LONDON — In a career spanning over 50 years, Burt Reynolds has played a macho man tackling rapids in a canoe, a driver evading police in a car chase across America’s south and a pornography filmmaker.
Each part was significant for the Hollywood actor. “Deliverance” was Reynolds’ breakout role, “Smokey and the Bandit” a memorable smash hit, and “Boogie Nights” earned him an Academy Award nomination.
But the 79-year-old, known for his real-life romances as well as his work, says his greatest performance is yet to come.
“I think I have a performance in me. It’s a good one,” Reynolds told Reuters. “I don’t know if I’ll get that script. I’m hoping.”
In an interview tied to the promotion of his memoir “But Enough About Me,” Reynolds spoke about a career, which saw him leave Broadway for Hollywood as a young actor to take on — and turn down — memorable roles.
The mustachioed star started off in television before making dozens of movies — Westerns, action and sports comedies as well as dramas — of which he says he is proud of just a few.
Dressed in black with a red pocket handkerchief and tinted glasses, Reynolds said the 1979 comedy “Starting Over” about a man torn between his girlfriend and ex-wife was among his favorites.
“It was kind of like the story of my life. … It was great fun to do,” he said. “The worst? There’s too many.”
Having worked with the likes of Dom DeLuise, Clint Eastwood and ex-flame Sally Field, Reynolds was the top U.S. box office draw in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a period he described as “wild and wonderful.”
“I remember [actor] Lee Marvin said ‘save your money and have a good time but remember it’s not going to last,’” Reynolds said. “It was a wonderful time for me, and he was right. It doesn’t last, eventually it goes away.”
In his memoir, Reynolds talks about those who shaped his childhood, his football-playing days, career and personal life. He recounts receiving acting advice from Spencer Tracy, turning down Greta Garbo’s advances, playing poker with Elvis Presley and walking to the Actors Studio with Marilyn Monroe.
It was 1972 thriller “Deliverance,” in which four friends go on a nightmare canoe trip, which turned him into a star. He was cast after director John Boorman saw him on American television’s “The Tonight Show.”
The movie was filmed along the Chattooga River in the Georgia wilderness.
“That river was not used by adventurers in a canoe. … We ended up breaking apart seven of them,” Reynolds said.
“Deliverance” was nominated for three Oscars including best picture and best director. Reynolds blames himself for it not getting the recognition he says it deserved after he posed nude on a bearskin rug for Cosmopolitan before its release.
“I thought it was really the reason none of us were nominated because they probably thought none of us took the film seriously,” he said.
The photo however cemented his status as a sex symbol, and he soon stormed the box office with several hits.
“There were films offered to me that wouldn’t have been offered ever before,” he said. “Really good directors suddenly were coming out of the woodwork and asking me to work with them. I was thrilled.”
Reynolds, however, turned down parts in “Star Wars” and “Pretty Woman.” His biggest regret was saying no to James Bond when Sean Connery held out for money.
“I thought an American couldn’t play [him]. … The other ones were good. … I shouldn’t have turned them down either but Bond, I was wrong,” he said. “I could have done that role, and I could have done it well.”
Reynolds got his only Oscar nomination for the role of Jack Horner in “Boogie Nights” — a film that revived his career in the late 1990s and which he has not seen because of its pornography subject matter.
“I thought [the director] did a wonderful job but … it wasn’t something I wanted to look at for two hours,” he said.
Asked how he would like to be remembered, Reynolds said as “a good man” and “somebody who loved the business.”
“I can’t stand it when I hear certain actors talk about how horrible their life is when they’re working,” he said. “I’m lucky to be doing what I’m doing, really lucky.”