Burt Reynolds, who died today at age 82, will primarily and deservedly be remembered as a Hollywood star who brought humor and a nonchalant charisma to decades of roles.
His most memorable spot, though, was FedEx’s 2005 Super Bowl ad from BBDO, which cast Reynolds as the keystone of a 10-part formula guaranteed to create the perfect spot for the big game:
After learning of Reynolds’ death today, we reached out to Eric Silver, who was creative group head for BBDO at the time of the Super Bowl ad. Now McCann’s chief creative officer for North America, Silver looked back fondly on his experience creating the ad with Reynolds.
Adweek: How did Burt Reynolds end up being picked for the FedEx Super Bowl ad? What was it about him that made him the right choice?
Eric Silver: This was the first Super Bowl commercial I worked on for FedEx and BBDO. There was such a rich legacy of both companies creating a template of how to conquer the Super Bowl.
Back then, the USA Today ad meter was all anyone cared about. I don’t think that is the case today, but in those days, any finish below 10 on the poll was frowned upon. And there were definitely tricks to boost your position. So we thought it would be funny to dissect those cues. The first and most obvious way to get noticed on the big game was to use a celebrity. And Burt Reynolds felt like a timeless pick.
The ad is so wonderfully silly. Did Reynolds have any concerns about how it might make him look, or was he all in on the gag?
Burt got the idea right away and was an absolute pleasure to work with. He had an amazing, dry, very self-deprecating sense of humor. The only thing we had to be careful of was too much physical activity. If you watch the commercial, you will notice his movements are a little labored because he suffered so many injuries from both football and performing his own stunts. So when it can time for the dance for example, the director (Bryan Buckley) had to really be cognizant of keeping the choreography simple.
In general, what was Reynolds like to work with? Did the experience surprise you based on what you expected?
Celebrities are generally prima donnas. I remember Burt being very easy to work with and accommodating to all of our asks.
Reynolds touched so many aspects of culture. What do you think his legacy will be?
I think he will be remembered for some truly great movies, a few sell-out movies, a nice TV run, and that legendary laugh and smile.