LAWRENCE – With his passing Sept. 6 at age 82, Burt Reynolds will be remembered for the good humor and athleticism that made him one of America’s top box-office stars in the 1980s, according to a University of Kansas Professor of Film & Media Studies who interviewed the actor during that time period.
John Tibbetts, who also maintained a career as a movie reporter and reviewer for Kansas City radio and television stations during the period, interviewed Reynolds in 1988 as part of a press junket for the film “Switching Channels,” in which he co-starred with Kathleen Turner.
“It was a remake of ‘His Girl Friday,’ a 1940 screwball comedy with Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant,” Tibbetts said. “It was set in a newsgathering operation, and he played the boss, a character modeled on CNN founder Ted Turner. I remember he kept making jokes about his hairpiece. We were sitting across the table, a few feet away from him, and I guess he realized there was no hiding it anymore.”
Given the boffo 1977 smash “Smokey and the Bandit” and its sequels, Reynolds will be remembered for comedy. But from his days as an actor in western TV series like “Gunsmoke” and “Riverboat” to his dramatic high point in 1972’s harrowing “Deliverance,” Reynolds could also deliver the dramatic goods, Tibbetts said.
“He always prided himself on his athleticism,” Tibbett said. “He played college football, and he had been a stuntman, too. I think that’s why he bonded with ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ director Hal Needham, who had been a stuntman, as well.”
Image: When John Tibbetts interviewed Burt Reynolds in 1988, he got Reynolds to sign a portrait he made of him.