After the success of the Smokey and the Bandit Part 2, Universal Pictures ordered a third instalment in the popular Bandit car chase franchise. However, two of the principal stars of the film, Burt Reynolds and Sally Field declined to participate due to a contract dispute. Actor Jerry Reed, who had played "Snowman" in the other two Bandit films, would also not be returning to the third film.
Co-star Jackie Gleason (Sheriff Buford T. Justice - the titular "Smokey") was still committed to the project. The producer decided on a new, radical angle for the third - to catch The Bandit, the loud, dimwitted Justice would take on his appearance and thus become the Bandit. This meant Gleason would not only play Justice but also take on Reynolds' role of the Bandit as well. There are two reports of on the context of Gleason playing the Bandit role:
- According to some accounts, Jackie Gleason was to play two roles: Sheriff Buford T. Justice and a different "Bandit".
- Other accounts indicate that the title was more literal: that Gleason was to play only Sheriff Justice, but the character would also fill the role of "Bandit", by taking the Enos family's challenge (as Reynolds' character had done in the previous films).
Shooting commenced under the title Smokey is the Bandit Part 3 in October 1982. Reportedly test audiences reacted poorly, finding Gleason's two roles confusing, so the studio opted to do reshoots in April 1983. Jerry Reed was brought back to reshot the Bandit scenes with himself playing the Bandit with Reynolds returning for a short cameo at the end. When released in cinemas on August 1983, it was re-titled Smokey and the Bandit Part 3.
Despite the enormous financial success of the original film (grossing over $300 million on a budget of less than $5 million), coupled with respectable (though significantly lower) numbers generated by the sequel, the third instalment was both a critical and box office flop, grossing only $7,000,000 against the film's $9,000,000 budget.
Evidence of the production
The film's original premise circulated for years as part of Hollywood lore and was believed by many to simply be a myth. Articles from the time do detail reports of the film under the title Smokey Is The Bandit. An online petition was set-up to try and convince Universal Pictures to release the original version of the film.
In 2010 a teaser trailer surfaced on YouTube for the original premise with the original title. Afterwards, a photo of Gleason in the Bandit costume found its way online. As of yet, the original alternate footage has never been seen by the public.
SMOKEY IS THE BANDIT screenplay
On 14th May, 2016 - a script for the film, under the title SMOKEY IS THE BANDIT was posted to the Lost Media Wiki forum . The link lead to a screenplay 114 page screenplay (production code No.02152) dated October 21, 1982 written by Stuart Birnbaum and David Dashey. The script was a "Final Draft Screenplay". The script is very similar to the final film released as Smokey and the Bandit Part 3.
The key differences in the found script are:
- the lack of Jerry Reed's scenes as "Snowman" posing as the Bandit.
- Gleason first appears as "the Bandit" about 32 pages into the script. The Enis' are enter a bedroom where "the Bandit" is in the shower with "a blonde bombshell". After Enis confirming their deal plan with him is "a go", the camera pans up to reveal that the "Bandit" is played by Gleason.
- Gleason is playing the role of both Buford T. Justice and "The Bandit" as separate people.
- "The Bandit" has no dialogue except for "The Bandit's" trademark giggle.
- Dusty Trails is still in the film but plays a radio D.J. instead of a car yard model. She still rides with "The Bandit", who does not speak to any dialogue to her.
- The ending is similar to the Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 ending with Justice catching "the Bandit'. Except there's a reveal that Dusty is in fact a member of the Enis family (daugther to Big Enis), "Bandit" still doesn't speak except to whisper to Justice (which we don't hear what he says) and who then agrees to let him go to chase him again. Before "The Bandit" leaves, Dusty tells him that she's "only Enis in name" to which "The Bandit" replies, with his only dialogue in the film: "Frankly, Dusty, I don't give a damn!" (referencing Gone With The Wind).
- https://www.varietyultimate.com/archive/issue/DV-04-27-1983-3 - "Smokey" Is No Longer "The Bandit"
- https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=0GwvAAAAIBAJ&sjid=CNsFAAAAIBAJ&pg=2940,6316407&dq=smokey-is-the-bandit&hl=en - Beaver County Times. May 29th, 1983
- Online petition to have the original version of the film released. Retrieved 28 Jan '13.
- http://forums.lostmediawiki.com/thread/184/smokey-bandit-script-surfaced - Smokey IS The Bandit Script Surfaced.