I’m an idiot.” Burt Reynolds may have been the biggest box office star in the world from 1978 to 1982, but he also turned down a staggering list of the biggest blockbusters and Oscar winners in cinema history, including the lead in Star Wars – and lost two more through no fault of his own.
The legendary actor looked back on his career in his final years and made some no holds barred confessions about his mistakes and regrets.
Incredibly, he was offered the role of Han Solo in Star Wars but said he “just didn’t want to play that kind of role at the time.”
In 2016, he ruefully admitted: “Now I regret it. I wish I would have done it.”
And yet, the role that eventually went to Harrison Ford, still wasn’t the biggest opportunity he turned down.
Throughout his career, it could be said that Reynolds was his own worst enemy – apart perhaps from a lifelong feud with Marlon Brando.
In an interview just months before he died in 2018, Reynolds said: “I don’t think there’s any actor who doesn’t think he’s made bad career choices.
“I was recently with my friend Clint Eastwood, who’s had one of the most successful careers of all. We were laughing about the mistakes we made and he talked about a couple of films he wished he hadn’t made. I have a lot more than that! You learn from it though – you learn to be a better actor.”
As well as making poor decisions over roles, he also sabotaged his early career by walking off shows. When he was cast in TV Western series Riverboat in 1959, but quit after 20 episodes, complaining about his “stupid part.”
After years in the wilderness he landed three years in the lead role in TV’s Gunsmoke but the dreamed-of film roles did not come.
He actually turned down 1970’s Vietnam war classic MASH which cost only $3million to make but raked in $82million at the box office.
The same year he was dealt a cruel blow after being cast in The Godfather, beating out Al Pacino and Ryan O’Neal for the role of Michael Corleone.
Unfortunately, Marlon Brando had also been cast as the patriarch Vito and the two actors had a long-standing feud. Brando threatened to walk and Reynolds was forced to bow out.
His moment came in 1972 when his performance in Deliverance should have won him an Oscar nomination. But he blew his chances by famously posing for Cosmopolitan magazine – lying naked on a bearskin rug with his left arm protecting his modesty.
He later said: “It seemed like a good idea at the time – but now I think it was really stupid. But you can’t regret things like that, you have to move on.”
In 1975 he passed on playing Randle in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in 1975. The role, of course, went to Jack Nicholson, and in 2018 Reynolds could only say “I’m an idiot.”
Incredibly, he also passed on 1983’s Terms of Endearment. The role, again, went to Nicholson – who won both his Oscars for roles Reynolds had rejected. In a 2018 interview, the actor mimed choking himself at the thought.
He was then lined up for Rocky Balboa in 1976. The studio was keen, but writer Sylvester Stallone refused to relinquish control of his character and withstood immense pressure to insist he himself should play the title role.
The same year he rejected Star Wars, Reynolds finally scored enormous box office success with Smokey and the Bandit in 1977, which started a six-year box office reign as the annual highest-grossing Hollywood star. Other notable successes included The Cannonball Run in 1981 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas the following year.
At the height of his career, he was turned down the biggest film franchise of all time in 1982, when the producers were looking to replace Roger Moore as James Bond.
Reynolds’ reason at the time was: “I thought no American could possibly play James Bond.”
In 2016, he admitted he’d been wrong: “I think I was putting myself down in a way, because I think I could have done it very well… I think I would have liked it. I like that kind of tongue-in-cheek humour.”
In 2018 on Watch What Happens Live he told host Andy Cohen that he absolutely regretted his decision, along with refusing the Richard Gere role in Pretty Woman, simply repeating: “I’m an idiot.”
PROC. BY MOVIES