When I heard the news that Dom DeLuise passed away this morning, my mind went back to an interview I did with Matt Damon a few years ago. I’d asked him about the lackluster Ocean’s 12, and how even though it looked like a blast to be on the set of, it didn’t translate into a very good movie. Damon seemed to agree without exactly admitting as much. And then he said something funny. “You know, if making a good movie was about having fun, then Cannonball Run II would be the greatest movie of all time.”
Of course, Cannonball Run II is not the greatest movie of all time. But over the years, the madcap 1984 car-race comedy starring the on-screen odd couple of Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise has become shorthand for giddy, ‘I can’t believe we’re getting paid for this’ Hollywood boy’s club fun.
If you don’t believe me, all you have to do is watch the outtakes that unspool during the movie’s end credits. No one in the cast can keep a straight face: not Reynolds, not Dean Martin, not Sammy Davis Jr., not Frank Sinatra or Ricardo Montalban, not the orangutan, and especially not DeLuise – a guy who was as known for his giggly, girly belly laugh as Cary Grant was for his smooth upper class lilt.
Clip of Cannonball Run and Cannonball Run II outtakes
More clips after the jump.
DeLuise was the consummate comedy straight man – the kind of actor who made other actors look funnier than they probably were. If they told a joke, he’d explode with laughter. If they bared their souls, he’d weep like a baby. He elevated his costars – and usually got some sort of slap across the face or fat joke as thanks. But DeLuise never seemed to mind. He seemed to know that some people are born to be stars and some are born to make others stars. DeLuise was the latter, and he was so good at it, that he became the former, too. He could also do a hell of a Brando impression, like in this scene from 1993’s Robin Hood: Men in Tights.
Although DeLuise had a marvelous career on his own, starting on TV in the ’60s (check out EW TV critic Ken Tucker’s tribute to DeLuise), he really took off in the ’70s in the movie satires of Mel Brooks and with his pal Reynolds. DeLuise and Reynolds were like brothers. A few years go I was lucky enough to interview DeLuise for a profile I was writing on Reynolds for EW. And I’ll never forget hearing that squealing belly laugh over the phone. When he unleashed it, you couldn’t help but laugh, too. Until it hurt. When I asked about his relationship with Reynolds, Dom said that they met when DeLuise poked fun at Reynolds on The Tonight Show after his nude centerfold in Cosmopolitan. The next day, DeLuise said, “He had delivered a handwritten note to me at home that said, ‘Dear Dom, would you please leave me alone? Love, Burt.’ And ever since then, if I get into trouble or I get sick or depressed, he’s right there. He’s like the brother that cares for you.”
This morning, when asked to comment on DeLuise’s death, Reynolds said through his publicist, “I have been dreading this moment. Dom always made everyone feel better when he was around and I will miss him very much.”
As the gassy Caesar in History of the World Part 1…
Toking up and going on a laughing jag in 1979’s Hot Stuff, which he also directed…
Share your memories of DeLuise in the comments below and let us know which film clips we left off our list.