Burt Reynolds was one of the most iconic actors of the modern era. His charisma, physique, and impressive mustache made him instantly recognizable. His performances on both the big and small screen made him a legend. Even today he is a household name. Just months before he passed, he sat down with A24 to talk about his last leading role. During that interview, he talked about his idol Spencer Tracy and the most important advice the golden-age leading man gave him.
According to Burt Reynolds, he never wanted anyone to catch him acting. He wanted every performance to look like he was caught on a candid camera. In short, he never wanted to look like he was performing. This is much the same way that Spencer Tracy performed. He was known for seeming natural on screen.
Reynolds said that, at one point, his dressing room was across the hall from Spencer Tracy’s. When the star would come out, Burt Reynolds would follow him around, just trying to be close to the man he admired so much. So, one day, Tracy asked Reynolds if he was an actor. To which he replied, “The jury’s still out.” This is when Tracy gave him the advice that would make him the leading man that we all know and love. “Well, don’t let them catch you acting.” Or, as Reynolds put it in the interview, “Don’t act. Behave.”
Burt Reynolds on Spencer Tracy
Spencer Tracy was Burt Reynolds’ idol. He developed his performance style from watching Tracy work. So, when he was handed that bit of advice, it stuck. It shows, too. Burt Reynolds always seemed so natural in everything he was in. He never seemed to be acting. He was just behaving as his character would in a situation.
When asked what it was about Tracy that Burt Reynolds loved so much he said, “I loved his style of dignity and class, and I have never been able to catch him acting. It’s like somebody just snuck a camera in. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s the best actor in the world.”
Those are big words coming from a talent like Burt Reynolds. His most iconic roles were so different from one another. “Boogie Nights,” “Deliverance,” and “Smokey and the Bandit” really only have one thing in common: Burt Reynolds turning in an amazing performance in each role. Even when he did voice work for the animated television series “Archer,” Reynolds stole every scene he was in. So, if he says Spencer Tracy was the best actor in the world, we’ll take him at his word.