Welcome to a new Film Babble Blog series, Great Moments in Fourth Wall Breakage, which will pinpoint those meta moments in movies when a character makes an aside to the audience. I originally presented a Top 10 list of such moments back in 2007 (10 Movie Moments That Broke the Fourth Wall, 8/22/07), and am planning on re-visiting some of those, but I’m kicking off the series with an excellent example of fourth wall breakage that I hadn’t blogged about before.
Former stuntman Hal Needham’s SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT was the second biggest grossing movie of 1997, after STAR WARS. The action comedy, which starred Burt Reynolds as a bootlegger with the nickname of “The Bandit” on an illegal beer run from Texarkana to Atlanta, features a scene around the fifteen mark in which our leading man in his Pontiac Firebird Trans Amis is being chased by a city cop at night.
The Bandit eludes the police by pulling his Firebird into a used car lot, then gradually pulling away, as he’s looking to be sure that the cop has left. When Reynolds and the camera line up, he looks right into the frame, and flashes his classic grin.
In an interview from a DVD featurette, Reynolds explained, “I pulled in behind the john, and the cop went by. And I pulled ahead a little bit more. Then I looked right in the lens (smiles) and then drove off. And everybody laughed, the crew laughed, everybody laughed, and I backed up because I figured we were going to do another one. Hal said, ‘that’s it.’
In the same featurette, Needham said this about the scene: “I don’t think Burt wanted to do it, but he did, and I thought it worked like a charm. You know what he’s doing? He’s saying ‘look at all the fun we’re having. You know?’”
Back to Burt: “And I went, ‘boy, you got some cajones, man! I mean, that’s breaking the fourth wall, you know, you gotta know, Hal.
Hal went, ‘the what?’ He didn’t know from fourth wall!”
Watch the scene below aptly entitled “The Fourth Wall”:
Stay tuned to this space for more Great Moments in Fourth Wall Breakage.