At Palm Beach High School, he first made a name for himself as a football star and earned an athletic scholarship to Florida State University. But when injuries derailed a promising athletic career, Reynolds turned to acting. He then scored small parts in the late 1950s before landing a role in the New York City Center revival of "Mister Roberts" in 1957, as well as a recurring spot in the TV series "Gunsmoke." By 1974, Reynolds had hit it big and starred as an ex-football player who landed in prison in the film "The Longest Yard." Two years earlier, he broke taboo and posed nude in Cosmopolitan magazine, which helped cement his growing status as a sex symbol. He later said he regretted that centerfold image, which showed Reynold's spread out across a bearskin rug, and said it distracted attention from his "Deliverance" co-stars and likely cost them an Academy Award. Reynolds' notoriety soared through the late 1970s and 1980s, during which time he spearheaded the "Smokey and the Bandit" and "Cannonball Run" movie franchises. He also earned People's Choice Awards in 1979, 1982 and 1983 as all-around male entertainer of the year. But he also turned down some of the biggest roles in Hollywood history. From James Bond to Hans Solo in George Lucas' 1977 blockbuster "Star Wars," Reynolds also reportedly was among Paramount Pictures' top choices to play Michael Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 epic "The Godfather." Again, the star expressed regrets. "I took the part that was the most fun... I didn't take the part that would be the most challenging," Reynolds said in an interview with CNN.
Burt Reynolds & Clint Eastwood were fired from GUNSMOKE & RAWHIDE at the same time. Burt was told he couldn't act and Clint his neck was too skinny. In the parking lot, Burt said to Clint, "I dunno what you're gonna do, but I'm gonna take acting lessons." #RIPBurtReynolds— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) September 6, 2018
His love life also drew headlines after a high-profile divorce to actress Loni Anderson preceded Reynolds bankruptcy filing in 1996, amid a budding romance with actor Sally Field. A year later, Anderson released her version of events in a tell-all book called "My Life in High Heels." In 1998, Reynolds scored his sole Oscar nomination for best supporting actor after his portrayal of a porn film producer in the film "Boogie Nights," despite his dislike of the film and its apparent glorification of the porn industry. Years later, with a mustache gone gray, he suffered from health issues that included open heart surgery. Reynolds also checked into a drug rehab clinic in 2009. The purpose was "to regain control of his life" after becoming addicted to painkillers prescribed following back surgery, his manager said. Once among Hollywood's highest-paid actors, Reynolds later fell into financial trouble amid private ventures in an Atlanta restaurant and a professional sports team, though he continued to make cameo appearances and teach acting classes. "I worked as an actor for 60 years, I must have something I can give," he told Morgan.
Burt Reynolds was one of my heroes. He was a trailblazer. He showed the way to transition from being an athlete to being the highest paid actor, and he always inspired me. He also had a great sense of humor - check out his Tonight Show clips. My thoughts are with his family.— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) September 6, 2018
The actor played porn director Jack Horner in the Paul Thomas Anderson film, though he later famously claimed to “hate” Anderson, and said he never watched “Boogie Nights” all the way through. Still, Reynolds had plenty other roles in which he could revel in – the Michigan native was the top-grossing movie star in Hollywood for each year from 1978 to 1982. In that span, he released films like “Starting Over,” “The Cannonball Run,” “Rough Cut,” and a sequel to “Smokey and the Bandit.” It was the original “Smokey” in 1977 that Reynolds is best known for; a Hal Needham action comedy flick that featured Reynolds as Bo “Bandit” Darville, a man hired to transport 400 cases of beer from Texas to Atlanta in 28 hours in his black Pontiac Trans-Am. The film was a massive success, and earned $126 million at the box office, which today would equate to $508 million.
R.I.P. Burt Reynolds, underrated as a dramatic actor (Deliverance), underrated as a director (Sharkey's Machine), but also a rare movie star that seemed to be just having an absolute ball onscreen. Nobody broke frame with a bigger gleam in his eye. "Just watch ol' Bandit run." pic.twitter.com/L4NlRyqahb— edgarwright (@edgarwright) September 6, 2018