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‘Bandit,’ Documentary on Iconic Burt Reynolds Film, Gets Nashville Spotlight

Jesse Moss’ “The Bandit,” which will screen at the Nashville Film Festival in partnership with Country Music Television (CMT) and Variety magazine, combines two themes: the making of the enormously successful film, “Smokey and the Bandit,” and the long-time relationship of its two principals, director Hal Needham and star Burt Reynolds, who played one of the two title roles opposite Jackie Gleason.

The filmmaking tandem were longtime acquaintances and collaborators, with Needham standing in for Reynolds on many of the hair-raising stunts that were emblematic of Reynolds’ films. When Needham came to Reynolds with a script he had written about beer smugglers, the actor had his doubts but eventually agreed to take the lead in his best friend’s film, resulting in one of the top-grossing releases of 1977, hauling in approximately $127 million, and bested only by “Star Wars” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

“Bandit” is one of two documentaries making their television premieres on CMT, the other being “Chicken People,” which also bowed at SXSW.

“The Bandit” will be shown at the festival on April 21, followed by a Q&A with Variety executive editor Steven Gaydos, Moss and two reps from Country Music Television’s Film Department, John Miller-Monzon and Lewis Bogach. The panel will be followed by an invite-only reception.

For those longing to see the original movie yet one more time, “Smokey and the Bandit,” will be shown at 9:30 p.m.

“The Bandit” premiered at South by Southwest, but fest exec director Ted Crockett says it makes sense to have a southern premiere of the film at the Nashville Film Festival.

“ ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ is something that all of us grew up watching,” Crockett says. “It’s something that the country audience definitely loved. We have a huge entertainment and creative community in Nashville that’s made up of filmmakers, songwriters, screenwriters, painters, sculptors and dancers, a community that I think will really embrace this type of fun film.”

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