Burt Reynolds described Steve McQueen as ''a piece of work''

The two stars got off on the wrong foot. Here's the story.

CBS Television Distribution

Celebrities: Are they friends? Do they hang out when the cameras aren't on? Are they all secretly jealous? These are just some of the questions that fuel our fascination with celebrity culture. We spend so much time looking at stars, we feel like we know them. So, then, we want to know more. What are they like as people?

Famous people's autobiographies are always popular, and some reveal more than others. Burt Reynold's 1994 My Life genuinely explored his life whereas others' books merely toed the company line. Rather than concern itself with publicist-approved pull quotes, My Life is filled with honest, off-the-cuff remarks that don't shy from occasionally casting the author in a negative light. Reynolds was a big enough star that he didn't worry who he might alienate when penning his autobiography. That much is clear when he discusses Steve McQueen.

In Reynolds' defense, the two met under embarrassing circumstances. While Steve McQueen was filming The Towering Inferno on the 20th Century lot, he happened upon Burt Reynolds rehearsing for At Long Last Love. The image McQueen found was at odds with Reynolds' onscreen machismo, and McQueen laughed in Reynolds' face. 

"McQueen was a piece of work," Reynolds wrote years later. When the two went on to meet again under less embarrassing circumstances, Reynolds better understood his Hollywood peer.

"We walked to a bar. He had me looking for anyone who seemed to be following us. We talked about motorcycles, had some laughs; and he said he was racing the next weekend. I accepted an offer to ride on one of his extra dirt bikes. I was leading for a minute or two, but fell out early; Steve then led the entire race until his bike broke down. But instead of giving up, he waited till the guy in second place came over the hill, tackled him, took his bike from him, and won the race.

"Needless to say, Steve McQueen hated to lose even more than I did. He was a complicated but fascinating man. And now of course since his death, everyone talks about what an actor he was."

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2 Comments

AgingDisgracefully 20 hours ago
Guessing neither was a "Hail Fella Well Met."
But both okie-dokie on film, now and then.
McGillahooala 1 day ago
Great story. I like them both. Two superb actors.
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