Burt Reynolds stories.
Lee Marvin tales.
A spot-on Alfred Hitchcock impersonation.
Many nights I come home embarrassed to call what I do “work.”
Such was the case last Monday.
“Blind Pass” filmmaker Steve Tatone, who lives in Sarasota, called me that afternoon.
Asked if I wanted to have dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Gio Fabulous Pizza & Martini Bar on Cortez Road in Bradenton.
Tatone told me his Emmy Award-winning actor Armand Assante wasn’t in town yet, but others would be joining.
Including Ed Lauter, who I totally respect.
“Be a good opportunity for you to meet some of the cast,” he said.
Count me in.
I showed up a few minutes past the scheduled 8:30 p.m. and was seated next to Bradenton-based Florida Super Lawyer John Lakin.
His firm represented Lauter for more than five years.
Lakin is also representing Tatone, “Blind Pass” star Danielle White and doing all the legal work on the movie.
We talked at length about the current Southwest Florida film happenings and its many players.
And, in whispers, how cool and funny the 71-year-old Lauter, seated to Lakin’s right, remained throughout the evening.
Bradenton resident White, who is only 19 years old, was resting for an early shoot.
But her co-star, Chris McKenna (best known for his appearances on the CW series “90210”), was there.
So was Mike McGlone, the “The Brothers McMullen” and “She’s the One” actor now famous for the Geico TV ads featuring rhetorical questions and celebrities such as Charlie Daniels, Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Elmer Fudd.
Lauter, though, held us all spellbound.
As we noshed on plate after plate of delectable Italian dishes, he regaled us the way only a man can who has spent more than four decades in the trenches of Hollywood.
Lauter is the classic character actor.
The one who adds that extra richness to each movie despite receiving only maybe third or fourth billing.
The guy whose face you know but never can name.
At least not right off the bat unless you’re an even bigger film geek than me.
You might remember Lauter from the 1974 prison picture “The Longest Yard” starring Burt Reynolds as the renegade football player.
That’s Lauter as the sadistic Captain Knauer.
He beats Reynolds’ character with a club before the big game but does the right thing when pointing a rifle at him.
The actors also can be seen in the 2005 remake of the same name.
Lauter became pals with Lee Marvin on the set of the 1981 action film “Death Hunt” that also starred Charles Bronson.
Bronson and Lauter did four films together, including 1985’s “Death Wish 3.”
All are worth seeing if you enjoy flicks about rough justice.
It was easy to tell which job Lauter takes most pride in, though, and that’s Hitchcock’s final movie, “Family Plot.”
Released in 1976, it features Lauter in a prominent role alongside Karen Black, Bruce Dern and William Devane.
And he did such an amazing impression of the director I almost spit out my drink.
Lauter became somber then and told us how Hitchcock had said he had a major role for him in his next movie.
The great filmmaker died before shooting began.
“I read that on your Wikipedia page,” I blurted out.
That pleased him.
I also complimented Lauter on his new movie “The Artist,” which has been a film festival surprise smash, earning a Palme d’Or nomination at Cannes.
Told him how “The Artist” was the closing night film at the Cine-World Film Festival here in Sarasota last month.
“Did you see it?” he asked.
“Just a clip,” I responded sheepishly. “But I’ll make sure to when it comes back around for a proper run.”
“Good,” he said with a laugh.
We talked about our favorite Ernest Hemingway books and some other stuff.
Hours later we all made for the exit.
Lauter asked for my business card.
And called the next afternoon,
“You know I also studied English in college,” Lauter said. “We should get together and talk books some time.”
Whenever you want, Mr. Lauter.
Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Visit heraldbuzzworthy.blogspot.com.