Burt Reynolds, America’s Mustache, and the Silver Screen’s Grin, aged 82, passed away on Thursday, September 6th after enjoying decades of relevance in fickle Hollywood. The actor/producer/director and Michigan-born son, began his stage and screen career in the 1950’s debuting on Broadway’s Look, We’ve Come Through.
His television appearances spanned a range of bit parts and guest appearances in shows like The Twilight Zone, Perry Mason, and Flipper, until he was cast in the hit series Gunsmoke, as Quint Asper, a part Native American blacksmith. This led to being typecast as a series of Native characters in spaghetti Westerns and frontier television shows, although in interviews he was proud of his claimed Cherokee blood.
It wasn’t until the19 70’s, Reynolds found his big film break in the classic Deliverance and solidified his sex symbol status appearing nude in Cosmopolitan magazine (a spread he would later regret). Reynolds went on to become one of the biggest stars of the 70’s and 80’s headlining White Lightning and Smokey and the Bandit, The Longest Yard, Cannonball Run, and directing Gator. His relationship with stuntman-turned-director (and bachelor-pad roomie) Hal Needham is legendary, producing some of the biggest hits of both their careers, and inspiring Quentin Tarantino‘s upcoming Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
With stints both in front of and behind the camera, Reynolds went through periods of resurgence in the 1990’s and 2000’s, playing sleazes in Striptease and Boogie Nights (which nabbed him an Oscar nomination),and introduced to a new generation in Don Bluth‘s animated film All Dogs Go to Heaven as Charlie, and voiceover work for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. In recent years, Reynolds had a hilarious turn as himself on FX series Archer, dating the eponymous character’s prickly mother. He was set to star in Quentin Tarantino’s in-production Once Upon a Time in Hollywood when he passed away abruptly after years of battling heart problems, in Jupiter , Florida. Although there were hopes that he’d had some footage completed, it came to pass that his scenes were set to roll at the end of September. Although his last starring role was in Adam Rifkin‘s The Last Movie Star, which had a limited release in early 2018, it was hoped that Tarantino’s magic touch would produce at least one last great performance and swan song for Reynolds, who was never shy about his regrets and missed acting opportunities.
Reynolds might be just as famous for the roles he turned down, among them Han Solo and James Bond, to say nothing of Randall MacMurphy, the role made famous by Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest! All these missed opportunities and roles he spoke of candidly, never holding back from his honest regrets of not taking them, but never taking his current life for granted neither. He lived the movie star lifestyle nonetheless, dating Dinah Shore (his self-professed love of his life, and a woman for whom he left a wreath at her grave yearly after her death from ovarian cancer in 1994), and Sally Field at the peak of their careers, and later marrying blonde bombshell Loni Anderson, battling pain killer addiction, and filing for bankruptcy. The charismatic actor leaves behind a legacy of unforgettable characters and piece of a begone era of the iconic movie star. He is survived by his son, Quinton Reynolds.
“We’re only here for a little while, and we’ve got to have a little fun, right?”