Actor John Schneider was 16 when a film crew came to the Atlanta area to film the Burt Reynolds vehicle "Smokey and the Bandit," and as any young man with dreams of an acting career would have done, Schneider cut school, talked his way onto the set and actually got on film. That's his shin in the freeze frame as the credits role.
When the film came out in area drive-ins a year later, "I saw it no less than 50 times, going with friends who hadn't seen it," he said.
Schneider, 60, became a big fan of Reynolds and the film's director and co-writer, legendary stuntman Hal Needham, and he looked forward to their next project, a movie that would become "Stroker Ace." The working title for that follow-up film was "Stand On It." So when Schneider decided to pay homage to the beloved Smokey movie with his own film, he called it "Stand On It."
"I love that title," he said.
Schneider's film will be released on Nov. 27 on cineflixdod.com. His wife, Alicia Allain, produced the film. It will also be shown at select drive-in theaters around the South to promote it, including three locations in Tennessee: the Montana in Tullahoma on Nov. 28, the Pink Cadillac in Centerville on Dec. 4 and Sparta Drive-In on Dec. 5.
As a bonus to those screenings, Schneider and co-star Cody McCarver and their Stars & Bars band will perform a live concert. Joining them onstage will be fellow cast member Keith Burns from country band Trick Pony.
Schneider, whose career credits also include writer, singer and songwriter, wrote the script and directed the film and made it via his independent studio in Louisiana, "where we can do what we want," he said.
Many people will remember Schneider as Bo Duke from "The Dukes of Hazzard," a television show that debuted in 1979 and ran for seven seasons. It also featured a lot of fast cars jumping over things and good ol' boys outsmarting local law enforcement.
Schneider became friends with Reynolds and Needham before their deaths and said the film is not a remake of the original, but rather a tongue-in-cheek loving tribute that is actually a movie within a movie.
"We acknowledge that there was a movie," he said. "It's just a really fun movie."
In the original, Bandit (Reynolds) is challenged to bootleg 400 cases of Coors across states lines from Texarkana to Atlanta. He's given 28 hours to do so, and he enlists the help of Cledus "Snowman" Snow (Jerry Reed) to drive the semi loaded with beer while Reynolds' character runs interference in a now iconic black Pontiac Trans Am. They draw the attention of Sheriff Buford T. Justice, played by Jackie Gleason. A chase, hilarity and hi-jinks ensue.
The new movie breaks the fourth wall on several occasions with knowing looks into the camera after a reference or quip that acknowledges the original. Schneider is called The Duke in the film, and he bets some locals that he can duplicate the stunt, only this time delivering 400 cases of "Yeller Local" from Austin to Baton Rouge in 24 hours.
"That was a movie, and in the movie, it was 28 hours," The Duke says early in the film, letting filmgoers know what kind of ride they will be in for.
Schneider said it was important to not be too clever or beat people over the head with references to the original, but fans will note things like character name changes. Big and Little Enos become Tiny and Tim Needham in the new movie, for example, and McCarver's character is Roy "Frosty" Reed.
"I say, 'Frosty the you know what' in the movie," McCarver said.
McCarver, of Dunlap, Tennessee, said his favorite movie has always been 'Smokey and the Bandit" and his favorite TV show is "The Dukes of Hazzard." He produced the soundtrack for the film. Like in the original, the songs are very much a character in the film.
"The music in the original is iconic," he said. "'Eastbound and Down' and 'The Bandit.' My character was not called Roy originally, but I wrote a song about 15 years ago called 'Roy' who is a truck driver, and we used it, so the name got changed. John and I wrote the theme song, and then Keith Burns wrote 'Cowboys Don't Get Old' that is just a smash."
He said they also rerecorded Waylon Jennings' "I've Always Been Crazy."
Schneider also contributed a song and appears in "The Farmer and the Belle: Saving Santaland," a new movie available this week that was filmed in large part in the McLemore Cove area of North Georgia. [See related story.]
"Smokey and the Bandit," circa 1976, was very much of the time in the South, but Schneider said he gave the idea of being politically correct little if any thought. Producing the film independently gave him that freedom, he said.
In the original, Gleason camps it up as a Southern sheriff used to doing things his way. In "Stand On It," the sheriff is played by George "Tyrus" Murdoch, an African-American former pro wrestler who contributes regularly on several Fox News shows.
"We are totally in charge of what we do and how we do it," Schneider said. " The Duke drives a [Dodge] Hellcat and not a Pontiac, and it has a Rebel flag license plate. If you don't like it, go away. You have that power. Cody is not Snowman, but Frosty and hanging in the back of his truck is a Rebel flag. It is not intentionally not PC. Some want to call it a Confederate flag, but I refuse to call it that. It's a Rebel flag, and it's about fighting an oppressive system. Nothing to my mind about it is about race."
He said people need to laugh more and not take themselves or others so seriously. The movie, he said, is a way to both relive some past fun and honor a classic movie.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.