Burt Reynolds, legendary actor and notorious bad boy, is still working in Hollywood at the age of 81. Presently, he is promoting his new film Dog Years which details the trials and travails of an aging movie star. In a far-ranging interview with Katie Couric, Burt lets forth about his tumultuous love life, his love of football and teaching, his many regrets including screwing it up with Sally Field and marrying Loni Anderson, and the roles that got away.

According to IMDb, Reynolds’ numerous achievements have been recognized by his having been named America’s Favorite All-Around Motion Picture Actor (People’s Choice Award) for a record six consecutive years; the Most Popular Star for five years running; Star of the Year (National Association of Theatre Owners); and #1 Box Office Star for five years in a row–still an unmatched record. He was honored with the 2007 Taurus World Stunt Award for Lifetime Achievement for an Action Movie Star and received this special citation from the Republican Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger.

You would think with a resume like that a star of Burt’s caliber would be happy and satisfied with his legacy, but that’s apparently not the case. Reynolds laments turning down the role of the randy astronaut Garrett Breedlove in the award-winning drama Terms of Endearment. Jack Nicholson went on to win the Oscar for best actor in a supporting role and the film itself won five Academy awards along with numerous film festival awards. Burt also turned down the role of the wise-cracking, fearless yippie ki-yay John McClane in the blockbuster action film Die Hard. The role, of course, went to Bruce Willis–and the rest is history! It’s hard to imagine a better player for the iconic role, but if anyone could outBruce Bruce Willis, it would be ole Burt Reynolds.

As well, the sleeper hit Pretty Woman starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts has Burt Reynolds embedded in its collective folklore. Burt turned down the role of robber baron Edward Lewis because he didn’t like the concept; and consequently, Richard Gere–already a big star–got even bigger! Mr. Reynolds doesn’t seem to mind that miss so much as he said, “I couldn’t have done the job [Gere] did.”

However, the role of James Bond is another story altogether. Burt deeply regrets his decision to turn down the iconic role in 1970 and believes it’s one of the biggest mistakes of his career. Remember, this is a guy who said yes to three Smokey and the Bandit movies, two Cannonball Runs, and the inimitable Stroker Ace, but he couldn’t say yes to Bond…James Bond? And the reason he gives for his disappointment concerning the missed opportunity? “I would have done a good job.”

It’s important to keep in mind that Reynolds has famously said he based his movie decisions on “location and the female lead.” For someone with the golden touch of Burt Reynolds, the strategy has–for the most part–worked out. But for mere mortals, it’s essential to give serious thought to each role and each project. Every character and every film or web series should serve in furthering the agenda of becoming a working actor and a going concern in the film industry. Even the work done for free or the work done for reel should be carefully examined. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about the work.

As for ole Burt, “I’m going to keep working until they shoot me and take me off and bury me,” he says. “And I hope they film it.”

Burt Reynolds in the 1972 film Deliverance.

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