GettyImagesBurtReynolds

Remembering Burt Reynolds and his cult contributions to sci-fi

Contributed by
Sep 6, 2018

Burt Reynolds, the prolific actor who came to personify effortless masculinity and charm in American comedies and dramas from the 1960s onward, passed away today in Florida at the age of 82, according to multiple media reports.

Although most know Reynolds for his famous roles in blockbuster comedies like Smokey and the Bandit, the Cannonball Run movies, and dramas like Deliverance and, in his later career, Boogie Nights, he was beloved among geeks for a small handful of genre appearances made all the more intriguing by their very rarity.

Perhaps most notably, Reynolds holds the distinction of appearing in the very last hour-long episode of The Twilight Zone, a 1963 satire titled “The Bard” that features (appropriately enough) a time-warped William Shakespeare. In that episode, Shakespeare ends up indignantly punching Reynolds’ character, a Marlon Brando-style Method actor, in frustration after the modern-day film that Shakespeare scripts gets bogged down in production hell.

The most high-profile of Reynolds' genre appearances might have come in 1998, when he played God (yes, that God) in the ninth-season X-Files episode titled “Improbable.” The part was specifically written with Reynolds in mind, after he expressed interest in appearing on the Chris Carter-created show. As God, Reynolds played a mysterious, human-form acquaintance and observer of protagonist Wayne (Ray McKinnon), a killer who dies amid an epiphany that he should have followed the stranger’s cryptic, but helpful, advice.

Reynolds also played Les Williams, the supportive father of monster-obsessed teenager Earl Williams (Jamieson Boulanger), in the 1996 movie Frankenstein and Me. The elder Williams dies in the movie, but the wistful dreamer’s spirit he shared with his son urges Earl forward to eventually find the “real” Frankenstein and reanimate him — in part to honor his father's memory.

In the late 1980s, Reynolds also appeared in Out of This World, NBC's TV series that followed the Earthbound adventures of an alien from the fictional planet Antereus. Reynolds voiced the character Troy Garland, father to 13-year-old Evie Ethel Garland.

Reynolds fans may also remember a handful of other genre appearances, including a 2012 voice role for a well-received episode of Archer titled “The Man From Jupiter,” in which Reynolds played himself. In 2005, Reynolds also voiced two characters (himself and J.J. McClure) for the “Gold Dust Gasoline” episode of Robot Chicken.

Reynolds also starred in the first two direct-to-video sequels in the Universal Soldier franchise — Universal Soldier II: Brothers in Arms and Universal Soldier III: Unfinished Business. Reynolds played the deputy director of the CIA in both sequels, which aired in 1998 as follow-ups to the successful 1992 theatrical original starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.

What are your favorite memories of the man who brought us so many?