Burt Reynolds Dies, Aged 82

Burt Reynolds

by James White |
Published on

Burt Reynolds, a familiar and charismatic star, producer and director whose career has spanned decades, has died. He was 82.

Born Burton Leon Reynolds Jr, the actor often claimed to have been born in Waycross, Georgia, yet admitted in his autobiography But Enough About Me that his life actually began in Lansing, Michigan, and he grew up in Palm Beach, Florida. He attended Florida State University for two years on a football scholarship, but his sports career was derailed by a knee injury sustained in a car accident.

Turning his attention to acting, he made the move to New York, struggling to find work for several years until landing a role on stage alongside Charlton Heston in Mr. Roberts in 1956. From there, Reynolds appeared on Broadway but also started notching up guest roles on TV series such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone, from which he graduated to starring roles in shows including Gunsmoke (where he played a Native American for three years) Hawk and Dan August. He also began a run of appearances on late night talk shows and took part in publicity stunts, including his rug-lying nude centrefold spread in Cosmopolitan.

Reynolds' film career began with 1961's Angel Baby, and he quickly began winning leading parts in movies including Navajo Joe and Operation CIA. Known for his easy grin and handsome looks, his movie work took a leap with 1971's Deliverance, with the controversial drama rocketing him to a period of major stardom in the 1970s and '80s. Movies in this successful part of his life numbered some of his most memorable: Smokey And The Bandit, The Longest Yard and Gator. In addition to acting (and one or two songs on soundtracks), he also directed several movies, with the aforementioned Gator and Sharkey's Machine among his credits.

But Reynolds was always a complicated figure, sometimes happy with publicity and often shunning the press, making some unsuccessful career choices amid a turbulent personal life. Still, he'll be remembered by more than one generation for the likes of The Cannonball Run, The Player and his Oscar-nominated role in Boogie Nights. His later years were a mix of smaller roles in films and a return to guest shots on TV series, some such as animated spy spoof Archer playing on Reynolds' own past glories.

Quentin Tarantino had cast him in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, but Reynolds had yet to work on the film. Married twice, to Loni Anderson Reynolds and Judy Carne, he's survived his his adopted son Quinton from his second marriage.

You can find the fascinating report on the time our Nick de Semlyen spent with Reynolds a couple of years ago right here.

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