Released in 1973 by United Artists and directed by John Sargent, the film stars Burt Reynolds as Gator McKlusky, a moonshine runner who is imprisoned in Arkansas for running moonshine. To avenge his younger brother’s death by a crooked police official, Gator makes a deal with federal authorities to expose the corruption. The movie features an “epic car chase finale.” Portions of White Lighting were filmed at Tucker Penitentiary in Tucker with a few of the correctional officers who worked there at the time as extras. The grounds are the same and the barracks in which a scene of Reynolds was filmed are still there, as are the guard towers.
Burt Reynolds, who had recently gained fame for his performance in Deliverance (1972) and his controversial centerfold in Cosmopolitan magazine, came to Arkansas to shoot the redneck action film White Lightning (1973). Cast as the female lead was Jennifer Billingsley, who had grown up in Arkansas. Locations included the Benton Speedbowl (now the I-30 Speedway), the Tucker Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction, and a scene of Reynolds driving his car onto a barge on the Arkansas River. About 100 Arkansans had secondary roles and parts as extras
The small community of Tucker is located approximately 30 miles southeast of Little Rock via U.S. 165.
The I-30 Speedway is located on I-30 halfway between Little Rock and Benton.
This movie was the un-credited film debut of six year old Laura Dern. Her mother, actress Diane Ladd, also appeared in the movie.
The Tucker Unit is still a working prison.