'The Bandit' SXSW 2016 - Burt Reynolds Red Carpet and "The Bandit' Review

‘The Bandit’ had its world premiere during SXSW 2016 on Saturday March 12, 2016 at 12pm at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas. The feature documentary was presented during SXSW in the “Documentary Spotlight” category and was directed by Jesse Moss, a San Francisco based filmmaker. The film will make its television premiere on the CMT Network in August. The film gives a history of the career of Burt Reynolds and his stuntman Hal Needham and Moss hopes that younger audiences rediscover their work when aired. CMT gave Moss freedom and space to screen the film at film festivals and hopefully soon in theaters.  The film 'The Bandit' and Reynolds, who made an appearance for Q&A, got a standing and enthusiastic ovation after the touching screening in Austin, Texas.

Director: Jesse Moss. Photo by John Gutierrez

The arrival of Burt Reynolds, who is now 80, at the Red Carpet was very sensational and the public anxiously awaited his appearance at the Paramount Theatre. He walked with his cane wearing rose-tinted glasses. The international sex symbol from the '70s arrived with a bold and dashing look, wearing a custom black suit. It’s important to mention that Reynolds is a survivor and he underwent back surgery in May 2009 and a quintuple heart bypass in February 2010.  

Actor Burt Reynolds during SXSW 2016. Photo by John Gutierrez

Actor Burt Reynolds. SXSW 2016. Photo by John Gutierrez

Reynolds showed up at the premiere Q&A with his enthusiastic, magnetic, and everlasting personality and moved the audience with his good humored remarks, especially about Sally Field.  He said that one of the most memorable parts of making “Smokey and the Bandit” was when the producers asked him who he wanted for the female role of “Carrie,” and he responded, “Sally Field,” but the producers said, “Come on... she is a flying nun, she can’t be sexy.”  Burn Reynolds, then stated to the audience, “Well, then she won after three years an Oscar as best actress and several nominations for Golden Globe Award!”  The audience laughed and and was entertained with the legendary star.  The festival-goers were so delighted with the film that after the screening a woman from the audience threw a bra at Reynolds during the Q&A which was a very entertaining moment!

Actor Burt Reynolds. SXSW 2016. Photo by John Gutierrez

The documentary is about the '70s superstar Burt Reynolds, his best friend, roommate, and stunt-double Hal Needham, and their making of the unlikely smash-hit “Smokey and the Bandit.” 'The Bandit'celebrates the friendship between superstar actor Burt Reynolds and stuntman-turned-director Hal Needham, as together they create the classic Southern "Smokey and the Bandit".

Jesse Moss described his own film ‘The Bandit’  during the Q&A as an explanation of the solidarity between Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham, and defined the documentary as a buddy movie.

Actor Burt Reynolds and Director Hal Needham on set during filming of Smokey and the Bandit in 1976. Need ham had been Reynolds' stunt-double, and the two men were close friends and roommates for much of the 1970s. Courtesy of SXSW


The documentary tells the unfamiliar story behind Burt Reynolds and his pal, confidant, and stunt-double, Hal Needham. Reynolds' success on screen was substantially due to Needham because of his daring and hazardous action work.  Needham's performance with car stunts, fights, and falls help made Reynolds an action hero on the '70s.  Needham was Hollywood's top stuntman who lived in the era of analog stunts. Nowadays most of the scenes are made with CGI (Computer Generated Imagery). The more dangerous stunts gave Needham two broken backs, several ruptured organs, countless concussions, but none of them slowed down the fearless Hal Needham.

The documentary gracefully follows the history of two inseparable men with similar destinies. They were unified and their success was dependent on each others complimentary skills.

The documentary compiles the most detailed and impressive behind the scene film clips from the “Smokey and the Bandit.” The moviegoers and TV watchers will be thrilled and pleasantly surprised with the discoveries.

Reynolds and Needham had a significant admiration for one another. Reynolds appreciated Needham and was drawn to the close-knit community of stuntmen that gathered around him. Burt somehow wanted to be doing what Hal was doing and on the contrary, Needham hungered for his own fame, but decided to live in Reynolds' shadow for a long time. It was also very interesting to find out that Hal Needham was the first one to test the air bag.

In 1976, Needham approached Reynolds with a script he wrote called ”Smokey and The Bandit, ” that became an action comedy film starring Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jackie Gleason, Jerry Reed, Pat McCormick, Paul Williams and Mike Henry. "Smokey and The Bandit"became one of the most successful films of the decade.

The documentary is pleasant, lively, and made the audience laugh during the screening in SXSW. The director certainly dug into the footage and he did a good job putting altogether the clips for the documentary ‘The Bandit.’ This is a recommended film to explore the life experience, historical records, and the underlying truth of two legendary men in the fascinating world of the '70s cinema.

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Photos by John Gutierrez Photography 


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