In 1977, the number one box office earner was Star Wars which raked in $307 million dollars. The second film that made the chart, also earned an amazing $126 million. That movie was a little underdog called Smokey and the Bandit directed by stuntman and first time feature filmmaker, Hal Needham.
Fast forward to 2016. Director Jesse Moss (The Overnighters) takes us on an in depth journey into the making of Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham’s Smokey And The Bandit.
The Bandit is much more than your typical “making of” doc. All told with new/old interviews and a mind blowing compilation of archival footage, Moss intricately weaves a story layered with insight into the opulent and decadent 70’s, the wild west world of stuntmen and the roller coaster career of then mega star, Burt Reynolds.
The relationship between “good ol boys“, Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham is the heart of the film. I always knew Needham was one of the most bad ass and coolest stuntmen that ever lived but seeing his life story from his “humble beginnings” as a farmer to top grossing movie director is truly inspirational. The man refused to be pigeon-holed. He stuck to his guns and proved everyone wrong. Alongside Needham’s desire to succeed was Reynold’s desire to be taken seriously as a legitimate actor. From the brilliance of Deliverance to the absurdity of his Cosmo centrefold, Reynolds story is also told from his “humble beginnings” to becoming the biggest baddest, sexiest star alive. No one was cooler.
Throw in a pedal to the metal, Trans Am, Sally Field, Jerry Reid, legendary Jackie Gleeson and the brilliant Paul Williams (whose own doc, Paul Williams Still Alive Is something you need to definitely check out) and you get a recipe for one of the most entertaining and compelling documentaries at this year’s SXSW.