In the midst of all the crime-fighting superheroes, time-traveling aliens, and walking dead who will populate the 15th annual Wizard World Comic Con this weekend, Burt Reynolds may seem somewhat out of place. But if remaining an icon for more than four decades armed with nothing more than a lady-killing smirk, a machismo-emitting mustache, and a death-defying Trans Am isn't a superpower worthy of Wizard World, then what is?
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The Convention Center will be filled for the next three days with appearances by a host of pop-culture celebrities, from actors to comic book artists and writers to professional wrestlers to rock stars. Attendees will get the chance to rub appendages with the stars of genre movies, including cast members from the Harry Potter and Star Trek franchises; TV superhero shows (Gotham, The Flash, Arrow, and Agent Carter will all be represented); several Doctors Who and their companions; and cult favorites such as Machete star Danny Trejo and the original Incredible Hulk muscleman, Lou Ferrigno.
The event will mark Reynolds' first appearance at a comic con, and speaking from his Florida home last week, he claimed to be looking forward to the experience.
"I haven't done this before. I think it's a good time to find out what it's all about," Reynolds said. "I always enjoy talking to fans and I'm usually very pleased with their curiosity about my career, what I'm doing, what I'm not doing, and why I'm not doing more."
The 79-year-old actor has undoubtedly slowed down a bit of late, with more voice-over work for video games and animated TV shows than actual movie roles in recent years. In part that's due to the fact that he's been hard at work on his second memoir, But Enough About Me, due out in November, which focuses on the other actors and personalities with whom he's crossed paths during his long career.
"I got along great with 98 percent of them, and a few of them I didn't like at all," Reynolds said. "When you write a book like this, you have to tell the whole thing, and there are days when everything isn't wonderful and there were people who I thought were asses.
"I'm having a lot of fun, but it's beginning to look a little bit like the dictionary. I started acting in a TV series in 1959 [with the show Riverboat] and I've been working ever since, so there's an awful lot to reminisce about."
That includes his breakthrough role in the 1972 backwoods survival film Deliverance, which Reynolds has long considered his personal career high-point; the prison-yard football yarn The Longest Yard; his difficult, Oscar-nominated turn in Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights; and the uncharacteristic romantic comedy Starting Over, which he called "the only time I played anything that was remotely close to who I am personally. It was the hardest thing that I ever had to do because it wasn't full of stunts and laughs. It was real."
Even after suffering a serious back injury, Reynolds prides himself on having done his own stunts in most of his action-packed films. In September, he'll receive a lifetime achievement award from the Stuntmen's Association of Motion Pictures at a ceremony that will also posthumously honor famed stuntman-turned-director Hal Needham.
"My favorite people in the business are stuntmen," Reynolds said. "I'm crazy about those guys because I understand what they get out of it, not just in terms of the money but the thrill of doing something well and coming out of it alive."
Needham helmed some of Reynolds' most-beloved films, including Smokey and the Bandit and The Cannonball Run. Never particularly admired by critics - OK, pretty much reviled - both films and their lesser sequels have long been embraced by audiences for the jocular, daredevil-may-care attitudes that give the impression they must have been as fun to make as they are to watch.
"I'm glad you felt that way because we all felt that way," Reynolds said. "I don't feel that way now. It's difficult to find actors who can do physical stuff and be funny. It's a strange combination. Those films didn't have a message; they were just fun."
Much of that merriment comes from Reynolds' partnership with actor Dom DeLuise, who died in 2009. Their chemistry is evidenced in the famous outtakes that accompany the closing credits of both Cannonball Run movies.
"That was an amazing relationship," Reynolds said. "He made me laugh so much, and I would step on his foot in the middle of a take and we'd get the giggles. We all miss him. I miss him more than anybody, I think, because we had a certain magic together."
In addition to writing his book, Reynolds spends much of his time these days teaching acting in his native Florida. While reminiscing for the page, he also recently auctioned off much of his personal collection of movie memorabilia after selling his ranch and closing a short-lived museum dedicated to his career.
His proudest achievement, though, is one that can't be hawked to the highest bidder. "At this age, I'm proudest of the fact that I'm working and I've been working very steadily almost the entire time. It's been a very mixed bag, but it's been good."
3 to 8 p.m. Thursday; noon to 7 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Convention Center, 1101 Arch St. Tickets: $35 Thursday, $45 Friday, $55 Saturday, $45 Sunday. Information: 800-428-9000 or www.wizardworld.com
Schedule of appearances
Wizard World is full of stars from all corners of the geeky galaxy:
Gotham & The OC's Ben McKenzie: Saturday and Sunday.
Former 76ers star Allen Iverson: 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday.
Doctor Who's David Tennant and Billie Piper: Saturday and Sunday (Tennant); Saturday (Piper)
The Walking Dead's Scott Wilson (a.k.a. Hershel): Friday and Saturday
Machete's Danny Trejo: Saturday and Sunday
WWE's Roman Reigns, Randy Orton, Dolph Ziggler, Sting, Paige: Thursday, 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. (Reigns), Friday, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. (Orton); Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Sting); Friday, 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. (Ziggler), Sunday 11 a.m to 3 p.m. (Paige).
The Incredible Hulk's Lou Ferrigno: Thursday-Sunday.
Castle and Firefly's Nathan Fillion: Saturday and Sunday.
Arrow's Steve Ammell: Saturday and Sunday.
Wizard World, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, Convention Center, 1101 Arch St. Tickets: $55 for Saturday only. Information: 800-428-9000 or www.wizardworld.com.