In 1997, Reynolds got the comeback role of a lifetime. In Boogie Nights, he played a notable porn director saddened that the art of adult films was fading away with the times. The film made Paul Thomas Anderson a new hot director, and it gave Reynolds acclaim that he hadn't seen in a long time. As The New York Times wrote, "Burt Reynolds rises to this occasion by giving his best and most suavely funny performance in many years."
But while he was acclaimed by critics, Reynolds didn't really go anywhere after playing the part of Jack Horner. So why didn't Boogie Nights work for Reynolds like Pulp Fiction did for John Travolta? Well, first of all, Reynolds didn't like Boogie Nights. Though he's never watched the whole film, Reynolds told The Guardian that he still hates the movie and that working on it was a nightmare.
Evidently, the actor considered Paul Thomas Anderson to be cocky, and that didn't sit well with Reynolds. Elaborating on his feelings, Reynolds once said, "Every shot we did, it was like the first time [that shot had ever been done]. I remember the first shot we did in Boogie Nights, where I drive the car to Grauman's Theater. After he said, 'Isn't that amazing?' And I named five pictures that had the same kind of shot. It wasn't original."
Reynolds also seemed to think this was just a glorified porn film, so he was rarely happy on set. He fought constantly with Anderson. In fact, the movie's first assistant director recalled a screaming match where Reynolds called Anderson a "little punk kid" and said the director couldn't tell him what to do.
Reynolds also had problems with some of his fellow cast members. For example, Reynolds nearly punched out Thomas Jane. In his book But Enough About Me, Reynolds recalled a moment where Jane was allegedly getting kind of physical with some of the people on set. "When he put his martial arts moves on me, I said 'Don't make the mistake of pushing me, I push back.'" Jane laughed, and Reynolds unleashed some R-rated language before storming off the set.
Though the shoot was difficult, Anderson had no complaints about Reynolds's performance. He even offered him a role in his next film, Magnolia. But Reynolds turned it down, saying, "I'd done my picture with Paul Thomas Anderson, that was enough for me."