’s pretty crazy considering the debut of an icon was in a iconic film. I am not proud to say that I had never really seen him in many films until now, even as I heard hype over him for years. I really was looking forward to watching the films of a man who was at one point offered the role of Han Solo, and in no way do I regret hyping it up.

His most iconic film is definitely Smokey and The Bandit, in my opinion. By the end, I really understood why there is so much love for it. Reynolds could be an actor where a younger me would be absolutely sold on watching a film just based on sheer name recognition. Joining Mr. Reynolds was Jerry Reed, Sally Field, and Jackie Gleason. I didn’t know what to expect from this film at first, but I loved it. An incredibly fun, simple plot that never fails to entertain: Bo “Bandit” Darville (Reynolds) has to smuggle a semi truck load of alcohol across from Texarkana, with Sheriff Buford T Justice (Gleason) chasing after him. This film really did live up to the hype with the lovable role of bandit, a cool as ice Reynolds was a really good foil to his opposite Sally Field. Bandit definitely had a non-chalant bravado feeling to him, and it all seemingly came naturally from Reynolds.

Later in Reynolds’ Career he stared in Paul Thomas Anderson’s critically acclaimed film Boogie Nights (1997). He was a main cast member along with Julianne Moore, Heather Graham, Mark Wahlberg, Don Cheadle, and a truckload of big names. He really showed another smooth talking role, portraying a pornographic film director Jack Horner. While not the main protagonist (as that is reserved for Wahlberg’s Dirk Diggler/Eddie) Reynolds gave another smooth operator performance, an effortlessly cool dude constantly chomping on a cigar, but also a complicated man as the story portrayed the pornographic film business as something incredibly complicated, and Reynolds gave the performance of an ambitious yet very likeable dude. He shows a really intense, frightening side that genuinely took me by surprise, and made me jump a little, which really correlates with the rest of the film itself.  He began as a sketchy father figure for Eddie, but really nailed the complicated and sometimes just a bit villainous qualities of the character, and really had a three dimensional desperation to him. He actually got an Oscar nomination for his performance, which he certainly deserved. The funny postscript to this film though is that Burt Reynolds voiced his opinion that he hated this film time and time again, but he got his one and only Oscar nom for it. I loved the film in general (it might actually be one of my favorites), and Reynolds is a huge facet of the film that is irreplaceable.

Then there is 1972’s Deliverance, which some consider to be the film that put Reynolds on the map. He plays one of the four men canoeing down a river deep in the woods, filled with backwards, lost in time people. His character Lewis is just another example of Reynold’s range, for every Bandit, friendly and cool as ice, he can be a Lewis, a villainous man, and Mr. Reynolds most definitely nailed that character. A remake of General Zaroff from Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game short story, seemingly exhibiting sheer glee to be put in awful, violent situations. The thing about Deliverance is that it could most definitely is a horror movie, and Lewis does the group no favors and by being the resident tough guy, he really just ends up being pretty deranged.

Overall, I really wish I had seen Reynolds’s top films and truly appreciated them before he passed rather than posthumously. I now understand all the love he receives. At one point in time, this man was unquestionably the biggest star in the world, and he never really left, really putting in dedicated work, most definitely in the three films covered. He had the range to be the lovable hero of the story, but also a complicated villain. I was glad he had the opportunity to show off his acting chops, as I could easily see him being typecast. I think he is the childhood hero of many people, and he is an icon that has definitely had an incredibly large cultural impact that won’t ever go away.