You’re jumping into the sword-and-sorcery genre with your new movie, In the Name of the King. Can you tell when you’re making a movie if it will be good or bad?
You just don’t know these days. There are those horrible words: straight to video. Deliverance, I thought, was going to be special. Bad ones? They happen more often than not.
Speaking of Deliverance, Janet Leigh was afraid to take showers after Psycho. Do you get terrified when you hear a banjo?
I don’t, but I’m not sure about Ned Beatty.
What was it like on set the day of that infamous scene?
Bill McKinney, who played the hillbilly, is a terrific actor. My friend Bruce Dern told me later that he said to him, “The best thing you can do is just try to rape Ned Beatty.”
All that “squeal, piggy, piggy” stuff was not in the script. Two camera operators looked away during the scene because it was getting so hairy. Finally it went too far, and I ran into the shot. I asked John Boorman, the director, “Why did you let it go that long?” He said, “I wanted to take it as far as I could take the audience, and I figured you’d run in when it got too far.”
As a former international sex symbol, what are your thoughts about Matt Damon being named Sexiest Man Alive?
I don’t have any thoughts on any man being named Sexiest Man Alive.
What’s the exact number of shirt buttons a guy should leave undone in order to attract women?
I look at those pictures of me years ago and I almost want to throw up. What an ass! Guy’s got a medal around his neck and his shirt’s open—what’s he trying to prove?
How many women would you guess you’ve slept with?
Oh, I wouldn’t guess.
Too many to count?
It’s not that. If I give a number, it’ll sound like I studied humility with Dick Cheney.
Did you interact with actual porn stars while making Boogie Nights?
Yeah, and I didn’t like it. When you meet those people, you want to put rubber gloves on and go take a bath.
Is it true that Trans Am sales increased so dramatically after Smokey and the Bandit that Pontiac promised you a new car every year in perpetuity?
Yes. Sales went up 700 percent, and the guy said, “You’ll get a Trans Am for life.” So I gave the first one to my sister, then I gave one to my brother, and I gave one to my Smokey costar Jerry Reed. The fourth year, I didn’t get one. I didn’t want to be an ass and say, “Where’s my car?” But it wasn’t there. So I called, and they said, “The guy who promised you that? He died.”
You were a contestant on The Dating Game. Do you think Chuck Barris really was a government assassin?
If he was, it was a perfect disguise. I was on that show with Joe Namath and another guy, and the girl picked the other guy. Afterwards, Joe and I went out and got smashed. To this day when we see each other, we get very silly.
So you and Broadway Joe used to party together. Who drank who under the table?
I could drink pretty good. But I used to cheat, like when I filmed Mystery, Alaska with the Aussie. You know—the Gladiator.
Yeah, but he gets a little mean. One night I said to the girl behind the bar, “Here’s 100 bucks. Give me a vodka and tonic with a lime, but after that, alternate with water and lime.” On the 10th round Russell grabbed the glass and took a swallow. Thank God it was the vodka. He said, “You’re all right, mate.”
Back in the day, you had a rep as a fighting man, too. What was your brawling style?
My dad was a cop, and he hammered into me to always be the last guy to walk away. But he added, “It doesn’t matter what kind of shape you leave the other guy in, as long as I don’t have to take you to prison.”
You’re forever connected to the mustache. rate the following guys’ facial fuzz: Jason Lee on My Name is Earl.
It’s a typical mustache where I can tell what he ate for breakfast.
A great mustache. He’s got it all.
A little patchy. He ought to forget it.
All-time worst mustache in history.
Burt, mind if we ask about your hair?
I wear wigs once in a while. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. It’s all a joke, really.
Have you ever had someone mess with you in a bar and try to knock your wig off?
I always say, “If you can get it off of my head before I kick all the air out of your body, let’s do that.” One good thing, no matter how old I get, is that people say, “He’s crazy; he’ll kill you.” I have that reputation, so I just stick with it.
The mustachioed wonder gives lip service to drinking contests, hairy chests, and endless free Trans Ams.