×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Burt Reynolds on Stunts, His First TV Series Role and Friendship With Hal Needham

Known for macho roles in movies like “Deliverance” and “Smokey and the Bandit,” Burt Reynolds has a brace of upcoming films in the can, a documentary about his life in the works and a new book (“But Enough About Me: A Memoir”) coming out Nov. 17. But he started as a stuntman (he was honored Sept. 19 by the Stuntmen’s Assn.), and met his lifelong friend and frequent collaborator, the late Hal Needham, on the set of NBC series “Riverboat” — which gave Reynolds his first mention in Variety in 1959.

What was the first stunt you remember doing?

It was something I didn’t plan. I was doing an episode of “Pony Express” (in 1959), and I rode into a shot, and there was some guy shooting. I was supposed to get off the horse as fast as I could. Well, it dumped me, and it went along with me, but I stepped off as we went down and rolled. Apparently, it looked pretty good. The director said, “Can you do that again?”

Was “Riverboat” your first series TV role?

Yes, but I wasn’t happy on that show, probably because I wasn’t very good. In fact, I was bad. I did the best I could, but I really didn’t know what I was doing.

Did you do your own stunts on the show?

Oh, yeah. In fact, I prayed I’d have a stunt to do because I felt so confident doing those. But there weren’t that many. I’d go to the writers and tell them to write in some stunts for me.

You met Needham when he came on “Riverboat” to be your stunt double.

I was so cocky. I didn’t want a stunt double. I told him, “Look, I don’t want to take away from your talent. I’m sure you’re very good, but I do my own stunts.” He smiled and said, “If you knew how many actors I’ve taken to the hospital that said that to me. But I want to watch you do this.” I said, “OK,” and I did the stunt. He said I was pretty good and asked me what else I could do. I said, “Anything you can teach me.” He said, “OK, come out to my house.”

What was that like?

In his backyard, he had a rope net, and we’d climb this tree as high as we could go. We’d try to outdo each other. He’d do a flip, and then I’d have to do what he did. But it taught me so much about heights, and I’d had a fear of heights. He’d say: “You’re not 10,000 feet up without a net. Just jump!” And I loved it. You couldn’t keep me out of that damned tree.

Click image for large preview

More TV

  • A.P. BIO -- "Melvin" Episode 208

    'AP Bio' Canceled After Two Seasons at NBC

    “AP Bio” has been canceled at NBC. Series creator Mike O’Brien shared the news with fans on Twitter, writing that “This has been my favorite project of my life.” In the single-camera comedy, Glenn Howerton portrayed a disgraced Harvard philosophy scholar who lost out on his dream job and was forced to return to Toledo, [...]

  • James Holzhauer $2 million

    'Jeopardy!' Champion James Holzhauer Hits $2 Million Winnings Milestone

    This current “Jeopardy!” player has just won over $2 million on the popular game show. Who is James Holzhauer? The 34 year old professional sports gambler from Las Vegas has hit a “Jeopardy!” milestone by becoming only the second person in the show’s history to win over $2 million in regular season play. Holzhauer won [...]

  • Kanye West Shares a Memory of

    Kanye West Shares a Touching Memory of His Mother in Letterman Interview

    In a preview of David Letterman’s interview with Kanye West, which begins streaming next Friday, May 31, the musician’s wife Kim Kardashian West, tweeted a clip of him sharing a touching memory of his mother, Donda, who died in 2007 after a surgical procedure. While his wife looks on smiling, West answers Letterman’s question about [...]

  • CNN Lays Off Some Health Journalism

    CNN Lays Off Some Health Journalism Staffers

    CNN has laid off a handful of staffers from its health-journalism unit after deciding to place its health, climate and Southeastern newsgathering operations under a single aegis. ” As part of the normal course of business, our newsgathering team made a small restructure earlier this week that ultimately impacts 6-7 employees within CNN’s Health Unit,” [...]

  • Henry Ian Cusick

    'Lost' Star Henry Ian Cusick Signs With Buchwald (EXCLUSIVE)

    Henry Ian Cusick, best known for playing Desmond on the hit ABC series “Lost,” is signing with talent agency Buchwald for representation. Cusick also starred in the CW sci-fi/drama “The 100” and was most recently seen in the Fox series “The Passage.” His other notable television credits include “Scandal,” “24,” “Fringe,” “The Mentalist,” “Body of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content