The stir of morning foot traffic on the streets of Downtown Rome is heavy for a Thursday. As newcomers from all over the world leave hotels and local homes, staff and volunteers of the 14th Annual Rome International Film Festival are hard at work in preparation. Screening movies that were produced worldwide is enough to get the attention of movie buffs. However, this year’s guest list includes a silver screen legend who paved the way for the recent filmmaking surge in the Peach State. One older lady strolls in the front door of the brand new V3 Magazine offices with the grin of a kid who just discovered mom’s stash of Nilla Wafers, and says in a voice just above a whisper, “Is he here?”
Normally, the staff just rattles off directions to Merle Norman (the lovely cosmetics boutique that has moved to Central Plaza, in case anyone else needs to know) and points down Broad with a smile. But not today. Folks who wander in are not in search of foundation and hand lotion. She pulls out a poster, edges brown from time and the color two shades lighter than new, and tells us, “I’ve been waiting all my life for this moment.” On what seemed to be her most prized possession, was the one and only Burt Reynolds posing for one of his famous (uhmm) photoshoots.
Yes, THE BANDIT HIMSELF, graced us all with a visit to
Downtown Rome where he screened his latest flick, “Dog Years” and V3 had to honor of hosting one of his local press conferences. After being so gracious to everyone who wanted to meet a legend, he was still kind enough to answer some questions and show Rome why he’s still running away with movie fans’ hearts.
PRESS POOL (PP): While making the movie “Deliverance”, what were some of the things that inspired you to become a huge voice in the push to make Georgia a location sought after by film makers and movie production?
BURT REYNOLDS (BR): The locations in northern Georgia were just perfect and I really can’t say enough about how welcoming the people are here. And Ed Spivey (former Georgia film commissioner) was one of the best men you could get, in terms of handling pictures. Also, we had a governor in Florida, my home state, and I went to him and told him that I had never made a movie in Florida. I think his name was Askew. I told him that if he
allowed us to make a movie in Florida, we would leave about a million dollars in the state. He told me that he did like me or my pictures and I told him I didn’t care too much of him as a governor either! (laughs). So, I think everything worked out for the good and I told him I wouldn’t be back to see him until the next election! I really didn’t care to see him then either!
It’s the damnedest thing, that some people don’t understand that the movie industry does not come in and trash the cities. They come in and make things better and often leave it in better shape than they found it.
Now, when I go into a piano bar and I hear, bum baa baa baa baa bum, it scares the hell out of me!
But we had some of the best people, best crew and best experiences while working on “Deliverance” here in Georgia.
PP: I’ve heard many people say that you use to tell them that you were from Waycross, Georgia but we’ve learned from reading your autobiography that Florida is really your birthplace. Can you tell us how that rumor started?
BR: I’m not originally from Waycross, but I’ll tell you how that got started. My dad came back from the war when I was four. He and my mother went on a second homey moon and when they returned they told me they were moving to Florida. We drove down, and I remember having visions of alligators in my back yard and all that, but we stopped in Waycross. I remember thinking that this was a great town and if I was born anywhere else in the world, I wanted to be born right here. I always felt that way. So, I just say I’ve been born there, whether people like it or not!
PP: I wanted to ask you about your role in the early seventies, with then Governor Carter, in starting the Georgia Film Commission. How were you a part of that process?
BR: Ed Spivey was really the driving force behind it all and deserves all the credit. Because my governor, Mr. Askew, told me he didn’t like my pictures, I was quoted in one of the papers saying he was dumber than a peach orchard sow. One of the media folks asked, “What is a peach orchard sow?” I never answered him. (laughs). I just fell in love with Georgia because I never had a bad time making pictures here, and I’ve made six pictures here. They were all successful, like “The Longest Yard” which is a picture we were supposed to make in Florida, but we ended up shooting it here at a prison in Georgia. All the towns in Georgia are such amazing towns and all the people are such amazing people. And it helped to ask Governor Carter to shoot here and find that he was one of the nicest men on the planet.
PP: What do you think about Georgia’s film industry being a multi-billion-dollar business today and how does it feel to have been a part of that?
BR: I don’t know if I had a big part in getting it started, but I’d like to think I did have some part in starting it. Every time someone wants to make a movie with me, I ask if we can shoot this in Georgia. (laughs) It doesn’t matter if the movie is about Africa! I love coming here. The friends I have made in Georgia, even some new ones I have made today, are friends I’ll have for all of my life. That’s what makes the difference here. It’s a lot different that LA-LA Land! In Los Angles they love you, as you’re doing well!