Burt Reynolds Died Before Filming His Part in ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’
When Burt Reynolds was cast in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, it seemed like the perfect farewell for the aging Hollywood icon. The 82-year-old actor hadn’t been acting much in recent years, and his supporting role as the owner of a former stunt ranch in Quentin Tarantino’s ninth movie was sure to be his last. Unfortunately, we’ll never see Reynolds on the big screen again, as the actor passed away earlier today — before he ever had a chance to film his final part.
Set in Los Angeles in 1969, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood follows a former western TV star and his stuntman as they attempt to make it in a business that’s rapidly changing. That TV star, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, happens to live next door to Sharon Tate. Her murder at the hands of Charles Manson’s followers factors into the film, for which Tarantino cast Burt Reynolds as George Spahn, owner of a former stunt ranch where Manson and his crew resided during the notorious Manson Family murders.
According to several journalists, Reynolds was to begin shooting his part in the film in the upcoming weeks. He passed away before he could:
It would’ve been the perfect role for Reynolds — not just as a cinematic sendoff for a beloved icon, but as a tribute to his career and his long working relationship with former stuntman and director Hal Needham. The pair’s most famous collaboration was Smokey and the Bandit, but they also worked together on The Cannonball Run and Stroker Ace.
That Tarantino specifically cast Reynolds as the owner of a ranch rented out to film and TV productions — specifically westerns — was certainly no coincidence. As a bonafide cinephile, Tarantino openly pays homage to his favorite films via a signature pastiche style. Working with a Hollywood legend while cleverly paying tribute to his background is just the sort of thing Tarantino adores.
Unfortunately, that never came to pass. Though Tarantino is shooting Once Upon a Time in Hollywood out of chronological order due to the schedules of his large ensemble cast, he had yet to film Reynolds’ part. That seems rather optimistic for Tarantino, who must have known that his time with an 82-year-old actor wasn’t exactly unlimited.
As it stands, Reynolds’ final role will not be in a Quentin Tarantino movie, but in The Last Movie Star — a small indie drama co-starring Chevy Chase and Ariel Winter, in which Reynolds plays the meta-role of an aging Hollywood icon forced to recognize that his best years are behind him.