Recent Blog Posts

Sultans of String Launch New Weekly Online Interview & Music Series: BACKSTAGE

New weekly livestream kicks off Friday with new video/single! Sultans of String are excited to announce… BACKSTAGE! Their new online Interview & Music series features guests from their Refuge and Sanctuary albums. Join Sultans of String each Friday at Noon EST on Facebook as they dive into the lives and the music of these fascinating artists,Continue reading “Sultans of String Launch New Weekly Online Interview & Music Series: BACKSTAGE”

Too Close to Heaven: A Poem by Christine Bode for Those Suffering With Their Mental Health

Do you or someone you know feel as if you’re getting too close to heaven? Do you feel that life is unbearable on this crazy blue planet and that you don’t know how much longer you can live here? I have felt that way too, I assure you. Acutely aware that an innumerable amount ofContinue reading “Too Close to Heaven: A Poem by Christine Bode for Those Suffering With Their Mental Health”

Exclusive Review of Finny McConnell’s (The Mahones) Debut Solo Album, The Dark Streets of Love

I’m honoured to be the first person to review Finny McConnell’s (The Mahones) debut solo album, The Dark Streets of Love!

After 30 glorious years of leading worldwide, renowned Celtic punk rockers, The Mahones—who have shared stages and toured with the likes of Dropkick Murphys, Shane MacGowan (The Pogues), Stiff Little Fingers, Billy Bragg, The Buzzcocks, Sinead O’Connor, and The Damned to name a few—Finny McConnell decided that it was time to make an album for himself as he winds down and adjusts to his “Van Morrison years”, although I’m sure he has enough piss and vinegar left in him that he will not go quietly or gently into the night.

Fantasy Book Review and Author Interview: A Drowned Kingdom (The Drowned Kingdom Saga Book 1) by P.L. Stuart

Fantasy Book Review Title: A Drowned Kingdom (The Drowned Kingdom Saga Book 1)Author:  P.L. StuartPublisher: FriesenPressReleased: February 2, 2021Pages: 404ASIN: B08VS15WTRBook Reviewer: Christine BodeStars:  4 Othrun, son of King Atalan the Falcon, the Second Prince, and estranged half-brother to Erthal, the First Prince (sons of the pear-shaped island kingdom of Atalantyx), narrates this epic taleContinue reading “Fantasy Book Review and Author Interview: A Drowned Kingdom (The Drowned Kingdom Saga Book 1) by P.L. Stuart”

3x JUNO Nominees and Billboard Charting SULTANS OF STRING Commemorate the Anniversary of the 1988 OJHRI CAMP Disaster With New Video From Their REFUGE Project

WHEN: Video Premiere – Friday April 9, 2021 at 10:30 am ESTSONG: Ojhri Camp, from album Refuge Sultans of String, featuring Anwar Khurshid & Ravi Naimpally Go to the video on YouTube at this link https://youtu.be/L4TQs_WGbNI to SET REMINDER for the premiere. [Toronto ON] Sultans of String are releasing this song to coincide with the April 10 anniversaryContinue reading “3x JUNO Nominees and Billboard Charting SULTANS OF STRING Commemorate the Anniversary of the 1988 OJHRI CAMP Disaster With New Video From Their REFUGE Project”

Author Dawn James Cheated Death and Now Shares Profound Revelations in her New Book, Unveiled: Autobiography of an Awakened One

Toronto, Ontario, Canada —March 18, 2021— Author Dawn James wrote a spellbinding new autobiography, Unveiled: Autobiography of an Awakened One, set for release on March 20, 2021.  James, who conquered vision and hearing loss, being paralyzed and mute, shares her audacious story of how she cheated death and awoke to life-altering revelations.  This memoir highlights James’s spiritualContinue reading “Author Dawn James Cheated Death and Now Shares Profound Revelations in her New Book, Unveiled: Autobiography of an Awakened One”

Chris Sunfield’s Second Single “Predator” is an Abrupt About-Face Following His Sunshine Pop Debut!

“PREDATOR” by Chris Sunfield OUT NOW! 12 February 2020 (TORONTO) – Chris Sunfield’s second single “Predator” is an abrupt about-face following his sunshine pop debut “The Little Things”. Predator is a provocative poison pen letter to romantic predators, exposing their psychopathic and Machiavellian ways. The lyrics, with their reptilian metaphors, serve to validate anyone who’sContinue reading “Chris Sunfield’s Second Single “Predator” is an Abrupt About-Face Following His Sunshine Pop Debut!”

Award-winning Celebrity Skincare Entrepreneur Jean Pierre Releases Powerful New Memoir on the Uphill Climb to Personal & Professional Success

TORONTO – Feb. 3, 2021  — On February 27th, Jamaican-Canadian Icon and Skin Care Guru Jean Pierre is set to release a bold new memoir entitled Uphill Climb. The book details Pierre’s inspirational journey as a healthcare practitioner, entrepreneur, international public speaker and creator of the popular Obsidian Skincare line. Uphill Climb delves into Pierre’s deeply personal health struggles as aContinue reading “Award-winning Celebrity Skincare Entrepreneur Jean Pierre Releases Powerful New Memoir on the Uphill Climb to Personal & Professional Success”

“The Matrix” a Poem by Christine Bode

The Matrix by Christine Bode Everett,in the movie Paterson says, after pulling a fake gun on everyone in the bar, “Without love, what reason is there for anything?”I don’t know, Everett… nothing, not a fucking thing that matters anyway.Without love, every day is the same damn pandemic day.Wake up, walk the dog, make coffee, drink coffee, read a book,do housework, workContinue reading ““The Matrix” a Poem by Christine Bode”

Sultans of String Interactive Zoom Concert #5 – Lockdown Smackdown on January 23, 2021

Happy New Year friends, I don’t know about you, but this new lockdown is making us feel a little too isolated…Therefore announcing our Sultans of String Livestream January 23, 8:00 pm EST Livestream -Lockdown Smackdown Edition! Let’s super-spread some good live-streaming vibes and keep connected. Isolating doesn’t have to be lonely! And we can celebrate the inaugurationContinue reading “Sultans of String Interactive Zoom Concert #5 – Lockdown Smackdown on January 23, 2021”

New Book, And Still Champion, Introduces the World to a Group of Undisputed Champions

Bold Men Who Have Found Victory in Telling Their Most Personal Stories Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion. ~ Muhammad Ali Atlanta, Ga. – Dec. 30, 2020  — New anthology And Still Champion: The Reality of What 7 Men Endured features the most revealing, provocative and personal stories of seven Black menContinue reading “New Book, And Still Champion, Introduces the World to a Group of Undisputed Champions”

New Book Captures the Courageous Untold Stories of 13 Women Who Have Triumphed Over Adversity

Atlanta, Ga. – Dec. 18, 2020 — Thirteen women reveal the hidden stories behind their smiles in a new anthology called, Beyond the Smile, released on Thanksgiving Day 2020 with a virtual launch event that took place on Cyber Monday, November 30th. Beyond the Smile contains 13 powerful stories of African American women who have beaten the odds and haveContinue reading “New Book Captures the Courageous Untold Stories of 13 Women Who Have Triumphed Over Adversity”

Anti-Labyrinths by Boris Glikman and Michael Cheval

Discover the Philosophical, Fantastical Fiction of Australian Writer Boris Glikman, and a Sneak Peek of His Upcoming Coffee Table Book, Anti-Labyrinths, with Art by Michael Cheval Over the years, I have published many of Australian author, Boris Glikman‘s short stories on my blog, because I’m a fan of his work. He is currently working onContinue reading “Anti-Labyrinths by Boris Glikman and Michael Cheval”

Mary’s Meals Canada celebrates Annie Lennox and “Universal Child” Gift

Mary’s Meals Canada Celebrates ANNIE LENNOX and“Universal Child” Gift TORONTO, Canada. Mary’s Meals Canada, the school feeding charity, celebrates Annie Lennox and the gift of her hit single, “Universal Child.” Recognized as one of the most successful, iconic, and revered pop artists, Ms. Lennox has sold over 86 million albums worldwide. “With deep gratitude, we areContinue reading “Mary’s Meals Canada celebrates Annie Lennox and “Universal Child” Gift”

Raise Your Vibration and Transform Your Life with Dawn James

Title: Raise Your Vibration, Transform Your Life: A Practical Guide for Attaining Better Health, Vitality and Inner PeaceAuthor: Dawn JamesPublisher: Lotus Moon PressReleased: 2010Pages: 158ISBN: 978-0-9865378-1-3Stars: 4 Title: How to Raise The Vibration Around You: Volume 1 – Working with the 4 Elements to Create Healthy and Harmonious Living SpacesAuthor: Dawn JamesPublisher: Lotus Moon PressReleased: 2014Pages: 171ISBN: 978-0-9865378-0-6Stars: 4Continue reading “Raise Your Vibration and Transform Your Life with Dawn James”

3x JUNO Nominees and Billboard Charting SULTANS OF STRING take their Global Grooves & Goodwill to hearts and homes with their Christmas Caravan & UNHCR Fundraising Zoom Concert!

SAT. DEC. 19, 2020 – 8:00pm EST (5:00 PST / 7:00pm CST) SPECIAL GUESTS: Rebecca Campbell, Tamar Ilana, Donné Roberts, Kristine St-Pierre & more TBA! ZOOM TICKETS: http://christmascaravan2020.eventbrite.caFACEBOOK EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/202730184800176 As winter crests and the mercury falls, everyone from your taxi driver to the music supervisor at the mall starts running timeless hits like “Jingle Bells” andContinue reading “3x JUNO Nominees and Billboard Charting SULTANS OF STRING take their Global Grooves & Goodwill to hearts and homes with their Christmas Caravan & UNHCR Fundraising Zoom Concert!”

21 Resilient Women: Stories of Courage, Growth, and Transformation

This autumn, I have been honoured to work as a copy editor on four books for PublishandPromote.ca and this book was the first of a trio of anthologies. This anthology contains stories by 21 different women who are sure to inspire you with their courage, growth, and transformation! The book was compiled by Canadian careerContinue reading “21 Resilient Women: Stories of Courage, Growth, and Transformation”

Debut Single by Chris Sunfield “The Little Things” Out Now!

Reinvented, former consultant teams up with Juno-Award winning producer for later-life debut single! “The Little Things” Chris SunfieldOUT NOW! 15 OCTOBER 2020 (TORONTO, ON) – “The Little Things” is the debut single by Chris Sunfield on Radar Love Records. The song, written by Sunfield, is a modern, sunshine pop song on steroids, with a wall-of-soundContinue reading “Debut Single by Chris Sunfield “The Little Things” Out Now!”

Canadian Singer-Songwriter David Leask Releases “Voyageur in Song”

Republished with permission from David Leask Today is the release of my new record, “Voyageur In Song”, songs written on and with the Six String Nation guitar, nick-named Voyageur.  This incredible instrument is made of 64 pieces of Canadian history and culture.  I have written songs about a group of those pieces and their inspiring stories.  There’s a reasonContinue reading “Canadian Singer-Songwriter David Leask Releases “Voyageur in Song””

Sultans of String featuring Béla Fleck and Robi Botos release “The Grand Bazaar” from the New Album REFUGE

Artist: Sultans of String Single: The Grand Bazaar, featuring Béla Fleck and Robi Botos From the new album REFUGE “Refuge is a fantastic, moving, dreamlike, epic, timely album.” ~ Ken Micallef (Jazz Times, Stereophile, Downbeat) New York, NY – Sultans of String release gorgeously evocative and powerful single The Grand Bazaar, featuring 15 time Grammy AwardContinue reading “Sultans of String featuring Béla Fleck and Robi Botos release “The Grand Bazaar” from the New Album REFUGE”

Reality and “Reality”: A New Perspective by Boris Glikman

Reality and “Reality”: A New Perspective by Boris Glikman   Part I Imagine if you had a friend who had the following characteristics and personality traits and behaved in the ways described below.  Suppose that this friend considered it his sacred duty to visit you daily at your home and make a report to youContinue reading “Reality and “Reality”: A New Perspective by Boris Glikman”

Book Review: Burt Reynolds on Screen by Wayne Byrne (Featuring Q&A with Author)

BOOK REVIEW Title: Burt Reynolds on Screen Author:  Wayne Byrne Publisher: McFarland & Company Inc. Released: December 19, 2019 Pages: 314 ISBN: 978-1476674988 Stars: 5 In 1972, Burt Reynolds became famous with his breakthrough role in Deliverance. The actor also posed as Cosmopolitan’s first-ever nude male centerfold in 1972, “marking a milestone in the sexualContinue reading “Book Review: Burt Reynolds on Screen by Wayne Byrne (Featuring Q&A with Author)”

Mary’s Meals releases Love Reaches Everywhere featuring Gerard Butler

For those of you that miss Gerard Butler, LOOK what he’s up to!

Love Reaches Everywhere

You may be wondering why I’m blogging about Gerard Butler. Anyone who knows me will understand but the truth is, I’ve been a big fan since 2003 when I first saw him in the movies Timeline and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. The tall, handsome, Scot with the piercing blue-green eyes, immediately captivated me with his talents and I made it my mission to look for his acting work. I bonded with one of my closest friends, Gaye, who is an avid movie buff, when we met in 2005 and I turned her on to Gerry’s work. We watched a lot of his films together, even some that we weren’t all that keen about, and we still talk about him to this day. I have seen 35 of his films and continue to follow his career. The thing that makes Gerry so special is not his good looks or his acting talent, but rather, the size of his heart.

I learned about Mary’s Meals because of Gerard Butler and it is because of him that I have made it my number one charity. I was fortunate to be among the first people in Canada to view the exclusive premiere of Love Reaches Everywhere on Tuesday, June 23, 2020 and the documentary, which is so full of joy, hope and beautiful children, left me with a huge smile on my face, a lump in my throat, and a renewed commitment to do what I can to support Mary’s Meals. Today, Thursday, June 25, 2020 is the day that Love Reaches Everywhere launches in Canada.

******

TORONTO, Canada.

Mary’s Meals, the school feeding charity, has teamed up with longstanding supporter and Hollywood star Gerard Butler to release a new film Love Reaches Everywhere, which follows the actor and producer as he travels to Liberia and Haiti with the charity’s founder, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, to experience the charity’s work.

Filmed before the Covid-19 crisis, Love Reaches Everywhere shows the transformative power of education and the desperate need for food in school for some of the most vulnerable children in the world. These children continue to need support even though Covid-19 has closed many of their traditional places of education.

“We are in a time of unprecedented global crisis that is impacting the way people around the world are living, working and being educated,” said Magnus. “Children are especially vulnerable and at risk in this situation and there is a significant danger that they are forgotten amid the fear and confusion of this new world.”

“As a charity that is committed to feeding children in some of the world’s poorest communities, it is more important than ever for Mary’s Meals to keep its promise and support those children by delivering food to them in their communities and homes, which are their new places of education.

“By sharing his experiences with Mary’s Meals through this film, Gerry is helping us to shine a spotlight on the children we feed and ensure their voices aren’t lost.”

Gerard Butler, who has starred in films such as 300, Angel Has Fallen and P.S. I Love You, was able to meet some of the real-life heroes at the heart of Mary’s Meals. In the film, Gerard says:

“Going on this journey hit me from so many different angles – emotional, spiritual and physical. I make movies about heroes, but often they’re in big, over-the-top settings … and then you go to Liberia and Haiti and you see that the teachers in the schools are heroes, and the kids are all heroes that come here on empty stomachs every day to get an education.

“Every meal served by Mary’s Meals is a piece of charity and a little piece of love. And that all passes down into the families and communities and gives that sense of hope. It’s the difference between a kid saying, ‘I want to survive tomorrow’ and ‘I want to be a doctor.’”

The film shows Butler immersing himself in community life – teaching a math’s lesson, dancing, planting crops in a school garden, preparing food, carrying water from a local well, and even sharing acting tips with some children ahead of a school nativity play.

The global launch of LOVE REACHES EVERYWHERE is now available.

For More Information:
www.marysmeals.ca
Irene Carroll | Irene.carroll@Marysmeals.org | 416-366-5473 

Kindly Note:

  • Mary’s Meals feeds over 1.6 million children a day through school feeding programmes in 19 countries: Malawi, Liberia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Haiti, Kenya, India, South Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Benin, Lebanon, Syria, Myanmar, Thailand, Ecuador, Niger, Madagascar and Romania.
  • It costs $26.40 (CDN) to feed a child for a whole school year or .13 cents a day
  • Mary’s Meals is owned and run by local communities in the countries in which it operates. Where possible, meals are prepared using food that has been grown locally. This helps to support families and boost the local economy.
  • While schools are closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the charity’s work continues. Through community distributions of food parcels and essential hygiene items, Mary’s Meals is continuing to reach almost every child enrolled in its feeding programs, enabling parents or guardians to cook daily meals for the children at home, in their temporary place of education.
  • Mary’s Meals began in 2002 when Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow visited Malawi during a famine and met a mother dying from AIDS. When Magnus asked her eldest son, Edward, what his dreams were in life, he replied simply: “I want to have enough food to eat and to be able to go to school one day.”
  • In 2010 Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow was named a TOP 10 CNN Hero
  • In 2015 Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow was named one of TIME MAGAZINE’S 100 Most Influential People

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow and Gerard Butler for Mary's Meals

Timeline of a Friendship
The Background to Love Reaches Everywhere

2010: Gerard Butler presents Mary’s Meals’ Founder and CEO, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, with a ‘CNN Heroes’ award in recognition of Mary’s Meals’ work, feeding hundreds of thousands of children in some of the most impoverished communities around the world. Gerard has already heard a lot about the charity from his mum, who is a big supporter of Mary’s Meals and has always wanted Gerard to get involved too.

After chatting with Magnus backstage, Gerard says, “I just thought, ‘dude, you’re amazing!’ and, from that moment on, we became fast friends.”             

2013: Magnus invites Gerard to travel with him to Liberia to see Mary’s Meals in action and visit some of the schools where feeding is happening. The trip sees Gerard pitching in to help volunteer cooks prepare and serve up Mary’s Meals. He also teaches a class of orphans, plays football with kids, loads a truck with sacks of rice, plants pepper seeds and pineapples at a school garden and dances with villagers.

During the trip, Gerard says: “I have been struck by the strength of peoples’ dignity – Mary’s Meals is all about respecting and promoting the lives and cultures of people and showing just what they’re capable of.”

Magnus says: “Gerry has a great gift with kids and I hope that through his commitment to raise awareness of our work, we can reach many more children with Mary’s Meals.”

2014-17: Gerard continues to support Mary’s Meals and features in one of the charity’s key film releases, Generation Hope.

2018: Gerard calls Magnus to ask if he can accompany him on another trip to a Mary’s Meals programme country. Together they set off for Haiti, where they visit schools where feeding is already taking place and others where no food is yet available. They meet an inspirational array of people including children and teachers, programme staff and volunteers, all with their own stories to tell. Gerard witnesses first-hand the dire need of some communities and the difference it makes when Mary’s Meals finally reaches them. The trip has a profound effect on Gerard and he says: I make movies about heroes, but often they’re in bigger, over-the-top settings. And then you come here and you see there’s a hero right there… the teachers in the school are heroes, the kids are all heroes that come here on empty stomachs every day to try and get an education.” 

Gerard Butler Mary's Meals
Feb 2020: Magnus and Gerard meet again at another awards ceremony… but this time it’s Magnus handing out the honours to Gerard, as he is recognised for his work with Mary’s Meals at the ‘Cinema for Peace Awards’ in Berlin. Previous winners of the accolade include Angelina Jolie, George Clooney and Leonardo Di Caprio. Magnus says: When Gerry speaks about our mission, and those we are serving, he does so with deep understanding and compassion, and because of that, he has inspired so many around the world to take action in support of Mary’s Meals. I could not be more thrilled that he is being honoured and recognised in this way!”

June 2020: Love Reaches Everywhere is released – a film which captures both of Gerard and Magnus’ trips (to Liberia and Haiti) and explores themes from friendship and community to love, hope and everyday heroes.

CONNECT WITH MARY’S MEALS: https://linktr.ee/marysmeals.ca

Book Review: Burt Reynolds on Screen by Wayne Byrne (Featuring Q&A with Author)


BOOK REVIEW

Title: Burt Reynolds on Screen
Author:  Wayne Byrne
Publisher: McFarland & Company Inc.
Released: December 19, 2019
Pages: 314
ISBN: 978-1476674988
Stars: 5

In 1972, Burt Reynolds became famous with his breakthrough role in Deliverance. The actor also posed as Cosmopolitan’s first-ever nude male centerfold in 1972, “marking a milestone in the sexual revolution.” From 1977 to 1982, Reynolds was Hollywood’s top box office-grossing movie star, appearing in the hits Smokey and the Bandit, The End, Hooper, The Cannonball Run, Sharky’s Machine, and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas among other notable films that made him a household name. Anyone who was watching movies in the 70s and early 80s knew who Burt Reynolds was and they were reminded again in the 90s through his hit television series Evening Shade and 1997 comeback film, Boogie Nights.

Burt Reynolds on Screen by Wayne Byrne is the definitive work of film criticism and long-form tribute to one of Hollywood’s most enduring and well-liked actors. It discusses, in-depth, “many films which haven’t been previously covered in critical, historical or aesthetic contexts of any great scope or consideration” and covers his most popular films as well as some of his “most interesting works which have been grossly overlooked or forgotten.” The book “analyzes Reynolds’ films and television series in chronological order, relating behind-the-scenes production information and discussing their respective places in history, while making sub textual allusions between the man and the characters he played.” It also features exclusive behind-the-scenes photos and many films’ stills in black and white.

Its Foreword was written by American cinematographer Nick McLean, Sr. who worked with Reynolds as his camera operator and director of photography on several movies as well as his television series B.L. Stryker and Evening Shade and went on to be DOP on the television series Cybill, Friends, and Joey among other well-known shows. Byrne has since written a book about him, too, entitled Nick McLean, Sr. Behind the Camera.

Cinematographer Nick McLean and author Wayne Byrne in Naas, Co. Kildare, March 2019


Burt Reynolds on Screen
features an Afterword by C. James Lewis, who, as well as being an actor who graduated from the Burt Reynolds Institute of Theater Training (BRITT), also worked as Burt’s stand-in, photo double and stunt double for many years. It’s this kind of insider knowledge as well as the author’s remarkable attention to detail that establishes the validity of this book.

Although you’re probably aware that Burton Leon Reynolds Jr. was best known for being an action star, you might not know that Reynolds was originally typecast as a Native American in many of his early films or that he gave successful performances in almost every genre of film from romantic comedy to satire to film noir.

Film historian Joe Baltake was quoted in the Introduction for his “astute estimation of the actor’s appeal”:

Burt Reynolds, in a nutshell, is the movie star who’s a pal…but there’s something else, something deeper, something sad that makes Reynolds’ playfulness and flippancy wrenching…In his eyes, we see Reynolds’ integrity. They’re what make him original in a business full of clones. We look at Reynolds and we see a man who’s believed in old movies, the American Dream and loyalty; we look in his eyes and we see how difficult it’s been. Today’s devoted film aficionados and even our critics can’t fully appreciate what Burt Reynolds represents. Yes, he’s out of joint. He may be too good for today’s movies. His secret with audiences is that he’s one of us.

Wayne Byrne grew up a child of the 80s and first saw Burt Reynolds in a trailer for the film Heat in 1988 when he was “roughly six years old.” He spoke to numerous friends and collaborators of Burt Reynolds for this book, and one word recurred more than most: generous. Many of them recall with wonder the actor’s resolutely giving nature – giving of his time, talent and experience; giving financially, emotionally and morally. These interviews are absolute gems for Reynolds’ fans, and one which particularly surprised and delighted me was with actress Rachel Ward, Burt’s co-star in Sharky’s Machine and the made-for-TV movie Johnson County War. I became a fan of Rachel’s when I saw her in Against All Odds and The Thorn Birds in the 80s. Rachel’s career might have never taken off without the influence of Reynolds who cast her in Sharky’s Machine which he also directed. Byrne also interviewed Bobby Goldsboro, Bill Bennett and Adam Rifkin, among other Hollywood producers and directors.

Reading this book completely reinforces what kind of man Reynolds was. Throughout his career as an actor and a director, he often worked with friends (Jerry Reed, Dom DeLuise, Charles Durning, stuntman turned director, Hal Needham, Nick McLean, Sr.) and was loyal, kind, good-natured and unfailingly generous which is something one doesn’t hear much these days about the movie stars of the 21st Century.

I considered myself to be a fan of Burt Reynolds to a moderate degree, but after reading this book, I fully understand his appeal as an actor and how very talented he really was. I find myself wanting to make a trip to our local video store to rent some of his most distinguished, memorable films and watch them (some for the first time) to experience the genius that Wayne Byrne has so reverently and respectfully reviewed in this exceptionally well-written book. However, if you are a big fan of Burt Reynolds, this book is a must-read, must-own treasure for your collection.

Nick McLean and Wayne Byrne

Q&A with Wayne Byrne


Wayne, why did you choose to write a book about Burt Reynolds for your second book?

My first book, The Cinema of Tom DiCillo: Include Me Out, was written out of absolute necessity. Tom is my favourite director and I really wanted a book on his career. I couldn’t buy one, so I wrote one. I never set out on a path to become a writer of books but working on that book and seeing it be published was the greatest thing to me. So, I wanted to write more, but the question was ‘what do I want to write about?’ I couldn’t ever imagine writing about a filmmaker, a film, or any art or artist, which I don’t adore. I’ve experienced that in shorter form when writing for magazines and newspapers and you are profiling someone you aren’t particularly interested in, or they aren’t particularly interesting, and it’s a drag; I definitely couldn’t imagine writing something in book-length on something or someone you aren’t in awe of. So, I thought, ‘okay, that’s my favourite director taken care of, how about my favourite actor?’

And I’m not really a “film star” kind of guy, as in I’m not usually overawed at film stars, I am usually much more interested in the people behind the scenes – directors, cinematographers, editors – those guys are the heroes of cinema, they craft what we experience. Which is all to say I have a very short list of ‘favourite’ actors, and in that I would include Burt Reynolds, Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Dennis Hopper, Steve Buscemi, Groucho Marx, and maybe a few more. But at the very top of that list is Burt Reynolds. I guess I had more of an emotional connection to Burt. While Eastwood and Wayne can make you excited and rouse the senses with their heroic feats, they would rarely make you laugh or cry. Burt can rouse excitement and make you laugh and cry, sometimes all in the same film. I’ve been aware of Burt’s presence since I was very young, he has always been there, even when I wasn’t fully paying attention, and then when I began to pay attention I just fell in love with this absolutely compelling performer whose mere presence commands your attention.

I understand how you feel about not being able to write about someone or something that you’re not in awe of as it is very difficult! As a big fan of Tom DiCillo as well, I thank you again for writing such a fantastic book about his films! One can certainly tell from reading this book that you truly love Burt Reynolds. 

How hard was it to write a film synopsis for every film?

Plot synopses are always a grind, and there are a hundred-plus films covered in this book. They are the most laborious thing about writing on film, whether you are reviewing for a magazine, speaking on the radio, or writing in a book. I mean all you are doing is hammering out the plot and trying not to reveal too much or to simply explain the film to people. And that inevitably ends up happening, because in the case of a book like this, you know most of your readers have not seen every film in there, so you do have to offer a lot more than a brief overview; you want them to feel that they have a substantive enough idea of the film so that they can appreciate the author’s commentary and criticism. Although, admittedly, some of the films only needed a cursory account of the plot.

Did you watch every single movie and television series that Burt starred in? 

You could say I re-watched 99% of them all. I had already seen and owned them before the book began. There weren’t that many films that I had to track down specifically for this book. There were a small handful of films he did in the last few years of his life, in which he mainly provided a cameo, and I literally couldn’t get my hands on them to see them. In most cases, they hadn’t yet received official releases in theatres or on DVD. So those few are the only films with Burt that I haven’t watched. And for the TV shows, I went back and watched the ones he was the star or co-star of, which are the ones which have chapters devoted to them – Riverboat, Gunsmoke, Hawk, Dan August, B.L. Stryker, Evening Shade. But for my own sense of completion, I also watched the shows where he is in one episode, such as Route 66, M Squad, The Lawless Years, The Twilight Zone, The Lawless Years, Naked City.

Wow, that is truly impressive and a major commitment on your part, as well!

How long did it take you to write the book?

From signing the contract to publication, I would say that was a little less than two years. The writing took around fourteen months. It was a very intense time. I was working two jobs – librarian and journalist – and halfway through the Burt Reynolds book, I signed a contract for another book, which I began work on during this period. Then I went on a nationwide tour of Ireland with my subject, Nick McLean, appearing at events all over the country celebrating his career. Nick has a lot to do with Burt’s career as well, so it tied in nicely. So, I had all of this going on, plus interviews with directors, actors and friends of Burt’s, and re-watching every film and TV show again, sometimes repeatedly. They were the busiest two years I’ve ever experienced, and I loved it. I came out of it with two books and some wonderful friends.

How did you choose which quotes to use from Reynolds’ characters in each specific film?

They had to tickle me somehow, if they were funny or if they encapsulated some intrinsic characteristic of the film. One of my favourite quotes is from The Last Movie Star, “You were the one who loved me before anybody even knew my name,” because it is loaded with a sense of history and a lifetime of regret, tinged with the melancholy and wisdom of someone who experienced the zenith of fame, fortune, and adoration, that which came at the price of losing people who cared for them long before the stardom and stature. I also love the quote from A Bunch of Amateurs – “Richard III it is! – What’s that about again?” – because it speaks to the absurdity and irony of Burt’s humour. He was so playful. I don’t know anybody in today’s Hollywood who has such a mixture of beauty, humour, grace, volatility, masculinity, and humility all in one package.

You interviewed some very interesting people for this book. How did the interview with actress Rachel Ward come about?

I was lucky to get Rachel because she was hard enough to find. She didn’t have any social media, so I couldn’t make direct contact with her, and none of my Hollywood friends or acquaintances knew her personally anymore, so it seemed like a dead end. But then I remembered that she is now a producer and director, which means she must have a company listing. So, I found out the name of her production company and approached them. My letter eventually found its way to Rachel through that avenue and we arranged some Skype chats, which were fun. These things can be a little surreal at times, and one instance of that with Rachel was when we were chatting it was breakfast time over in Australia and at one stage in our conversation her husband came into view bringing her a cup of coffee. I’m just sitting there thinking, “That’s Bryan Brown from that movie F/X!” She is gorgeous and graceful and all the things you would expect of her. I know many people fell in love with her in Sharky’s Machine, and it’s very hard not to, though I think she was even more beautiful and brilliant in Johnson County War twenty years after Sharky’s Machine.

Your interview with Tempted director, Bill Bennett, was also quite fascinating because of his unusual method of filmmaking and what he asks his actors to do. Can you tell us a bit about that? 

Bill was a very intriguing guy to talk to. He made some really interesting Australian films throughout the eighties and nineties and then he made a Hollywood rom-com with Denis Leary and Sandra Bullock called Stolen Hearts (which is titled Two if by Sea in North America) which seems entirely random in the middle of his filmography, and then made another cool Aussie film called Kiss or Kill before doing Tempted. Anyway, he is the kind of filmmaker I love to talk to. Someone who has experienced both sides of the industry: the indie hustle and the studio system, and he has ideas on doing things differently, and one of those was to shoot his film using only improvisation. His “script” laid out scenarios and had a structure, but he wanted his actors to create their own dialogue based on the relationships which they built early in rehearsals. Given that he was working with a star of the old studio system in Burt, and with some hot, young up-and-comers, it was interesting to hear how they reacted to this method and how Bill made it all work. Tempted is a fiercely underrated film in the Burt canon, a very well-made contemporary noir.

Was Charles Durning, Reynolds’ most frequent co-star? Were they close friends in real life? 

Charles was certainly one of Burt’s most frequent co-stars. Then again, there were a few people who worked with Burt just as often. Burt and Charles had immense love and affection for each other, and I think you can see that throughout the work. It took on a bittersweet note in the later films when you see them as older men; you could see Charles wasn’t in the best of health in some of the films, but they still have an immense spark between them, amazing chemistry. My favourite story of their friendship was one Burt told about Charles being a brilliant dancer and dance teacher – which not a lot of people knew about – and one night at Burt’s house, during one of his famous shindigs, Fred Astaire and Charles Durning danced the night away. The way Burt described it; it was magical. They sounded like good nights at Burt’s place.

Many people may not know that Reynolds taught acting for many years. Can you tell us about what you know about that?

A lot of people that I spoke to for the book told me that, first and foremost, Burt was a teacher. At the height of his fame, in the midst of him being one of the world’s most famous film stars, he opened an acting institute in Florida and a dinner theatre. It became an apprenticeship program for many people who would go on to have great careers, and many established stars and Hollywood legends would grace his theatre stage or go and coach the students. Burt was hands-on in the early days, he would nurture and develop the talent, offer them a chance at acting in his films if they succeeded at the audition, of course, it wasn’t just handed to them. They had to work hard, and when they did, Burt offered them a chance at something great. I think Jim Lewis, who wrote my afterword is a great example; while he was at the acting program he ended up with roles in The Cannonball Run and Sharky’s Machine, which meant he got his union card, but Burt insisted he still go back and finish his apprenticeship. Jim then became Burt’s stunt man and stand-in, was offered even more substantial roles, and later became a camera assistant. And they remained close friends until Burt passed away. That’s an amazing career, and amazing life, all because of Burt. But Burt really gave himself to people, both onscreen and off.

What did you find out about Reynolds during your research that you didn’t already know as a fan of his work? 

The extent of his teaching work, and the sheer scope of his generosity. And that he made a really lovely album in 1973 called Ask Me What I Am. It’s now one of my favourite records, but I had never been able to find a copy of it until halfway through writing the book, and I ended up interviewing its producer, the legendary Bobby Goldsboro because of it. It went from something I had only ever heard about, to something I was digging deep into with Bobby.

I found Ask Me What I Am on Spotify so I’m happy to have a chance to listen to it. 

Reynolds died before your book was published. What do you wish you could have asked him if you’d had the chance?

I would have asked him if I could shake his hand.

What do you think Reynolds was most proud of in his career?

His students. I would imagine that seeing his students become successful actors and writers and directors was a great source of joy to him.

What do you think he regretted most? 

He has famously regretted several things publicly, such as his failed relationships with Dinah Shore and Sally Field, and he has also regretted not taking roles in big movies such as Star Wars and Terms of Endearment, but I think – and this is only me speculating – that his biggest regret may have been not having had the chance to enjoy a solid life with a family of his own, a life that he clearly yearned for. It is there all through his films, it is in his books, and it is on his musical album. Just when it looked like he had found that life with Loni and their adoptive son, Quinton, it was ruptured through the divorce; it is unfortunate that it ended the way it did and that all the upheaval was documented in a very messy and very public way. I think he must have been heartbroken to see it all come apart. But that’s only my observation; he may have said that he regretted something else entirely different. Perhaps not having had the chance to become the professional football player that he seemed destined to become. To have that taken away after an injury hurt him immensely. But then again, without that injury and his subsequent embrace of acting, he never would have become the greatest movie star in the world. 

What are your Top 5 favourite Burt Reynolds films?

I’m terrible at this question, which is one most interviewers ask of me. It depends on what day of the week it is, but today is Monday, so here goes, in no particular order…

Stick – Objectively speaking, it’s not exactly a classic film, but I’m not being objective, and I love it dearly. I think some of Nick McLean’s best cinematography is in there; I love the score; Burt nails the image of Elmore Leonard’s character of Ernest Stickley, and the villain Moke (played by Dar Robinson) is so menacing. Just a great 1980s action film. Candice Bergen and Burt make for a hot on-screen pairing.

White Lightning – Burt just as he was taking off into the stratosphere. He could be effortlessly charming and loveable while being mean and uncouth, as he is here as the iconic Gator McClusky. I love both this and its sequel Gator, which is a completely different film, it’s loud, brash, and big whereas White Lightning is taut, lean, gritty, and suspenseful. And Ned Beatty is a beast in it. I just gave you a two-for-one there: White Lightning and Gator. I’m feeling generous today.

Hustle – Now this is what you call a classic neo-noir. Directed by Robert Aldrich, who he worked with on the brilliant The Longest Yard, but this is a serious film, a great murder mystery with political intrigue and a sleazy journey into the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles. Aldrich’s visual style is superb, and Burt gives a brilliant performance as the fatalist, cynical, morally questionable anti-hero detective. As a neo-noir film, I much prefer this to the likes of The Long Goodbye and Body Heat, both of which tend to be much more lauded than this. Hustle needs to be rediscovered.

Stroker Ace – Most people, including Burt, didn’t think too fondly of this, but for me, it encapsulates that period where Burt had this great Saturday matinee thing going that I recall fondly and nostalgically, where it was all about silly gags, fast cars, wild stunts, and some beautiful women. It is totally lowbrow stuff, but it helps when you have Burt being Burt, Loni looking gorgeous, Hal Needham directing, and Nick McLean shooting it.

Starting Over – For when I’m feeling a little bit more sophisticated, I put away Stroker Ace and reach for Starting Over, which is a classy melodramatic comedy featuring Burt as a down-on-his-luck loser-in-love, cast aside by Candice Bergen and embraced by Jill Clayburgh. Burt is playing against type here, a comfortably middle-class and urbane writer, shorn of moustache and masculine virility, and he really fought to get this role, because nobody would believe that he could play such a churlish loner who couldn’t find love. Alan J. Pakula directed it, and erstwhile Ingmar Bergman and Woody Allen cinematographer Sven Niekvist shot it, which means it looks stunning. A beautiful, warm, funny, and tender work, featuring some of Burt’s finest acting.

And a bonus sixth film – Sharky’s Machine – because it’s Sharky’s Machine and needs no other reason.

The Cinema of Tom DiCillo: Include Me Out by Wayne Byrne

The Cinema of Tom DiCilloBook Review
Title: The Cinema of Tom DiCillo: Include Me Out
Author:  Wayne Byrne
Publisher: Wallflower Press
Released: September 2017
Pages: 208
ISBN-13: 978-0231185356
Book Reviewer: Christine Bode
Stars:  4.5

I admit that I can’t review The Cinema of Tom DiCillo: Include Me Out by Wayne Byrne without bias, but I can say that my bias is formed by a deep appreciation of Tom DiCillo’s films and Tom DiCillo, the man. I was fortunate to receive a review copy of the book from Columbia University Press’ Wallflower division and am pleased to give you my honest opinion about it.

I believe that the first of DiCillo’s films that I ever saw was Living in Oblivion, when I rented it on DVD soon after it was released – likely in 1996. As a life-long film fan, Living in Oblivion, a humourous, heartfelt film about the making of an independent film, was an absolute treasure to discover and has since become DiCillo’s seminal masterpiece. It wasn’t long after that when I also rented and enjoyed watching Johnny Suede, the now cult film with a cool surf music score that helped to launch Brad Pitt and Catherine Keener’s careers. Because I’ve always enjoyed Keener’s work and because she was in four of DiCillo’s films, I kept watching them and had seen at least four of them before I got to know a lot more about the filmmaker.

Then, in a strange, albeit serendipitous twist of fate, I became friends with Tom DiCillo when I discovered his blog as he was writing about the process of releasing and trying to find a distributor for When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors (which won a Grammy in 2011), over seven years ago. The Doors are on my Top 5 Favourite Bands of All Time list and as such they formed the basis for our original conversation. However, we have continued to stay in touch ever since, because Tom is a very accessible, generous man with a kind heart and genuine appreciation for his fans. Not only am I a fan of his body of work, but I admire and respect him as an artist and a human being.  I’m equally enamored with Tom’s music project, The Black and Blue Orkestre, because I love his singing voice and the combination of Spaghetti Western, Surf and Cinematic Gothic Rockabilly grooves that form the music.

But back to the book. This volume by Irish author and Film Studies lecturer / education consultant Wayne Byrne is an extremely well-written, intelligent, enthralling addition to the Directors’ Cuts series published by Wallflower Press and a must-read for any cineaste or film student. It took Byrne five years to complete, but during that time he interviewed not only Tom DiCillo, at length, but also many of the actors in his films, including Steve Buscemi who wrote the foreword.

“In short, this wonderful book details the ultimate triumphant journey of one of independent cinema’s smartest, funniest, and fiercest warriors.” ~ Steve Buscemi

Byrne’s book is an interesting in-depth look at all of DiCillo’s eight independent films (seven of which premiered at Sundance) the agony and the ecstasy of birthing them, as well as an honest, insider’s view into the independent film industry and the machinations of the Hollywood system.

In his book, Byrne analyzes the themes of identity, family, and masculinity in DiCillo’s work and supports it with “in-depth coverage of the generic and aesthetic aspects of DiCillo’s distinctive and influential film style.” Through detailed chapters on each of his feature films, readers receive “…a candid look behind-the-scenes of both the American independent film industry – from the No Wave movement of the 1980s, through the Indie boom of the 1990s, to the contemporary milieu – and the Hollywood studio system.”

Byrne studied the writing, production, and release of each of DiCillo’s films and followed them with an extensive and intriguing Q&A with him, as well as exclusive interviews with many actors and collaborators including Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener, Peter Dinklage, Sam Rockwell, John Turturro, Chris Noth, Maxwell Caulfield, Matthew Modine, Gina Gershon, Kevin Corrigan, Alison Lohman and John Densmore and Robby Krieger of The Doors.

Johnny Suede (1991)
Living in Oblivion (1995)
Box of Moonlight (1996)
The Real Blonde (1997)
Double Whammy (2001)
Delirious (2006)
When You’re Strange (2009)
Down in Shadowland (2014)

I own all DiCillo’s films and have watched them all again with new eyes after reading Byrne’s book, getting something new from each of them even though I’ve seen six of them previously, at least a couple of times. Perhaps that is what allows DiCillo’s work to endure throughout the years. It is clever, often subversive and upon first viewing you may think, “Well, what was that all about? That was a bit bizarre…”, but upon further viewing, you really get a feel for the director’s unique style and voice, use of colour, choice of music (often created by composer Jim Farmer) as well as the themes that inspire him. It is DiCillo’s way of viewing and expressing humanity in his work with his distinct sense of humour and pathos that makes these films stand out in the crowd of slick, violent, comic-book infested, often soulless, unoriginal movies from Hollywood that we’re seeing today. Give me the work of Jim Jarmusch, Richard Linklater, The Coen Brothers, Michael Winterbottom, Tim Burton and Tom DiCillo any day. If you agree, read this book.