Los Angeles, Sep 7 (IANS) Burt Reynolds, the moustachioed megastar who first strutted on the screen more than half a century ago, has died, his agent said. He was 82.
Reynolds’ manager, Erik Kritzer, confirmed the “Smokey and the Bandit” star’s death to The Hollywood Reporter, saying he passed away on Thursday morning at the Jupiter Medical Center in Florida.
The Michigan native, whose easy-going charms and handsome looks drew prominent roles in films like “Boogie Nights” suffered a cardiac arrest on Thursday, his agent Todd Eisner said.
An iconic Hollywood sex symbol in front of the camera, Reynolds also tried his directorial hand behind it, and later earned a reputation for philanthropy after founding the Burt Reynolds Institute for Film and Theatre in Florida.
His roles over the years ranged and pivoted from Southern heart throb to tough guy to comedy, notably in his role as Rep. David Dilbeck in the 1996 film “Striptease” also starring Demi Moore, which flopped at the box office but earned him widespread praise for his comedic prowess.
However, it was John Boorman’s 1972 thriller “Deliverance”, which cast Reynolds as outdoorsman Lewis Medlock, that is widely credited for launching his early career.
Reynolds made an acting resurgence in recent years, appearing in numerous films and TV shows.
He was cast in the upcoming Quentin Tarantino-directed “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”, scheduled for release next year.
The actor’s niece Nancy Lee Hess told Page Six on Thursday that her uncle “has had health issues”, but that his death was “totally unexpected”.
She said: “He was tough. Anyone who breaks their tail bone on a river and finishes the movie is tough. And that’s who he was.” Besides, being a “generous, passionate and sensitive man, who was dedicated to his family, friends, fans and acting students”.
Reynolds was looking forward to working with Tarantino. He had not yet started shooting his appearance in the film, she added.
A former college football player who took up acting after an injury cut short his playing career, Reynolds spent a decade taking on bit roles in Hollywood before breaking through with some of the biggest hits like “The Longest Yard” and his best “Smokey and the Bandit”.
Born in Lansing, Michigan, on February 11, 1936. His family settled in Riviera Beach, Florida.
An All State football player in high school, after a series of injuries cut his going pro dream short, Reynolds briefly contemplated a career in law enforcement.
It was a teacher who recognized his talent while reading Shakespeare in English class.
Reynolds had a brief stopover in New York, where he was part of several theatrical productions before moving out west to Hollywood. He began appearing on television in the late ’50s.
It was not until 1962 that he secured a consistent role as the half-Native American blacksmith Quint Asper on “Gunsmoke”.
A decade later, he had his big-screen breakthrough in “Deliverance”, John Boorman’s psychological thriller about four friends whose rural rafting trip takes a terrifying turn. Reynolds said he considered the Oscar-nominated film, which co-starred Jon Voight, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox, the best of his career.
The film helped establish Reynolds as one of the most marketable stars of the decade. He gave memorable hits like “White Lightning” (1973), “The Longest Yard” (1974), “Gator” (1976), “Semi-Tough” (1977) and, his most famous film, “Smokey and the Bandit” (1977).
Reynolds starred in the film alongside future girlfriend Sally Field, playing Bo “Bandit” Darville, a charming outlaw tasked with transporting a tractor-trailer filled with beer over state lines.
“Boogie Nights” (1977), the film about the golden age of porn, which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, never stopped him from trashing the film.
He said he could never finish watching it. He said he didnot like Paul Thomas Anderson, the director, Page Six reported.
In May, it was announced that he had joined the cast of Tarantino’s upcoming “Once Upon a Time…”
An action star who did many of his own stunts, Reynolds was also a charismatic rogue and relentless flirt on-screen, helping to make him one of the biggest sex symbols of his time.
He made an infamous appearance in the nude as a Cosmopolitan centerfold in April 1972. The actor was as much of a ladies’ man off-screen and was married twice, to Judy Carne from 1963 to 1965 and to Loni Anderson from 1988 to 1993.
Despite those two trips down the aisle, the love of Reynolds’ life appeared to be his “Smokey and the Bandit” co-star Field, whom he famously described as the one who got away.
No matter the role, Reynolds always tended to play lovable rascals, something he knew audiences expected of him.
“We’re only here for a little while, and you’ve got to have some fun, right?,” he told the New York Times in spring 2018. “I don’t take myself seriously…”