FEATURE: Naas author Wayne Byrne pays tribute to movie legend Burt Reynolds

An 'elemental force of film'

Wayne Byrne

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Wayne Byrne

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editor@leinsterleader.ie

FEATURE: Naas author Wayne Byrne pays tribute to movie legend Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds is pictured in a scene from Sharky's Machine

Rewind: 1989. I am introduced to Burt Reynolds, the actor and the image.

To the majority of film fans and general public, Burt Reynolds was the actor who appeared in Deliverance, he was Smokey and the Bandit, and he was the Cannonball Run.

Not to me.

To me he was the face of a couple of attractive VHS covers that adorned the shelves of several Naas video emporiums at that time.

They were: Hollywood Nights (of Poplar Square, later Xtra-Vision, and now Tax Accountants) and Screen Test (of the Dublin Road, later McCormack’s Furniture, and now Polonez).

This was late 80s/early 90s.

It was, also, a time when these films would be considered “inappropriate” for my tender age.

However nonetheless renting Heat, Malone, and Sharky’s Machine left an indelible impression on this film-fanatic youth.

Fast-forward thirty years.

I’m now writing tributes to this man I first met whilst perusing the shelves of those very Naas video shops that I lament, this man I grew to absolutely adore.

He was a screen icon who seems to sum up everything great about the idea of a movie star, and my favourite actor.

That, and I have been writing a book about him for the past year.

I never previously bought into the act of grieving for celebrity figures until Burt Reynolds’ death last September.

His passing hit me hard, but then I have been working intimately and intensely with many of his friends and colleagues. In fact, I was in the company of one of his closest friends when we both heard the news.

It was devastating. Whatever one might have felt about him in the traditional fan-star relationship is nothing compared to the emotion one feels having spent so much time getting to know the real person behind the public persona.

I couldn’t bring myself watch the obligatory news and media reports on his passing.

Because I knew in advance almost verbatim how they would summarise his life and career.

I knew they would not/could not do such a colossal artistic career justice.

Yes, Deliverance and Smokey and the Bandit were always going to be referenced.

But this man made nearly 150 feature films, and produced/directed/starred in several award-winning prime-time television series.

The Hawk, Dan August, B.L. Stryker, Evening Shade.

Burt Reynolds was so much more than a Nine O’Clock News sound bite after reports on the housing crisis and before the sports coverage.

Hell, these few words of mine here cannot even afford such a career as Burt Reynolds’ the respect it is due.

But what I can say is that Burt Reynolds, the one I have gotten to know over the past year, was more than just a couple of movies.

He was an elemental force of film.

Yes, he was the biggest, most profitable movie star in the world from 1977 to 1981.

Yet he was, by all accounts of the many people I have met who knew him and loved him, a most generous actor. And he was an even more generous person. He was an artist in the truest sense of the word.

RIP, my hero, Burt Reynolds.