Burt Reynolds, whose portrayal of one memorable tough-guy character after another made him one of Hollywood’s most popular actors throughout the 1970s, has died at age 82.
Reynolds reportedly went into cardiac arrest at a Florida hospital Thursday, September 6, and died with his family by his side. He had battled health issues in recent years, but was in the midst of filming his part in Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming feature Once Upon a Time in Hollywood when he was admitted to Jupiter Medical Center.
Reynolds was an accomplished high school and college football player before shifting his focus to acting, playing featured roles in television Westerns Gunsmoke and Riverboat. While filming the latter series, he met stuntman Hal Needham, who would go on to serve as Reynolds’ stunt double on a long list of features and later directed Reynolds in several hit movies.
It was the 1972 film Deliverance that provided Reynolds with his breakout role. The film cast him as a rugged survivalist who — along with three friends — is forced to fight for his life during a vacation in the Georgia wilderness. It earned three Academy Award nominations that year, including a nomination in the Best Picture category.
Reynolds parlayed that tough-guy performance into a string of similar — albeit more comedic — roles, often playing the charming, rebellious male lead who is always on the wrong side of the law, but wins in the end.
He put his football background to use in 1974’s The Longest Yard, playing a disgraced former quarterback who’s forced to assemble a team of convicts to compete against the prison guards while serving time. He later made his directorial debut with 1976’s Gator, in which he played an ex-convict and moonshine runner forced to help the government take down a corrupt politician. A year later, Needham cast him in what would become one of the actor’s most iconic roles: Legendary trucker Bo “Bandit” Darville in Smokey and the Bandit.
Reynolds’ profile continued to rise, and he eventually became Hollywood’s highest-grossing star from 1978 through 1982, one of the longest stretches of time for any one actor to hit that mark in consecutive years.
Although his profile faded a bit in the following years, Reynolds found success on the small screen during the early ’90s and in supporting roles in various films. He received two Primetime Emmy Award nominations for his performance in the comedy series Evening Shade during that period and took home the award in 1991.
He found himself in the spotlight again in 1997 for his portrayal of pornographer Jack Horner in the drama Boogie Nights, which earned him a late-career Oscar nomination. He continued to act, direct, and provide voice performances in television and films over the years, with a performance in the upcoming Once Upon a Time in Hollywood now likely to be his final on-screen role.
Spanning more than 50 years and nearly 100 feature films and hundreds of TV episodes, Reynolds’ career included time spent both in front of the camera and behind it, with credited roles as writer, director, actor, and musician on his extensive résumé.
He is survived by his son, Quinton.
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