Film and TV veteran Durning is “the best American actor we have,” says Burt Reynolds of his friend and frequent costar, who will receive the Life Achievement honor at the Jan. 27 Screen Actors Guild Awards. The actor, 84, spoke with PEOPLE’s Champ Clark about his most memorable castmates.
Burt Reynolds, TV’s Evening Shade (1990-1994) We liked each other instinctively from our very first film together [Starting Over]. I asked Burt, “What is acting?” and he said, “Listening. If you’re not listening, the audience isn’t listening. You’ve got to make them care.” That to me is what acting is, and Burt told me that.
Robert Redford, The Sting (1973) He and Paul Newman were funny with each other, and they accepted you. Robert Redford had his land in Utah. He said, “This is going to jump, Charlie, you should buy some of this here.” Of course I didn’t listen to him, and it turned into a gold mine. I could have bought it for nothing at the time!
Dustin Hoffman, Tootsie (1982) He’s always got that look of bemusement. He wants the scene to be perfect. When you do a scene with him and he’s not as good as the other actor, he wants to do it over again. A lot of people mistake that for ego. It’s not, it’s an actor wanting to get on the same level. I had no idea Tootsie was going to be such a big success. Sometimes you luck out, but most times you don’t.
Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon (1975) Al is terrific. He’s a giving actor. He gives you the stage when it’s your turn and he backs off. You can’t get better than that.