Film and television star Burt Reynolds died on Thursday at the age of 82. The cause of his death remains as yet unannounced. A statement from the Reynolds family is expected.
The mustachioed movie star and former college football standout was known for films such as Deliverance, Smokey and the Bandit, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and Boogie Nights. Getting his start in the iconic western television series Gunsmoke of the 1960s, he was cast in a breakout role in the critically acclaimed thriller Deliverance. He was later known for blockbuster action movies such as The Longest Yard and The Cannonball Run.
From 1978 and 1982, Reynolds was the top-grossing Hollywood star, which was a record achieved previously only by crooner Bing Crosby. Reynolds did not maintain that pace into the ‘80s and ‘90s, but had a brief revival as a porn director in 1997’s Boogie Nights, which was helmed by Paul Thomas Anderson cast him as a porn director in 1997’s Boogie Nights. He won an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe award for the role.
I finally got to work with one of my heroes in 2006. #BurtReynolds led a really fun cast in Spokane and we laughed all day, every day he was on the set. A wry humor and a warm heart defined this wonderful man. He will be sorely missed. #RIPBurtReynolds pic.twitter.com/6ShGb2w2a6— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) September 6, 2018
Born in Lansing, Michigan in 1936, Reynolds moved with his family frequently due to his father’s Army service. Recognized for his high school football prowess, he earned a football scholarship to Florida State University. A series of injuries ended his athletic career and doused his hopes of joining the NFL. However, he went on to Palm Beach Junior College, where he met his acting mentor, Watson B. Duncan III.
Reynolds took early roles as a professional actor in theater, including several Broadway plays such as Look, We’ve Come Through and Mister Roberts. Television and movie roles followed. At the same time, he held down jobs as a bartender, delivery man, dishwasher, and dockworker. Once he went to Hollywood, Reynolds was cast for the TV Western series Gunsmoke. While taking roles in several less successful shows in the 60s and 70s, he was recognized for being the first non-comedian to fill in for host Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show. It was that year, 1972, when Reynolds made it big with his appearance in Deliverance. He also posed nude in Cosmopolitan. Plenty of roles followed, including leads in White Lightning, Lucky Lady, and Smokey and the Bandit. In 1976 he directed his first film, Gator, and in 1978, at the height of his powers, Reynolds had four movies playing in theaters at the same time.
Reynolds appeared with superstars such as Candice Bergen (Starting Over), Goldie Hawn (Best Friends), Jill Clayburgh (Starting Over), and Dolly Parton (The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas). He turned down roles to play James Bond and Han Solo.