Hollywood star Burt Reynolds dies at 82

  • 2016-SXSW-Thr-Bandit

    Burt Reynolds sits on a 1977 Pontiac Trans-Am at the world premiere of "The Bandit" at the Paramount Theatre during the South by Southwest Film Festival in March, 2016.


  • JUPITER, Fla. — Burt Reynolds, the film and television star known for his performances in Deliverance and Boogie Nights, box office hits such as Smokey and the Bandit, and for an active off-screen love life which included relationships with actresses Loni Anderson and Sally Field, died Thursday. He was 82.

    The mustachioed Mr. Reynolds inspired responses over his career ranging from critical acclaim and scorn to popular success and box office bombs. 

    Mr. Reynolds made scores of movies, ranging from lightweight fare such as the hits The Cannonball Run and Smokey and the Bandit to more serious films like The Longest Yard.

    Mr. Reynolds was the first celebrity to sign a bun at Tony Packo’s in East Toledo. 

    In 1972 the actor was in town as part of a touring production when the signing tradition began.

    During his career, Mr. Reynolds received some of the film world’s highest and lowest honors. 

    VIDEO: Burt Reynolds dies at 82

    He was nominated for an Oscar for Boogie Nights, the Paul Thomas Anderson film about the porn industry; won an Emmy for the TV series Evening Shade, and was praised for his starring role in Deliverance.

    But he also was a frequent nominee for the Razzie, the tongue-in-cheek award for Hollywood’s worst performance, and his personal life provided ongoing drama, particularly after an acrimonious divorce from Ms. Anderson in 1995. 

    He also had a troubled marriage to Judy Carne, a romance with Dinah Shore, and a relationship with Ms. Field damaged by his acknowledged jealousy of her success.

    Through it all he presented an upbeat persona, often the first to make fun of his own image.

    “My career is not like a regular chart, mine looks like a heart attack,” he said in 2001. “I’ve done over 100 films, and I’m the only actor who has been canned by all three networks. I epitomize longevity.”

    Mr. Reynolds was candid about his flops, his regrets and about his many famous friends. 

    He would call posing nude for Cosmopolitan one of his biggest mistakes because it undermined the respect he had gained for Deliverance

    He revered Spencer Tracy as an early mentor and came to know Johnny Carson, Clint Eastwood, Frank Sinatra, and many others.

    Born in Lansing and raised in Florida, he was an all-Southern Conference running back at Florida State University in the 1950s. 

    Mr. Reynolds appeared headed to the NFL until a knee injury and an automobile accident ended his chances. He dropped out of college and drifted to New York, where he worked as a dock hand, dance-hall bouncer, bodyguard, and dish washer before returning to Florida in 1957 and enrolling in acting classes at Palm Beach Junior College.

    He won the Florida Drama Award in 1958 for his performance in the role John Garfield made famous in Outward Bound

    He was subsequently discovered by a talent agent at New York’s Hyde Park Playhouse.


    After moving to Hollywood, he found work as a stuntman, including one job that consisted of flying through a glass window. 

    As a star, he often performed his own stunts, and he played a stuntman in the 1978 film Hooper, one of his better reviewed films.

    In the 1960s he made dozens of guest-star appearances on such TV shows as Bonanza, The Twilight Zone, and Perry Mason

    His first film role came in 1961’s Angel Baby, and he followed it with numerous other mediocre movies, the kind, he liked to joke, that were shown in airplanes and prisons.

    He did become famous enough to make frequent appearances on The Tonight Show.

    In the early 1970s, director John Boorman was impressed by how confidently Mr. Reynolds handled himself when subbing for Mr. Carson as host of The Tonight Show and cast him for a film adaptation of James Dickey’s novel Deliverance.

    Deliverance was an Oscar nominee for best picture and no film made him prouder. 

    In his 2015 memoir But Enough About Me, he wrote that Deliverance would be his choice could he put one of his movies in a time capsule.

    “It proved I could act,” he wrote.