SXSW Film: Reynolds remembers ‘Smokey and the Bandit’

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“Smokey and the Bandit,” which has been one of CMT’s meat-and-gravy movies, is getting an homage in the new documentary “The Bandit.” But director Jesse Moss says it’s more than just that.

It’s a look at the cultural import of the 1977 movie, which rocked the box office that summer in the South, just as another little movie, the original “Star Wars,” was opening.

Moss says he sees “Smokey” and representative of a cultural transition, not only for portrayals of the South, but also for the stardom of Burt Reynolds.

“It was post-segregation,” Moss says, “and the South responded to the portrayal of affable people” in a comedy about beer smuggling. Also, Reynolds revitalized her career — while he was wondering whether he should have bared all in the photo shoot for “Playgirl.”

Although Reynolds is 80 and moving far more slowly these days, he still had a few sex-symbol moments during the Q&A after Saturday’s screening of “The Bandit.” A woman gave him her bra. Reynolds, of course, was affable.

FilmStill-79When watching “The Bandit,” which will premiere on CMT this summer, you’ll notice the precision and skill of the stuntmen — long before digital special effects were available.

“Smokey” is probably one of the last, great movies with stunts, in fact. And the director, Hal Needham, started out as a stuntman.

Needham and Reynolds were longtime friends — and even roommates for several years. Moss says he considers their relationship one of the first well-publicized “bromances.”

Whatever the case, “The Bandit” and Reynolds got a standing ovation, and it’s worth a look when it screens on CMT in August.

It screens again at SXSW at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the Marchesa, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Rollins and 11:15 a.m. Thursday at the Topfer.


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