The 67-year-old screen legend, a Florida State running back in
the 1950s, is the new host of ESPN Classic's Reel Classics.
SI: Your college football career ended after two seasons when you
injured your knee. How good could you have been?
Reynolds: I get greater each time we have a reunion. Lee Corso
[who roomed with Reynolds at FSU] and I get together and talk
about this run I made against Auburn that was around 55 or 60
yards [actually 54]. Now it's a 125-yard run and I get tackled in
the parking lot next to the orange juice stand.
SI: You've done many sports movies, among them Semi-Tough (SI
cover, page 97), Stroker Ace and The Longest Yard. Which was most
Reynolds: The Longest Yard. Nobody had a clue if it would work. I
went to a preview, and people were screaming and yelling and
ripping seats out. Movies are supposed to take you on an
emotional ride, and it was the first time I'd been in one that
did, other than maybe Deliverance.
SI: What appeals to you about the ESPN Classic gig?
Reynolds: Talking about actors who can act and catch a ball at
the same time.
SI: You called Florida State coach Bobby Bowden "the brother I
never had." How long do you think he'll coach?
Reynolds: If he has a big winning season, I wouldn't be surprised
if he just moved on or became athletic director.
SI: Are athletes easy to work with in film?
Reynolds: The easiest people for me to direct are jocks because
they have been directed since the age of nine--Joe Klecko was
wonderful in Smokey and the Bandit II. I'm never surprised by it.
This ain't the Super Bowl. Just look me in the eyes and don't
trip over the furniture, as Spencer Tracy said.
SI: Is there any role in a sports movie that you wish you had
Reynolds: I would love to have had a shot at North Dallas Forty,
but believe me, I would not have been as good as my friend Nick
Nolte. There are still some parts around for old coaches that I
might get offered.
SI: You're one of the most famous people in Florida. Can you
promise that you will not run for governor?
Reynolds: Without a doubt. I don't have skeletons in my closet. I
have bodies. --Richard Deitsch
For more from Burt Reynolds, go to si.com/siexclusive