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ONE ANGRY STAR

A local filmmaker says Burt Reynolds' health is stalling his movie. That doesn't sit well with Burt.

Calling the creator of A Fonder Heart "everything that is wrong with the motion picture industry," Burt Reynolds informed the Times on Monday that he won't work with writer-director Jim Fitzpatrick on that movie or any other.

Reynolds' text message, relayed by his Los Angeles manager Erik Kritzer, expressed anger at Fitzpatrick's comments to the Times and other media outlets that the actor's recent drug rehabilitation stint delayed production of A Fonder Heart.

Theactor also contradicted Fitzpatrick's claim that he knew about Reynolds' impending rehab and visited the actor two weeks ago in South Florida.

"I have not personally spoken with, nor have I seen Jimmy Fitzpatrick for months," Reynolds, 73, texted. "He is not a close friend or confident (sic) and knew nothing about my decision to enter rehab, nor did he know about my back surgery. It really hurts me that there are people out there who would take advantage of me while I'm dealing with personal challenges.

Fitzpatrick, 50, of Seminole, didn't return e-mail and telephone requests Monday to comment on Reynolds' statement and the status of A Fonder Heart.

The filmmaker previously spoke to the Times about hitches in financing that delayed production since August. Contacted Friday for comment about Reynolds' rehab, Fitzpatrick said a Sept. 21 start date was postponed due to the hospitalization.

"That's a lie," Kritzer said in a telephone interview. "That makes Burt look like he's holding up a film. There is no film production. Jim's trying to get a movie financed but he doesn't have a film."

Reynolds' attachment to the project - which was never finalized with a contract, according to Kritzer - enabled Fitzpatrick to attract publicity, investors, an inexpensive crew and a cast including Oscar winner Lou Gossett Jr., Daryl Hannah and James Brolin. Reynolds' acrimonious departure may have the same ripple effect, in reverse.

Hannah's spokeswoman, Tiffany Smith, was unaware Monday of Reynolds' departure. She wouldn't predict if that will influence Hannah to also withdraw.

"She's not there yet," Smith said. "But it has been almost a year now and nothing has happened. If nothing happens in the next month, she'll be there."

That timetable may be hastened when Hannah reads statements like this from Reynolds: "Jimmy Fitzpatrick is not your local hero, there are plenty of other people in the Tampa Bay area that deserve it but not him," Reynolds texted. "He has falsely painted me as the villain who held up a film and let down countless adults and children.

"Jimmy Fitzpatrick is everything that is wrong with the motion picture industry. I will never work for, or with him."

Kritzer said Reynolds was interested in A Fonder Heart for nearly two years since Fitzpatrick - who played for the actor's Tampa Bay Bandits USFL football team in the 1980s - offered the script, based on a childhood friend who died of cancer.

Steve Persall can be reached at persall@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs.tampabay.com/movies.

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