The great Burt Reynolds passed away earlier this week. As part of the video shop generation in 80s – I pretty much grew on Burt Reynolds films, leaving me unrealistic expectations of how easy it is to meet and get into relationships with attractive members of the opposite sex and a natural tendency to overestimate the reliability of motor vehicle suspension systems.
One of the main films which triggered these symptoms (We’ll call these ‘Burtisms’) is Hooper (1978) directed by Burt’s long term friend Hal Needham, this is Needham’s semi-autobiographical story of Hollywood’s best stuntman.
Needham and Burt met, when Needham was doubling him for stunt work on an earlier film. They worked together on many productions and even lived together in Hollywood for long periods (Burt let Needham stay at his house rent free, as long as Needham didn’t drink his booze or hit on Burt’s girls – sounds like something out of this film).
Needham was one of the best, and bravest stunt men in the business, and when he started to direct films – he asked Burt to play the lead. Needham’s other films with Burt are the Cannonball Run and Smokey and the Bandit – box office gold for Burt and Needham (Needham, eventually repaid Burt for letting him live rent free at house – he gave him $25,000 in cash one day – Burt, didn’t report this to the IRS Needham says in his autobiography – Burt WAS an outlaw afterall).
Hooper is great fun, one of my favourite films about filmmaking – even today. Look out for the scene where Burt is playing cards on set with the other stuntmen and someone in background storms out of a meeting and wrecks the set – smashing up the director’s chair (that’s the writer chuckles Burt – as a script writer for hire and UK script doctor this scene always makes me laugh – I’ve been there!)
I hope Hooper now gets a little bit more love than it’s had as a film – it’s calling out, like many of Burt’s lesser known films for a BluRay release.
When I heard Reynold’s had died, I went to YouTube to watch a few clips from the films that I grew up – as always, I soon started smiling. Many of Reynold’s films end with him smiling into the camera and Hooper is no exception.
He always left us with a smile.
Below is the end scene of Hooper – check out some of the stunts on the closing titles.