Burt Reynolds, whose charming smile entertained us through decades, is dead at 82

Posted at 12:25 PM, Jan 26, 2013
and last updated 2018-09-06 11:47:41-04

(RNN) – Burt Reynolds, the charismatic actor known for playing a charming rogue in “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Cannonball Run” - then later in "Boogie Nights," has died at age 82. 

The actor died of cardiac arrest Thursday morning at Jupiter Medical Center in Florida, his manager told the Hollywood Reporter. The actor underwent heart surgery back in 2010.

Reynolds was one of the most popular male actors of the 1970s and 1980s. His charm and chiseled features – fronted by a sly and somewhat sinister grin – made him a sex symbol during his prime and a highly sought leading man in Hollywood.

He was in the middle of filming the movie "One Upon a Time in Hollywood" with Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie. Another movie, "Defining Moments," is slated to be released in December 2018. 

Critics rarely gave him credit for his roles, which changed later in life when he received an Oscar nomination for his role as pornography director in "Boogie Nights."

He got into acting after a promising football career at Florida State University was derailed by injuries. His scholarship to the Hyde Park Playhouse in New York provided Reynolds valuable mentorship and the platform for what was to become a successful film career.

The first major break for Reynolds came in TV. He was cast as "Quint Asper" in the popular "Gunsmoke" series as well as earlier roles in other shows, including "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "Perry Mason." He was a regular performer in several small-screen productions before a major splash in movies.

Reynolds in 1972 starred alongside Jon Voight, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox in "Deliverance," a film about four Atlanta businessmen and buddies who took a canoe trip on a remote Georgia river that went terribly wrong. The movie made the song "Dueling Banjos" popular, it turned rural Southerners into a punchline and just as importantly, it made Reynolds a household name.

The critical and box office success of the movie combined with a near-nude centerfold shoot of Reynolds in "Cosmopolitan" magazine the same year cemented his status as a sex symbol.

Reynolds scored another major role as the lead in the "Smokey and the Bandit" series, which seemed to perfectly fit his image as a smooth and sharply sarcastic country boy with a disregard for authority. He tapped his athletic background to play star football player-turned-inmate Paul Crewe in "The Longest Yard." Reynolds also starred alongside singer and actress Dolly Parton in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

The financial success and cult following of his movies did not parlay into much when it came to critical accolades.

Reynolds did not earn a major award for his acting until he returned to TV, claiming an Emmy in 1991 and Golden Globe the following year for his role in "Evening Shade." Once again, Reynolds played a suave former football star.

He did not sustain the same type of star power as two decades earlier, but regular roles in major projects were not hard to come by. Reynolds proved he was still a relevant actor by earning an Academy Award nomination and Golden Globe win for Boogie Nights, a movie in which he played pornographic film producer Jack Horner.

His romps with several beautiful Hollywood women throughout his life only served to boost his amorous reputation. Reynolds was romantically linked with a string of women that, among others, included tennis star Chris Evert, "Smokey and the Bandit" co-star Sally Field, and singer and longtime partner Dinah Shore, who was 20 years older.

Reynolds is most famously linked with Loni Anderson, an actress and former pageant queen, to whom he was married from 1988 through 1993. The couple adopted a son, Quinton Anderson Reynolds. His previous marriage to actress and comedian Judy Carne ended in the mid-1960s after less than four years.

Financial ruin resulted from exorbitant spending and a costly divorce from Anderson, and Reynolds filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1996.

Early life and career

Burton Milo Reynolds Jr. was born in Waycross, GA, on Feb. 11, 1936. His father was in the military, and the family briefly lived in Michigan before settling in Florida when Reynolds was 10 years old. He was a star fullback at Palm Beach High School and had scholarship offers from several schools before settling on the in-state Seminoles.

College football commentator Lee Corso has been known to joke about the fact that he and Reynolds were roommates at Florida State.

The injury Reynolds suffered early in his college career forced him to think about other vocational options. He enrolled in an acting class, accepted immediate urging to try out for the lead role in a play and eventually won the Florida State Drama Award.

After traveling to Hyde Park, Reynolds hung around New York and worked odd jobs before spending some time acting in stage productions.

He was reportedly one of the actors who turned down the role of Han Solo in "Star Wars" before producer George Lucas offered the part to little-known Harrison Ford. He also turned down the role the ultimately went to Bruce Willis in "Die Hard."

Reynolds was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on March 15, 1978.

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