- Legendary actor Burt Reynolds died on Thursday at the age of 82.
- Known for being an actor who did his own stunts (in a time when leading men rarely did), in 2016 he told Business Insider the stunt in his career he regretted doing the most.
Before the likes of Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves dazzled audiences by doing their own stunts in movies, Burt Reynolds was one of the few A-list American actors tough enough to pull it off.
For most of the 1970s, Reynolds – who died on Thursday at the age of 82 – wasn’t just the biggest movie star on the planet, he was making box-office coin doing everything in movies from driving fast cars (“Smokey and the Bandit”) to diving into the end zone (“The Longest Yard”). But ironically the movie that showed Hollywood he could actually give a great acting performance was the one in which he did the stunt he regretted the most.
On the set of 1972’s Oscar-nominated “Deliverance,” about a group of friends who go on a river-rafting trip that goes horrifically wrong, Reynolds went too far when he insisted on doing a scene where his character, Lewis, goes over a waterfall.
When Business Insider spoke to then 80-year-old Reynolds in 2016, he said the stunt was just “a dumb macho thing to do.”
“I went over the falls in ‘Deliverance’ and I hit a rock and cracked my tailbone,” Reynolds said. “I tell everyone I was a 31-year-old guy in great shape before I went over the falls. And once I got in they couldn’t find me. I remembered one of the stunt guys said to me before the stunt, ‘If you get caught in the hydrofoil and you can’t get out, go to the bottom and it will shoot you right out,’ but he didn’t tell me it was like being shot out of a torpedo. I came out of the river about a mile away it seemed like, and I came out with no clothes. I had no shoes, socks – the falls tore them off. It was a pretty hairy stunt.”
Reynolds had nothing but respect for the actors of this era who are willing to do their own stunts. He especially had respect for the amount of stunts Tom Cruise does.
“He’s very brave with the stuff that he does,” Reynolds said of Cruise. “And he wants to be thought of as that because for such a long time he was a pretty boy and smaller than he wanted to be, I think. The stunts that he’s done, it’s obvious it’s him, and I’m very impressed with that. I’ve told him that.”
However, looking back on his stunts at 80, Reynolds wish he let his longtime stuntman Hal Needham (who also directed Reynolds in “Smokey and the Bandit” and “The Cannon Ball Run”) step in a few more times.
“When it’s cold and I’m limping around I think, ‘Why didn’t I let Hal make some money and I just sit down?'” Reynolds said. “But you can’t go back.”
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