Closing Night: The Bandit

Guests Expected

Director Jesse Moss expected to attend.


An exuberant, surprisingly moving romp through 1970s pop culture, The Bandit celebrates the friendship between superstar actor Burt Reynolds and stuntman-turned-director Hal Needham, as together they create the Southern-fried classic Smokey and the Bandit. But the story begins long before the making of that action comedy when Reynolds and Needham first meet as actor and stunt double, and each sees in the other something he might like to be. Needham wants to be a star while Reynolds says of stuntmen, "They were the men. We were the boys." The Bandit 's perfectly selected clips and interviews show how, rather than fuel jealousy or competition, the pair's differences create an unshakeable bond strong enough to weather years rooming together in the wake of the breakup of Needham's first marriage and the evolution of Reynolds from journeyman actor to one of the biggest box-office draws in the world. When Needham decides on a midlife career change to filmmaker, Reynolds signs on to play Bandit, loyally throwing his clout behind his friend's ambitions. Director Jesse Moss (The Overnighters, SFIFF 2014) brings great warmth to this exceptional dual biography, mingling interviews with Reynolds and Smokey and the Bandit cast and crew with a wealth of retro cool archival material that includes footage from Reynolds' movies and TV shows, examples of Needham's stunt work and plenty of behind-the-scenes material from the Smokey shoot. The Bandit is as exhilarating as its subject, an entertaining homage to the enduring kinship between these two men and the blockbuster chase comedy that arose from it.

Filmmaker Bio(s)

Jesse Moss made his documentary directing debut in 2003 with Con Man. He went on to make Speedo (2003), Rated 'R': Republicans in Hollywood (2004), Full Battle Rattle (2008), Extreme Civil War Reenactors (2012) and The Overnighters, the winner of the 2014 SFIFF Golden Gate Award for Best Documentary Feature. Moss is on the faculty of the Cinema Department at San Francisco State University and is a creative adviser at the Sundance Documentary Edit and Story Lab.