If there was any actor in Hollywood who personified “Work hard, play harder,” it was Burt Reynolds, who died today (Thursday, September 6) due to cardiac arrest. His family was by his side, including his son Quinton, whom Reynolds and his first wife, Loni Anderson, adopted when he was three.
The man, who would be known as one of the hottest tickets (and actors, for that matter) in Hollywood during the 70s and 80s, experienced a personal renaissance after Paul Thomas Anderson’s spotlight on skin flicks Boogie Nights thundered onto the scene. His Golden Globe-winning and Oscar-nominated portrayal of Jack Horner, the veteran smut film producer, was nothing less of brilliant.
Janet Maslin of The New York Times said, “Everything about Boogie Nights is interestingly unexpected” and praised Burt Reynolds for “his best and most suavely funny performance in many years.” (Oddly enough, Burt “hated” working Anderson and felt that role was beneath him.)
Although that contested nod from critics led to several roles, primarily on TV, many of us were looking forward to his spot on the upcoming Tarantino opus Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, focusing on the Charles Manson / Sharon Tate story. He was going to play a key role as rancher George Spahn, who housed the Helter Skelter clan in the late 60s.
Reynolds is best known for his contagious cackle and good-ol’ boy charm that made him a household name in the Cannonball Run franchise and, of course, speeding eastbound and down away from Jackie Gleason in the iconic Smokey and the Bandit trilogy.
As ‘Bandit’, Reynolds provided a glimpse into his soul — his real-life dear friend Jerry Reed at the helm, whom Reynolds convinced to act, and his real-life woman at his side, Sally Field (whom has famously been dubbed as ‘The One Who Got Away’ thanks to an interview with Closer Weekly.)
His mustachioed lip and hyena-like laughter was renowned in movies like Semi-Tough, The Longest Yard, and Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which is the film that created the open door for Dolly Parton (no, not Whitney Houston) to write “I Will Always Love You.” And while he hit his stride with comedy, Reynolds could handle his own in drama with poise, grit, and a commanding presence.
Hooper, Sharky’s Machine, and his directorial debut Gator earned him a considerable amount of respect as a leading man and helped paved the way to his greatness in Hollywood.
That notwithstanding, he forged through the golden gates of Oscartown with his role as Lewis Medlock in the dark, and often nightmare-inducing, drama Deliverance. This is the movie that made Americans fearful of pigs, the deep woods of West Virginia, and made the laconic people of the world hate the dueling sound of a banjo and guitar.