Burt Reynolds

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Burt Reynolds
Burt Reynolds 1991 portrait crop.jpg
Reynolds in 1991
Born Burton Leon Reynolds Jr.
(1936-02-11)February 11, 1936
Lansing, Michigan, U.S.
Died September 6, 2018(2018-09-06) (aged 82)
Jupiter, Florida, U.S.
Occupation Actor, director, producer
Years active 1958–2018
Spouse(s) Judy Carne (m. 1963; div. 1965)
Loni Anderson (m. 1988; div. 1993)
Children 1

Burton Leon Reynolds Jr. (February 11, 1936 – September 6, 2018) was an American actor, director and producer. He first rose to prominence starring in television series such as Gunsmoke (1962–1965) and Dan August (1970–1971).

His breakout film role was as Lewis Medlock in Deliverance (1972). Reynolds played the leading role in a number of box office hits, such as The Longest Yard (1974), Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Semi-Tough (1977), Hooper (1978), Smokey and the Bandit II (1980), The Cannonball Run (1981) and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982).

After a few box office failures, Reynolds returned to television, starring in the sitcom Evening Shade (1990–1994). He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Boogie Nights (1997).[1][2][3]

Early life

Reynolds as Quint Asper in Gunsmoke

Reynolds is the son of Fern H. (née Miller; 1902–1992) and Burton Milo Reynolds (1906–2002). He has Dutch, English, Scots-Irish, and Scottish ancestry, and is also said to have Cherokee roots.[4][5] In his 2014 autobiography But Enough About Me, Reynolds said his mother had Italian ancestry. During his career, Reynolds often claimed to have been born in Waycross, Georgia, but confirmed in 2015 that he was born in Lansing, Michigan.[6] He was born on February 11, 1936,[7] and in his autobiography stated that Lansing is where his family lived when his father was drafted into the United States Army.[8][9] Reynolds, his mother and sister joined his father at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and lived there for two years. When Reynolds's father was sent to Europe, the family moved to Lake City, Michigan, where his mother had been raised.[10]

In 1946, the family moved to Riviera Beach, Florida. His father became Chief of Police of Riviera Beach, which is adjacent to the north side of West Palm Beach, Florida. During 10th grade at Palm Beach High School, Reynolds was named First Team All State and All Southern as a fullback, and received multiple scholarship offers.[11]

After graduating from Palm Beach High in West Palm Beach, he attended Florida State University on a football scholarship and played halfback.[12] While at Florida State, Reynolds roomed with college football broadcaster and analyst Lee Corso, and also became a brother of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.[13] Reynolds hoped to be named to All-American teams and to have a career in professional football, but he suffered a knee injury in the first game of his sophomore season, and later that year he lost his spleen and injured his other knee as a result of a car accident.[14] These injuries hampered Reynolds' abilities on the field, and after being beaten in coverage for the game-winning touchdown in a 7-0 loss to North Carolina State on October 12, 1957, he decided to give up football.[15]

Ending his college football career, Reynolds thought of becoming a police officer, but his father suggested that he finish college and become a parole officer. To keep up with his studies, he began taking classes at Palm Beach Junior College (PBJC) in neighboring Lake Park. In his first term at PBJC, Reynolds was in an English class taught by Watson B. Duncan III. Duncan pushed Reynolds into trying out for a play he was producing, Outward Bound. He cast Reynolds in the lead role based on having heard Reynolds read Shakespeare in class, leading to Reynolds winning the 1956 Florida State Drama Award for his performance. In his autobiography, Reynolds refers to Duncan as his mentor and the most influential person in his life.[16]



Reynolds with the Citrus Queen at Garnet and Gold Football Game, Florida State University, 1963

The Florida State Drama Award included a scholarship to the Hyde Park Playhouse, a summer stock theater, in Hyde Park, New York. Reynolds saw the opportunity as an agreeable alternative to more physically-demanding summer jobs, but did not yet see acting as a possible career. While working there, Reynolds met Joanne Woodward, who helped him find an agent, and was cast in Tea and Sympathy at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. After his Broadway debut Look, We've Come Through, he received favorable reviews for his performance and went on tour with the cast, driving the bus and appearing on stage.[17] After the tour, Reynolds returned to New York and enrolled in acting classes, along with Frank Gifford, Carol Lawrence, Red Buttons and Jan Murray. After a botched improvisation in acting class, Reynolds briefly considered returning to Florida, but he soon got a part in a revival of Mister Roberts, in which Charlton Heston played the starring role. After the play closed, the director, John Forsythe, arranged a film audition with Joshua Logan for Reynolds. The film was Sayonara (1957). Reynolds was told that he could not be in the film because he looked too much like Marlon Brando. Logan advised Reynolds to go to Hollywood, but Reynolds did not feel confident enough to do so.[18] He worked in a variety of different jobs, such as waiting tables, washing dishes, driving a delivery truck and as a bouncer at the Roseland Ballroom. Reynolds writes that, while working as a dockworker, he was offered $150 to jump through a glass window on a live television show.[19]

Film and television

Reynolds and Loni Anderson at the 43rd Primetime Emmy Awards

He began acting on television in the late 1950s, and made his film debut in Angel Baby (1961). Following a regular role as Ben Frazer in Riverboat, he joined the cast of Gunsmoke as "halfbreed" blacksmith Quint Asper, and performed that role during the years just before the departure of Chester Goode and just after the appearance of Festus Haggen. He used television fame to secure leading roles for low-budget films and played the titular role in the Spaghetti Western Navajo Joe (1966), before playing the title character in police drama Dan August (1970–71). He later disparaged the series, telling Johnny Carson that Dan August had "two forms of expression: mean and meaner". Reynolds appeared on ABC's The American Sportsman hosted by outdoors journalist Grits Gresham, who took celebrities on hunting, fishing and shooting trips around the world. Saul David considered Reynolds to star in Our Man Flint, but Lew Wasserman rejected him.[20] He had the lead in Impasse (1969) and Shark!, the latter with director Sam Fuller who disowned the rough cuts.[21] Albert R. Broccoli asked Reynolds to play James Bond, but he turned the role down, saying "An American can't play James Bond. It just can't be done."[22] Reynolds made his breakout role in Deliverance and gained notoriety when he appeared in the April 1972 issue of Cosmopolitan.[23][24] During the 1970s, Reynolds played leading roles in a series of action films and comedies, such as White Lightning (1973), The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (also 1973), Lucky Lady (1975) or Smokey and the Bandit (1977). He made his directorial debut in 1976 with Gator, the sequel to White Lightning. During the 1980s, his leading roles included The Cannonball Run (1981) and Malone (1987) and All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989). After starring in Paul Thomas Anderson's second film Boogie Nights, Reynolds refused to star in Anderson's third film, Magnolia. Despite this, Reynolds was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.[3][25] In 2002, he voiced Avery Carrington in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.[26] He had support parts in Miss Lettie and Me (2003) and Without a Paddle (2004), and two high-profile films: the remake of The Longest Yard (2005) and The Dukes of Hazzard (2005).[27] Reynolds received his critical acclaimed performance for The Last Movie Star (2017).[28] In May 2018, he joined the cast for Quentin Tarantino's film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.[29]


Reynolds co-authored the children's book Barkley Unleashed A Pirate, a "whimsical tale [that] illustrates the importance of perseverance, the wonders of friendship and the power of imagination".[30]


In 1973, Reynolds released the album Ask Me What I Am and in 1983 sang along with Dolly Parton in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.[31]


Despite much success, in 1996 he filed for bankruptcy, due in part to an extravagant lifestyle, a divorce from Loni Anderson and failed investments in some Florida restaurant chains.[32][33] The filing was under Chapter 11, from which Reynolds emerged two years later.[2]

Personal life


Reynolds in April 2011

Reynolds' close friends have included Johnny Carson, James Hampton, Dom DeLuise, Jerry Reed, Charles Nelson Reilly, Tammy Wynette, Lucie Arnaz, Adrienne Barbeau, Tawny Little, Dinah Shore and Chris Evert.[34] Reynolds was married to Judy Carne from 1963 to 1965, and to Loni Anderson from 1988 to 1993. He and Anderson adopted a son, Quinton.[35] Reynolds and Dinah Shore were in a relationship in the early 70's for about five years. He had a relationship from about 1977 to 1982 with actress Sally Field.[36]

Atlanta nightclub

In the late 1970s, Reynolds opened Burt's Place, a nightclub restaurant in the Omni International Hotel in the Hotel District of Downtown Atlanta.[37]

Sports team owner

In 1982, Reynolds became a co-owner of the Tampa Bay Bandits, a professional American football team in the USFL, whose nickname was inspired by the Smokey and the Bandit trilogy and Skoal Bandit, a primary sponsor for the team as a result of also sponsoring Reynolds' race team. Reynolds also co-owned a NASCAR Winston Cup team, Mach 1 Racing, with Hal Needham, which ran the #33 Skoal Bandit car with driver Harry Gant.[citation needed]


While filming City Heat, Reynolds was struck in the face with a metal chair and had temporomandibular joint dysfunction. He lost thirty pounds from not eating. The painkillers he was prescribed led to addiction, which took several years to break. Reynolds underwent back surgery in 2009 and a quintuple heart bypass in February 2010.[2]

Financial problems

On August 16, 2011, Merrill Lynch Credit Corporation filed foreclosure papers, claiming Reynolds owed $1.2 million on his home in Hobe Sound, Florida.[38] Reynolds owned the Burt Reynolds Ranch, where scenes for Smokey and the Bandit were filmed and which once had a petting zoo, until its sale during bankruptcy.[39] In April 2014, the 153-acre rural property was rezoned for residential use and the Palm Beach County school system could sell it to residential developer K. Hovnanian Homes.[40]


Reynolds reportedly died of cardiac arrest at a Florida hospital on September 6th, 2018. He had been suffering from heart problems for a number of years. [41]




Year Title Chart positions Album Songwriter
US Country US CAN Country
1980 "Let's Do Something Cheap and Superficial" 51 88[42] 33 Smokey and the Bandit II Soundtrack Richard Levinson


Awards and nominations for acting
Year Association Category Nominated work Result Ref.
1971 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Television Series Drama Dan August Nominated [1]
1975 Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy The Longest Yard Nominated
1980 Starting Over Nominated
American Movie Awards Favorite Film Star – Male N/A Won
1991 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Evening Shade Nominated
People's Choice Awards Favorite Male Performer in a New TV Series Won
Viewers For Quality Television Best Actor in a Quality Comedy Series Won
Golden Boot Awards Golden Boot Won
1992 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy Won
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Won [43]
1993 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy Nominated
1997 Boston Society of Film Critics Best Supporting Actor Boogie Nights 2nd place
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Supporting Actor Won
New York Film Critics Circle Best Supporting Actor Won
Online Film Critics Society Best Supporting Actor Won
San Diego Film Critics Society Best Supporting Actor Won
1998 Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Won
BAFTA Awards Best Actor in a Supporting Role Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Best Supporting Actor Won
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Best Supporting Actor Won
Florida Film Critics Circle Best Cast Won
National Society of Film Critics Best Supporting Actor Won
Satellite Awards Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Won
Screen Actors Guild Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Nominated
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated

Other honors



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  11. Reynolds, pp. 17, 33–37, 41–44.
  12. He was a member of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. Photo gallery of Reynolds at FSU: http://heritage.fsu.edu/photos/burtatfsu.html
  13. "Phi Delta Theta International Site – Famous Phis". Phideltatheta.org. Retrieved November 8, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  16. Reynolds, pp. 57–59.
  17. Reynolds, pp. 59–63.
  18. Reynolds, pp. 63–65.
  19. Reynolds, pp. 65–67.
  20. "THE INDUSTRY: LIFE IN THE HOLLYWOOD FAST LANE By Saul David" (review), Kirkus Review.
  21. Fuller, Samuel Samuel Fuller: Interviews University Press of Mississippi, May 30, 2012.
  22. Monsters and Critics 24, 2007/https://web.archive.org/web/20070224193051/http://movies.monstersandcritics.com/news/article_1038368.php Archived February 24, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
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  26. Chris Kohler (March 28, 2012). "Going Hollywood Wasn't Easy for Grand Theft Auto". Wired.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Adams, T. (April 26, 2017). 'Dog years' star burt reynolds dishes on DeNiro, brando, eastwood and 'star wars'. The New York Observer. Retrieved from Proquest.
  29. Heath, Paul (May 9, 2018). "Burt Reynolds Is In Talks To Join Quentin Tarantino's Next". The Hollywood News. Retrieved September 6, 2018.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. "Barkley Unleashed: A Pirate's Tail", Amazon.
  31. Peter Travers (August 2, 1982). "Dolly Does Hollywood!". People.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. Laura J. Margulies (2008), "Famous Bankruptcies Archived March 30, 2013 at the Wayback Machine".
  33. Gary Eng Walk (October 7, 1998), "Burt Reynolds closes the book on Chapter 11", Entertainment Weekly
  34. Anderson, pp. 251–53, 262–63.
  35. "Burt and Loni, and Baby Makes Glee", The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 3, 1988.
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  40. Capozzi, Joe (April 28, 2014). "Old Burt Reynolds Ranch: Changes OK'd to allow 30-home development". Palm Beach Post. Retrieved April 28, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  41. https://hollywoodlife.com/2018/09/06/burt-reynolds-dead-actor-dies/
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Further reading

External links