Who Was Burt Reynolds?
Burt Reynolds was born on February 11, 1936, in Lansing, Michigan. He attended Florida State University on a football scholarship, but a major injury led him to pursue acting. He appeared regularly on television for some time before his 1972 appearance in the film Deliverance, which became a breakthrough role. He was a leading movie star in the ‘70s and ‘80s, appearing in outings like The Longest Yard, Smokey and the Bandit, Starting Over and The Cannonball Run. Reynolds's 1997 role in Boogie Nights earned him an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe.
Background and Early Life
Burton Leon Reynolds Jr. was born on February 11, 1936, in Lansing, Michigan. His mother was a head nurse who encouraged her son to read while his father was an army colonel who later became police chief. Reynolds attended Florida State University on a football scholarship. After being drafted by the Baltimore Colts, he suffered a career-ending injury and turned to drama, eventually winning a scholarship to the Hyde Park Playhouse.
In 1957, Reynolds received his big break after he appeared in a New York City Center revival of Mister Roberts and subsequently signed a television contract. With regular roles on Riverboat, Gunsmoke, Hawk and Dan August, he became a familiar face to TV audiences. Both handsome and charming, Reynolds increased his popularity in the early 1970s by appearing on numerous talk shows, including Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, on which he would become a frequent guest.
Nude Centerfold and Movie Success
Though he had received film work in the past, Reynolds breakthrough role did not come until the 1972 drama Deliverance, co-starring Jon Voight. The film established Reynolds as both a star and a serious actor. He simultaneously became a major sex symbol when he was featured as the first nude male centerfold in Cosmopolitan magazine.
Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, Reynolds remained one of Hollywood's most sought-after superstars, with movies ranging from The Longest Yard (1974) and Semi-Tough (1977) to Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982). Bandit spawned 1980 and 1983 outings as well, while Reynolds's comedic car race epic The Cannonball Run (1981), co-starring Farrah Fawcett and Roger Moore, yielded a 1984 sequel.
Reynolds took on romantic comedies as well as seen with Starting Over (1979), with Jill Klayburgh and Candice Bergen, and Best Friends, with Goldie Hawn and Jessica Tandy. He also co-starred with friend Dom DeLuise in a number of projects during this era, including The End (1978), which Reynolds directed, and the Cannonball films.
TV Success with 'Evening Shade'
His film career waning by the mid-1980s, Reynolds returned to the small screen with the popular sitcom Evening Shade, for which he won an Emmy in 1991 and a Golden Globe in 1992. He also served as a recurring director for the series throughout its run, while working behind the scenes on a number of screen projects throughout the decade.
In the mid-1990s, Reynolds began his film comeback with his role as a drunken congressman in Striptease (1996), starring Demi Moore. Although the film was a critical failure with modest box office returns, Reynolds's performance earned widespread kudos.
Oscar Nod for 'Boogie Nights'
Around this time, Paul Thomas Anderson tapped Reynolds for the role of porn director Jack Horner in the acclaimed Boogie Nights (1997), for which Reynolds earned a best supporting actor Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe. It was later reported that he and Anderson had major conflicts, with Reynolds not caring for the director's style and approach to filmmaking.
Reynolds also appeared in the 1997 Rowan Atkinson comedy Bean and co-starred in Mystery, Alaska in 1999. He was then featured in the 2001 thriller Tempted and the bittersweet love story Snapshots the following year.
The actor continued to take on a variety of film roles, including an Adam Sandler remake of The Longest Yard (2005) and a reboot of the popular '80s show The Dukes of Hazzard (2005). He also appeared on such sitcoms as The King of Queens and My Name Is Earl, and provided voice work for Robot Chicken, American Dad! and Archer.
Reynolds also headlined The Last Movie Star, a role that hit close to home for the aging actor. After premiering at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, it earned a wider release the following year.
Reynolds was previously wed to comedienne/actress Judy Carne, and later enjoyed romance with singer Dinah Shore and his Smokey and the Bandit co-star Sally Field. While also having great respect for Shore's unflinching kindness, he would eventually acknowledge how much he missed Field and express remorse over not being more committed to their relationship.
Reynolds later married actress Loni Anderson in 1988, with the two divorcing after a few years in a volatile, financially costly split. The couple also adopted a son, Quinton.
Despite his box office success, Reynolds has struggled with a host of monetary woes, having declared bankruptcy in the mid-1990s and eventually selling off his Valhalla mansion in Florida. In 2009 he underwent back surgery and a year later had quintuple bypass surgery.
In autumn 2015, he published the well-received memoir But Enough About Me.
Reynolds died on September 6, 2018, at Jupiter Medical in Florida after going into cardiac arrest. His family was reportedly by his side.
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