Burt Reynolds, the charismatic star of such films as Deliverance, The Longest Yard and Smokey and the Bandit has died. He was 82.
Reynolds, who received an Oscar nomination when he portrayed porn director Jack Horner in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights (1997) and was the No. 1 box-office attraction for a five-year stretch starting in the late 1970s, died Thursday morning at Jupiter Medical Center in Florida, his manager, Erik Kritzer, told The Hollywood Reporter.
As much as Reynolds represented an era, he also stood as a timeless cautionary tale. After a five-year run as Hollywood’s No. 1 male movie star, from 1978 to 1982, Reynolds fell into a funk of flops and personal problems, including unfounded health rumors and a nasty tabloid divorce from TV star Loni Anderson, from which his career never recovered.
Looking back once, Reynolds said he had something no one could take from him: he was “part of film history.”
“You die with that,” Reynolds said. “They can say his career went downhill after that; he made bad films.’ It doesn’t matter.”
Born Feb. 11, 1936, in Michigan, Reynolds was a Florida State University football player who broke into Hollywood in his early 20s. The early going was rough. He was fired from a studio on either the same day or in the same year, he would alternately recount, as Clint Eastwood: Eastwood was told his Adam’s apple was too big; Reynolds was told he couldn’t act.
His first steady gig, on the TV Western Riverboat, ended when he quit because, he said, “I wasn’t getting along with the star… and I had a stupid part.”
Although he became a regular on the long-running hit show Gunsmoke, Reynolds would chase breakout fame into his mid-30s. The actor credited guest-hosting stints for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show with leading him to two career-changing job offers: a role in Deliverance; and a chance to pose for Cosmopolitan magazine.
Published in April 1972, the Cosmo centerfold spread placed a naked, but strategically covered Reynolds on a bear rug, and put the actor on the map as a sex symbol.
“I can’t believe the chicks are turned on by it,” Reynolds told the Associated Press at the time.
A few months after the magazine hit the stands, Reynolds starred alongside Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox in the Deliverance. The 1972 canoe-trip-from-hell drama was a popular and critical hit, scoring three Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.
Reynolds was married and divorced twice, first to actress Judy Carne, then to Anderson, with whom he adopted his only child, a son, Quinton, named after his character on Gunsmoke. In addition to Field, whom he would later describe as the love of his life, he was romantically linked to entertainer Dinah Shore.
In recent years, Reynolds endured a series of health and apparent financial troubles. He had heart surgery in 2010 and then in 2014, he auctioned off memorabilia, including a Smokey and the Bandit-era Trans Am, and his Golden Globe for Boogie Nights. Reynolds, who also put his Florida mansion on the block, flatly insisted he was “not broke.”
Reynolds explained his downsizing to Yahoo as an act of humility: “Quite frankly, I am sick of so many pictures of myself in my own home.”