Smokey and the Bandit further boosted Burt Reynolds career and made the Pontiac Trans Am one of the iconic automobiles of the ‘70s. No doubt, it also resulted in more than a few speeding tickets for those who admired the man and the car.
There’s more to the story, of course, and fans will get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the 1977 film when The Bandit premieres Saturday (Aug. 6) at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CMT.
Produced and directed by Jesse Moss and produced by Mile End Films and CMT’s documentary films division, The Bandit chronicles the friendship between Reynolds and stuntman Hal Needham, who met on the set of a TV series in the ‘50s. The two ultimately became best friends and roommates, and Needham continued as Reynolds’ stunt-double on multiple projects.
After writing the script for Smokey and the Bandit, Needham approached Reynolds about starring in it. Reynolds had already been the lead in movies with similar themes — Gator and White Lightning — and was looking for more serious roles, but he stayed true to his friend and decided to make the film.
A Tennessee native, Needham died in 2013, and Reynolds is quick to point out that neither of them expected Smokey and the Bandit to achieve huge success.
“The fact that it has legs at this point, it was made in the ‘70s, and that picture was never meant to be a blockbuster,” Reynolds told CMT.com earlier this year when The Bandit premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. “It turned out to be more than a blockbuster. For about 10 years, it was a blockbuster. It made so much money, it was unbelievable.”
Reynolds also admits he never thought he’d be talking about Smokey and the Bandit almost four decades later.
“No, I didn’t,” he said. “I really didn’t. I thought I’d be at home doing a show.”
As for fans of the film, Reynolds added, “Well, it’s all these people … that they still seem interested is amazing. God bless them. I’m very proud that I’m in a film they like, and I hope they keep liking it.”