2018-09-06 19:17:01 UTC
Burt Reynolds, an icon of 1970s Hollywood, has died at the age of 82.
Reynolds’ manager, Erik Kritzer, confirmed the star’s death to The Hollywood Reporter, saying he passed away Thursday morning at Jupiter Medical in Florida.
A former college football player who took up acting after an injury cut short his playing career, Reynolds spent a decade taking on bit roles in Hollywood before breaking through with roles in some of the biggest films of the decade, including “Deliverance,” “The Longest Yard” and — the movie he’s best known for — “Smokey and the Bandit.”
Reynolds was born in Lansing, Michigan, on February 11, 1936. His family settled in Riviera Beach, Florida, after his father, who served in the Army, returned from Europe in 1946. An All State football player in high school, Reynolds attended Florida State University on an athletic scholarship, playing halfback.
Although he intended to go pro, his career was cut short by a series of injuries. Reynolds briefly contemplated a career in law enforcement, but a teacher recognized his talent while reading Shakespeare in English class and pushed him toward acting. The move would be a fruitful one, earning him the Florida State Drama Award in 1956, which came with a scholarship to the Hyde Park Playhouse, a summer stock theater in Hyde Park, New York.
Afterwards, Reynolds had a brief stopover in New York where he appeared in several theatrical productions before moving out west to Hollywood. He began appearing on television in the late ’50s, but it wasn’t until 1962 that he secured a consistent role as the half-Native American blacksmith Quint Asper on “Gunsmoke.”
A decade later, he had his big-screen breakthrough in “Deliverance,” John Boorman’s psychological thriller about four friends whose rafting trip in rural takes a terrifying turn. Reynolds said he considered the Oscar-nominated film, which co-starred Jon Voight, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox, the best of his career.
The film helped establish Reynolds as one of the most marketable stars of the decade. He’d go on to star in a string of memorable hits including “White Lightning” (1973), “The Longest Yard” (1974), “Gator” (1976), “Semi-Tough” (1977) and, his most famous film, “Smokey and the Bandit” (1977). Reynolds starred in the film alongside future girlfriend Sally Field, playing Bo “Bandit” Darville, a charming outlaw tasked with transporting a tractor trailer filled with beer over state lines.
Reynolds continued to act regularly over the next four decades, notably starring in the “Cannonball Run” franchise in the ’80s and the sitcom “Evening Shade” in the early ’90s. But the most famous role of the latter part of his career was in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 film “Boogie Nights.” While the film about the golden age of porn earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, it never stopped him from trashing the film, which he said he could never finish watching, or the director, who he said he didn’t like.
An action star who did many of his own stunts, Reynolds was also a charismatic rogue and relentless flirt on-screen, helping to make one of the biggest sex symbols of his time. As did his infamous appearance in the nude as a Cosmopolitan centerfold in April 1972. The actor was as much of a ladies’ man off-screen, and was married twice, to Judy Carne from 1963 to 1965 and to Loni Anderson from 1988 to 1993. Despite those two trips down the aisle, the love of Reynolds’ life appeared to be his “Smokey and the Bandit” co-star Field, who he famously described as the one who got away.
–– ADVERTISEMENT ––
No matter the role, Reynolds always tended to play lovable rascals, something he knew audiences expected of him. “We’re only here for a little while, and you’ve got to have some fun, right?,” he told the New York Times in spring of 2018. “I don’t take myself seriously, and I think the ones that do, there’s some sickness with people like that.”