Burt Reynolds has died at 82

(CNN) — Burt Reynolds, the mustachioed megastar who first strutted on screen more than half a century ago, died Thursday, according to his agent Todd Eisner.

He was 82.

The Georgia native, whose easy-going charms and handsome looks drew prominent roles in films such as “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Boogie Nights, suffered a cardiac arrest, Eisner said.

An iconic Hollywood sex symbol in front of the camera, Reynolds also tried his directorial hand behind it, and later earned a reputation for philanthropy after founding the Burt Reynolds Institute for Film & Theatre in his home state of Florida.

His roles over the years ranged and pivoted from Southern heartthrob to tough guy to comedy, notably for his role as Rep. David Dilbeck in the 1996 film “Striptease,” which flopped at the box office but earned him widespread praise for his comedic prowess.

But it was John Boorman’s 1972 thriller “Deliverance,” which cast Reynolds as outdoorsman Lewis Medlock, that is widely credited for launching his early career.

Reynolds called it “by far” his best film.

“I thought maybe this film is more important in a lot of ways than we’ve given it credit for,” he said in an interview years later. The movie’s infamous rape scene may have helped the public — especially men — better understand the horrors of sexual attacks, Reynolds said.

“It was the only time I saw men get up, sick, and walk out of a theater,” he added. “I’ve seen women do that (before),” but not men.

Born in south Georgia, Reynolds and his family moved to Michigan and eventually wound up in southeastern Florida, according to the website of the Florida Artists Hall of Fame, where he was inducted in 1993.

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.

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.


(CNN) — Friends and famous admirers of actor Burt Reynolds are paying tribute to the late legend upon news of his death.

Reynolds, 82, died Thursday after suffering a cardiac arrest, according to his agent Todd Eisner.

“Burt Reynolds was one of my heroes. He was a trailblazer,” former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Twitter. “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…My thoughts are with his family.”

The range of Reynolds’ talent and the memorable roles he played is reflected in the films for which he’s being remembered — everything from “Smokey and the Bandit” to “Boogie Nights,” in which he played a director of adult films.

Director Kevin Smith called Reynolds “THE movie star of my childhood.”

“I always loved how Burt Reynolds worked with his friends as often as he could and then showcased the fun of movie-making in the end credits of his flicks,” he wrote on Twitter. “He was true American icon. Hate to see him go…”

Other tributes include:

Actor Michael Chiklis

“I owe my career, at least in part, to the great Burt Reynolds. Heartbroken to learn of his passing. He was one of a kind. A fun loving, charismatic talent who did many good deeds quietly, without personal expectation but rather out of the kindness of his extraordinary heart. RIP.” — via Twitter

Actor Billy Dee Williams

“Burt Reynolds was a friend of mine, sad to hear of his passing.” — via Twitter

Former NFL player Jarrett Payton

“Burt Reynolds and my dad were close friends. BR gave my dad this FSU leather jacket around 95. The day I committed to The #Canes, @walterpayton came home, grab the jacket & said ‘time to get rid of this.’ RIP BR.” — via Twitter

Comedian Patton Oswalt

“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.” — via Twitter

Host Steve Harvey

“Very sad to hearing about the passing of Burt Reynolds. He was a great actor, a philanthropist and a pioneer of the cool mustache. Thank you, Burt. You will be missed.” — via Twitter

Actress Yvette Nicole Brown

“This has broken my heart. I loved #BurtReynolds. #BestLittleWhoreHouseInTexas was my favorite of his films. Losing so many heroes. This sucks. It really sucks.” — via Twitter

Actor Josh Gad

“RIP to another legend. Grew up with my parents, my brothers and a worn out VHS copy of Cannon Ball Run, watched Deliverance on my first date with my wife (don’t ask) & revisit Boogie Nights every few months to marvel at his performance. A very great loss.” — via Twitter

Writer/director Edgar Wright

“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.” – via Twitter

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“‘Stroker Ace was born to race’

Much respect to you Burt Reynolds. RIP.” — via Twitter

Actress Lauren Holly

“RIP Burt Reynolds. You were one of a kind. I was lucky to work with you.” — via Twitter