Burt Reynolds Hated Making "Boogie Nights" So Much, He "Wanted to Hit" the Director
And according to some behind-the-scenes accounts, he tried to.
For the role of adult film auteur Jack Horner in the 1997 film Boogie Nights, director Paul Thomas Anderson considered a number of older sex symbols, including Warren Beatty, before settling on Burt Reynolds. The role went on to be one of the late actor's most acclaimed performances, earning him his first and only Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. However, Reynolds very nearly turned the film down and reportedly came to blows with Anderson during its filming. Read on for the full scoop on why he later said he hated Boogie Nights and clashed with its young director.
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Reynolds turned Boogie Nights down a whopping seven times.
In a 2018 interview with Conan O'Brien, the veteran actor revealed he turned down the role of Jack Horner seven times before accepting. Despite being famous for a 1972 bearskin centerfold in Cosmopolitan that marked "a milestone in the sexual revolution" (per Cosmo editor Helen Gurley Brown), Reynolds wasn't keen to appear in movie centering the adult entertainment industry. "It just wasn't my kind of film," he explained on Conan, adding that the content "made [him] very uncomfortable."
Reynolds said he "just wanted to hit" Anderson.
Reynolds went on to tell O'Brien that he and the director, a then-26-year-old Anderson, didn't get along very well. The host mentioned that he'd heard that Reynolds had "wanted to hit [Anderson] in the face" after the Boogie Nights shoot was finished. "No, I didn't want to hit him in the face," Reynolds joked. "I just wanted to hit him."
According to an oral history of the film by Grantland, things actually did get physical when Reynolds felt disrespected after Anderson wouldn't let him do an improvised take on his scenes, as he did other actors. "We saw some fists flying from Burt Reynolds," said actor Tom Lenk. "I hope I don't get in trouble for saying this. But it was like he was trying to punch our director in the face." Producer John Lyons told Grantland that he intervened, even holding Reynolds back.
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Reynolds just didn't get it.
It may have been that Reynolds simply didn't understand what Anderson (pictured above) was trying to do with the film. According to critic David Ansen (as quoted by Grantland), "Reynolds thought he was in a dirty movie and wanted out and wasn't happy. Co-star Luis Guzman, who played club owner Maurice, added, "Burt [Reynolds] was like, 'What the [expletive] are these people doing?' [But] he just went with the flow. He had no choice." In a recent IndieWire interview, William H. Macy (Little Bill) concurred that while some of the cast already found the film to be "visionary" early in the process, Reynolds remained "sort of clueless as to what [they] were doing."
Reynolds' perception of the film may have been rooted in what he viewed as Anderson's immaturity. In a 2015 interview with GQ he shared his unflattering review of working with the director. "He was young and full of himself," the actor said. "Every shot we did, it was like the first time [that shot had ever been done] I remember the first shot we did in Boogie Nights, where I drive the car to Grauman's Theater. After he said, 'Isn't that amazing?' And I named five pictures that had the same kind of shot. It wasn't original. But if you have to steal, steal from the best."
Reynolds' disdain may have cost him the Oscar.
The Smokey and the Bandit star was so put off by his experience that he trash-talked the film after wrapping, according to Macy—"up until the time he got an Academy Award nomination." By then, Reynolds had gone scorched-earth on those who had led him to the film, according to post-production supervisor Mark Graziano. "I'd heard, by that point, Burt had fired his agent, his manager, everybody that was associated with his career, and then basically said that he wasn't gonna do press for the movie," Graziano told Grantland. The movie's star Mark Wahlberg even speculated to Yahoo! Entertainment that his lack of participation in promoting the film may have cost Reynolds the Best Supporting Actor trophy. "He would've won the Oscar had he not dug such a hole for himself," he said in 2014.
He never worked with Anderson again—or saw the completed film.
Anderson later brushed off the tension between him and Reynolds as enhancing a key scene where Jack Horner and Dirk Diggler fight, but Reynolds had apparently had enough regardless. After completing Boogie Nights, he turned down a role in Anderson's subsequent film, Magnolia. "I'd done my picture with Paul Thomas Anderson, that was enough for me," he told The Guardian in 2015 .
Chatting with O'Brien, Reynolds revealed that he never actually watched the completed version of Boogie Nights either. "I don't want to see it," he added. The comedian suggested that he come over to his house to watch the film, but Reynolds, who had been preparing for a role in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, died of a heart attack that September, making it unlikely that he ever took O'Brien up on his invitation.