Monday 24 October 2016

Books: Delivering the goods... Burt Reynolds

Cinema: But Enough About Me, Burt Reynolds, Blink Books, hdbk, 300 pages, €29.50

Published 06/12/2015 | 02:30

Good ol' boy: Burt Reynolds in his Smokey and the Bandit days
Good ol' boy: Burt Reynolds in his Smokey and the Bandit days
Burt Reynolds in Deliverance in 1972.
Burt Reynolds - But Enough About Me

Our reviewr on a confessional, funny and heartfelt memoir by Hollywood veteran Burt Reynolds.

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Regrets? Burt Reynolds has had a few.

After auctioning off some of his most prized possessions last year, including his Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe for Boogie Nights, the Hollywood legend is back to put the record straight.

True to its title, But Enough About Me is less of a memoir and more of a valentine to those who've shaped his life and career over the decades. In typical good ol' boy fashion, however, the veteran actor also vows to "call out the assholes I can't forgive, and try to make amends for being an asshole myself on too many occasions".

Growing up in small-town Florida, Buddy Reynolds - as he was known back then - dreamed only of becoming a professional American football player. Having smashed his car as a student, aggravating an existing injury, he settled for playing one in movies such as The Longest Yard instead.

Borrowing his dad's name, Buddy soon became 'Burt', and after getting his big break on Broadway, the rest writes itself.

While contemporaries Jon Voight, Clint Eastwood and Marlon Brando, all of whom are name-checked in the book, were busy chewing the scenery to be good actors, Burt the beefcake stuck to chewing his cigar. And it worked.

With hit after hit, including Deliverance, Smokey and the Bandit and Hooper in the 1970s, Reynolds was officially box-office gold. One failed marriage to actress Judy Carne already behind him, though, off camera things were just beginning to unravel.

Seemingly bouncing back in 1998, the actor scored his first and only Oscar nomination for his memorable turn as porn director Jack Horner in Boogie Nights.

But it was his own foray into soft porn - posing naked on a bearskin rug for Cosmopolitan magazine 26 years previously - rather than losing out to Robin Williams that still haunts him to this day.

"It was a fiasco," he recalls. "I couldn't go anywhere without women asking me to sign their copies, each one a painful reminder of my stupidity. I also got some of the filthiest letters I've ever seen, many of which included Polaroids.

"It's been called one of the greatest publicity stunts of all time, but it was one of the biggest mistakes I've ever made. I'm still embarrassed by it and I sorely regret doing it."

Although he never got paid for the snaps, or the "cottage industry [of] panties, T-shirts, key chains and coasters" they sparked, at the peak of his success, Reynolds was raking in $10m a year.

Marrying American sweetheart Loni Anderson - who "bought everything in triplicate, from everyday dresses to jewellery to china and linens" - in 1988, not to mention divorcing her five years later, put a good dent into that, he claims.

"When we announced the separation, the press went into high gear," remembers the dad of one, who has an adopted son, Quinton, with Anderson.

"Princess Diana sent me a thank-you note for keeping her off the cover of People magazine. For a long time after the divorce, the tabloids were still calling Loni and me 'cheesecake and beefcake'.

Despite his meat-head public image, But Enough About Me presents a more thoughtful side to the man for whom it's permanently Movember. Keeping good on his promise to name and shame those he says have screwed him down through the years, the straight-talking star doesn't let himself off the hook either, shouldering the blame for his failed relationship with Smokey and the Bandit co-star Sally Field.

"One of the things people say about Smokey is that you watch two people fall in love on the screen, and it's true," he writes. "I wish I could turn back the clock. I'm sorry I never told her that I loved her, and I'm sorry we couldn't make it work. It's the biggest regret of my life."

Field isn't the only one who got away. Looking back, the actor-turned-director is still kicking himself for passing on the opportunity to play James Bond in 1970, as well as the part made famous by Richard Gere in Pretty Woman.

And the less said about Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 (1983) and Striptease (1996), the better.

Reynolds concedes: "I've done more than a hundred movies. I'm proud of maybe five of them. And I'll match my record of missed opportunities with anyone in the business. In a few cases I was unlucky, but it was mostly bad decisions.

"As I look back, I'm proud of my accomplishments and disappointed by my failures," he continues.

"[But] there's one thing they can never take away: Nobody had more fun than I did."

Indeed, from playing poker with Frank Sinatra to getting hit on (and turning down) Greta Garbo, reminiscing on his half century in front of and behind the camera, Reynolds renders a Hollywood of yesteryear sure to delight film buffs this Christmas.

Confessional, funny and heartfelt, with the help of renowned showbiz writer Jon Winokur, at 79, Burt still delivers.

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