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I finished the script for The Last Movie Star  and called Burt’s manager. I said, “Please send this to Burt and tell him we have no money and that if he doesn’t want to do it, I’m not making it, because I only wrote it for him.” The next day I get a call from Burt Reynolds. It blew my mind. One reason I wrote the movie was that growing up, Burt Reynolds was my hero. So when I heard his voice on the phone, my jaw hit the floor.
I’d heard all the stories — like how he punched out a director in the 1980s — but I didn’t care. In fact, he was very candid about his mistakes. It was touching to hear him talk about the parts he’d turned down and how he blew it with Sally Field, how she was the one he wished he could have reconciled with.
He was a college football player [Florida State] and a former stuntman, and his injuries were catching up to him — bad knees, bad back. He walked with a cane. But he still had the sparkle in his eye of a 30-year-old. He still flirted with all the women on the set, and they all flirted back, whether they were 20 or 70. But he was a gentleman. Every time he’d meet a woman, he’d give her a white rose. I don’t know where they all came from, but he always had a white rose to hand out.
This story appears in the Sept. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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