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Burt Reynolds in Rome

November 10, 2017--3:09 p.m.

By David Crowder

For more than fifty years, Burt Reynolds has been one of the biggest names in Hollywood, and this weekend he is in Rome.

Reynolds is the special guest for this year’s Rome International Film Festival and he will be taking part in a special 40th-anniversary screening of "Smokey and the Bandit."

During a news conference Friday, Reynolds said much of the dialogue in the movie was improvised.

“The first meeting that we had with Universal Studios, they said ’We will do the picture if you want to do it, but we don’t know why.’ I said I have to admit it’s the worst script I’ve ever read. But then I said ‘don’t worry about it because we’re not going to say a word that’s in it.”’

Reynolds was asked about Sheriff Buford T. Justice’s favorite sandwich.

“A Diablo Sandwich,” he quipped. We still don’t know what the hell that is!”

Reynolds has made six films in Georgia, beginning with "Deliverance" in 1972.

Reynolds said the movie was made here because the Governor of Florida at the time, Reubin Askew didn’t want it made there. So, he came to see Governor Jimmy Carter.

“Well, I came and talked to the nicest guy on the planet and asked if I could shoot a movie here,” Reynolds said. “I told him the last governor you had didn’t want me to and he said ‘We’ll fix that.”’ He was so nice, you all know that. You just don’t find anyone like that. He wasn’t a politician; he was just a nice man.”

Carter soon established a state film commission to encourage production companies to film in Georgia

Since those early days, the Georgia film industry now ranks third in the US, only behind California and New York.

Reynolds said there is a reason why he has always loved filming here.

“This town and all of the towns that you can think of, you can be anywhere. It’s an amazing place,” he said. “It’s the people. In the final analysis, it doesn’t matter how pretty the town is, it’s the people, and the people of the Georgia have been wonderful to me. Always have.”

In addition to celebrating the 40th anniversary of “Smokey and the Bandit on Saturday,” RIFF will also have a screening Reynolds’ new film “Dog Years” on Sunday.  

The film, which also stars Ariel Winter and Chevy Chase, has played at the Tribeca Film Festival but will not see a wide release in theaters until next year.

Following the news conference, Reynolds was presented with a proclamation from Rome Mayor Jamie Doss, proclaiming November 10, 2017, as “Burt Reynolds Day” in Rome.