Burt Reynolds one of Hollywood’s most popular leading men during the ’70s and early ’80s with such films as “Deliverance,” "Smokey and the Benditt” “The Longest Yard” and “Semi-Tough,” has died. His rep confirmed that he died Thursday in a Jupiter, Fla. hospital. He was 82.
He later earned an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor in Paul Thomas Anderson’s ode to skin flicks, “Boogie Nights” He had not yet shot his planned role in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”
His niece Nancy Lee Hess said in a statement, “He has had health issues, however, this was totally unexpected. He was tough. Anyone who breaks their tail bone on a river and finishes the movie is tough. And that’s who he was. My uncle was looking forward to working with Quentin Tarantino, and the amazing cast that was assembled.”
Reynolds’ appeal lay in his post-modern macho posture undercut by a wry self-awareness, which he used to good effect in comedies as well as action films. For a period during the ’70s he was the nation’s top box office draw. But after one too many bad movies, his popularity waned. He returned to television, where he’d gotten his start, mostly in Westerns, and produced his own sitcom, “Evening Shade,” which brought him an Emmy.
In his colorful career Reynolds secured more than his share of both good and bad press. He could be affable with the media but at times downright hostile. Despite his many high-profile roles, the ones he is said to have turned down were even bigger: He was offered the roles of James Bond, Han Solo, the Richard Gere role in “Pretty Woman” and the Jack Nicholson role in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
In the early 1970s, Reynolds was a veteran of TV and film who spurred the curiosity of Hollywood producers through his amusing appearances on latenight talkshows, as well as the hyped publicity stunt of appearing as the first celebrity male-nude centerfold in a 1972 issue of Cosmopolitan.
He was thus cast in his first A-title role, in John Boorman’s “Deliverance,” one of the most popular and well received films of 1972 (several major actors, including Marlon Brando, had turned the role down before it was offered to Reynolds). The same year Woody Allen cast him in a small comedic role in his film “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex.”
He solidified his position as a rising film star with 1974 prison football drama “The Longest Yard.” In 1977 he starred with Sally Field and Jackie Gleason in the comedy programmer “So which proved to be his most successful undertaking ever and was followed by the inevitable sequels. That same year he was again on the gridiron in the hit comedy “Semi-Tough.”
Reynolds made his directing debut with 1976 action film “Gator” and 1978’s black comedy “The End.”
The actor also kept busy on television, with guest appearances in “The X-Files,” “Ed,” “My Name Is Earl” and “Burn Notice” and voicework on “Robot Chicken,” “Duck Dodgers,” “American Dad” and “Archer.”
Most recently, he made an impression earlier in 2018 in Adam Rifkin’s “The Last Movie Star,” essentially playing himself as a star confronting mortality.
In September 2015 Reynolds was honored by the Stuntmen’s Association of Motion Pictures with the organization’s Richard “Diamond” Farnsworth Award.
Reynolds was married and divorced twice, first in the 1960s to “Laugh-In” comedienne Judy Carne and then to Anderson.
He is survived by adopted son Quinton from his second marriage.