Burt Reynolds has passed away at the age of 82. That's such a strange thought to me. When I think of Burt Reynolds, I think of an actor who personified what it meant to be a movie star of the 70s and early 80s. He carried himself with a confident swagger and an easy-going charisma that felt uniquely his own. Burt was cool and larger than life but yet he had a warmth and sense of fun about him that made him seem like an everyman. That's a rare combination of qualities for an actor to possess. Burt Reynolds had all that in spades.
A lot of things have and will be written today about Burt and his career. Films like SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, CANNONBALL RUN, DELIVERANCE, BOOGIE NIGHTS and others will be mentioned a lot. Those are classic, wonderful films after all. I'm sure they'll even be a lot of talk about the amazing list of roles Reynolds turned down over the years. Those are staggering in their own right.
I'm not sure they'll be a lot of conversation though about films like Reynolds' great directorial efforts such as the gritty cop drama SHARKY'S MACHINE and the bayou-based action/comedy GATOR (why it and the first film in that series, WHITE LIGHTNING aren't bigger I'll never understand). Those are badass films that don't get talked about enough. Reynolds had many missteps but few actors made movies as fun as STROKER ACE, HOOPER (both directed by SMOKEY helmer and Reynolds' dear friend, stuntman Hal Needam), or THE LONGEST YARD. It's difficult to think of any other performer who showed the longevity that Reynolds exhibited bouncing between films and television throughout his career.
Burt Reynolds was iconic and that was readily apparent even from his earliest film roles, like the 'spaghetti western' NAVAJO JOE where Reynolds played the title character for legendary director Sergio Corbucci. He was dubbed in that film and still, he felt like a larger than life movie star. I could spend hours just talking about my love for that particular film and Reynolds' role in it.
...And as I resisted the urge just now to ramble on about how great I think NAVAJO JOE is, it hit me.
Burt Reynolds can never really pass away. He lives on like all great artists; through his work.
He will always be waiting for us there on the screen and we can ride shotgun with him on his adventures whenever we need to escape and have a little fun.
I can't think of a better legacy than that for an actor who seemed like he was always having so much fun himself.