Burt Reynolds, one of the biggest box office draws of the 1970s and 1980s, has passed away at the age of 82.
While best known for his string of major blockbuster films, such as The Longest Yard, Smokey and the Bandit, Semi-Tough, Hooper, Smokey and the Bandit II, The Cannonball Run and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Reynolds also had an award-winning turn in the 1997 film, Boogie Nights, where he was nominated for an Academy Award for playing a porn producer. Reynolds also won plaudits for his role on the 1990s television sitcom, Evening Shade.
Reynolds attended college in Florida on a football scholarship, but when knee injuries ruined his football career, he took up acting while in junior college. He slowly got a few acting gigs on television series before getting his first big break by being cast on the hit TV Western, Gunsmoke, as the town's "halfbreed" blacksmith. He parlayed his burgeoning television fame into a number of low budget films, including the starring role in the spaghetti western Navajo Joe.
His big film break came when he was cast in 1972's Deliverance, about a group of friends on a rafting trip in Georgia, who are tormented by some psychotic locals. Reynolds took his fame to the next level when he posed naked on a bearskin rug in a 1972 issue of Cosmopolitan. The issue sold over a million copies. Around this same time, Reynolds also began to make frequent guest appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Reynolds would often substitute for Carson as a guest host. The Tonight Show appearances were important because it gave the world a chance to see how funny Reynolds was. He was playing a lot of rather serious characters around this time and his Tonight Show appearances showed how charming he could be, as well.
After he returned to his football roots in The Longest Yard, he showed off all of that charm in the blockbuster film, Smokey and the Bandit, as a charming smuggler bringing a truck filled with Coors cross country to Georgia (at the time, Coors was not allowed to be sold East of the Mississippi).
The success of Smokey and the Bandit, though, had a bit of a surprisingly negative effect on Reynolds' career as an actor. He was so interested in continuing his success as a star that he would repeatedly turn down more challenging roles in favor of slighter fare that he figured that audiences wanted from him. In fact, the role of the former Astronaut in Terms of Endearment was specifically written for Reynolds but he passed it over to do the race car film, Stroker Ace. His replacement in the movie, Jack Nicholson, won an Academy Award for the role. Reynolds kept trying to win an Oscar in his later life, with his first nomination coming in 1997 for Boogie Nights. He lost to Robin Williams for Good Will Hunting.
Well known for his many romances, Reynolds' tempestuous relationship with his ex-wife Loni Anderson was key tabloid fodder in the 1980s and the divorce left him millions in debt just when his film career faltered. He rebounded a bit with the hit sitcom, Evening Shade, for which he won an Emmy in 1991, but outside of Boogie Nights, he had trouble finding good roles in his later years.
He recently released his autobiography, But Enough About Me, in 2015.