In the early ‘60s, Burt Reynolds graced our screens for the first time and left an unforgettable mark in our hearts. He shined with his twinkly, mischievous charm and solid acting skills, and it didn’t take long for him to become Hollywood’s new leading man. His lively career spanned over six decades, and while he had his ups and downs, he still managed to create a memorable legacy.
Reynold’s passing in 2018 broke many people’s hearts, including the numerous women who fell in love with him through the years. In particular, the one who got away, Sally Field, who stated, “He will be in my history and my heart, for as long as I live.”
We’ve collected a selection of surprising facts for you that highlight exactly how talented this true movie star was.
He Had Dreams of Becoming a Football Player
Burt Reynolds was born on February 11, 1936, in Lansing, Michigan. Surprisingly, Burt didn’t have any dreams of making it big on the silver screen. Instead, he was focused on football. The star was a skilled player and attended Florida State University on a football scholarship. But an unfortunate (or fortunate?) car accident threw his athletic dreams out the window. He suffered a severe knee injury, which made it impossible for him to get back in the game.
After coming to terms with his doomed football career, Reynolds thought of joining his father in the police force. He played around with this idea for a while, but a drama teacher named Watson B. Duncan planted a different idea in young Reynolds’s mind. He encouraged him to pursue acting.
He Caught the Acting Bug in College
Following several motivational conversations with his drama teacher, Watson B. Duncan, Reynolds tried out for a play he was producing. Duncan was so impressed by this charismatic student that he cast him in the lead role. Reynold’s spectacular performance won him the 1956 Florida State Drama Award.
Reynolds’s award included a scholarship to the Hyde Park Playhouse, a summer stock theatre in New York. Thanks to that scholarship trip, Reynold’s met Joanne Woodward, who helped him find an agent. She described him as a “cute, shy, attractive boy. He had the kind of lovely personality that made you want to do something for him.”
He Juggled Several Jobs in Manhattan
After graduating in 1958, Reynolds returned to the city to immerse himself in the world of acting full time. As he refined his skills in acting classes, he supported himself with several menial jobs. He waited tables, washed dishes, and even worked as a bouncer at the Roseland Ballroom.
His big break finally came in 1961, when he landed the role of Skip in Broadway’s Look, We’ve Come Through. His Broadway debut was a huge success and gained him the attention of several influential people. In an instant, everyone wanted a piece of this handsome actor.
Why He Left Gunsmoke
From New York’s theatres to Hollywood’s flashy screens, Burt rapidly transitioned from an unknown young man to a rising star. In 1962, he landed the role of blacksmith Quint Asper in the Western drama Gunsmoke, beating over 300 other men for the part.
He promised to remain with the series until it ended but left after three seasons in 1965. Burt told The New York Times that filming the series was “the happiest period of my life. I hated to leave that show, but I felt I had served my apprenticeship and there wasn’t room for two leading men.”
Why He Turned Down the Role of James Bond
When you’ve been in Hollywood long enough, you’re bound to turn down some incredible roles. It’s hard to know whether the role will prove successful, and many times actors find themselves turning down jobs that could have potentially earned them Grammy nominations.
Reynolds was no stranger to this situation and over the course of his six-decade career, he has turned down some prime roles, including the chance to play James Bond in 1969. He explained his decision: “In my infinite wisdom, I said to [producer] Cubby Broccoli, ‘An American can’t play James Bond. It just can’t be done.’”
The Role He Regrets Turning Down the Most
Reynolds turned down the role of Han Solo in Star Wars, McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and John McClane in Die Hard. But the most prominent role he turned down was Garrett Breedlove in 1983’s Terms of Endearment.
Director James L. Brooks wrote the character with Reynolds in mind, but the actor gave it up to work on a different film, Stroke Ace. “Nobody told me I could have probably done Terms and Universal would have waited until I was finished before making Stroker,” he remarked. Ultimately, Jack Nicholson took the part and won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
He Turned Down His Oscar-Nominated Role Seven Times
Director Paul Thomas Anderson was determined to get Reynolds on board for the role of porn producer Jack Horner in his film Boogie Nights (1997). Initially, Reynolds cringed at the movie’s content and adamantly shook his head at the role. Anderson approached the actor seven times until he finally agreed to do it.
Anderson’s last attempt at persuading Reynolds made the actor go mad. But his rage further impressed Anderson, who promised him, “If you can do that in the movie, you’ll get nominated for an Academy Award.” Lo and behold! That’s exactly what happened.
Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds Were Fired on the Same Day
How did these two incredibly charismatic actors manage to get fired by Universal Studios on the same day? Well, the reason was pretty straightforward. According to the studio, Reynolds didn’t know how to act, and Eastwood’s Adam’s apple stuck out too far.
On the way out of the studio, the two actors shared a good laugh. Reynolds told his friend he’s in a lot of trouble: “I said, you know Clint, you’re in a hell of a lot of trouble. He said ‘Why?’ I said, ‘I can learn to act, you’ll never get rid of that Adam’s apple.’”
The Injury That Caused Reynolds to Lose 40 Pounds
In 1984, a blow to the face by a metal chair shattered Reynold’s jaw. It happened on the set of the buddy-crime film City Heat, when the man fighting Reynold’s character picked up a regular chair instead of the special one that was supposed to break easily.
Reynolds fell to the ground and felt a “blinding headache and ringing in my ears.” The blow was so hard that Reynolds couldn’t speak without hearing his jaw click repeatedly. “My bite was so lopsided I couldn’t chew. I could only drink liquids, and I began losing weight,” he explained.
He Spiraled Into Addiction
Reynold’s shocking weight loss led people to believe he was terribly sick. Rumors of AIDS and cancer began to surface, and all that talk took a toll on the injured actor. To make matters worse, he developed a serious drug dependency (50 sleeping pills a day!).
Luckily, he managed to break free from his pill addiction thanks to the support of his family and friends. But the pain persisted. Reynolds suffered from recurring problems with his jaw for the rest of his life. He described the feeling as such: “When your jaw, your bite, goes off, your equilibrium goes off, too. You’re in a kind of brain pain that comes up and whips your eyeballs out.”
His First Love, Judy Carne
Reynolds first wife was Judy Carne. He met her on a flight to Florida in 1962, and a year later asked for her hand in marriage. Judy revealed that Burt had swept her off her feet when they first met and agreeing to go out with him was a no-brainer.
But their fairytale story didn’t last long, and after three short years, they called it quits. Despite their differences, Reynolds was devastated in 2015 after Carne passed away from pneumonia. A source close to the actor revealed, “This [her death] has hit him like a ton of bricks. For all the problems they had, Judy was one of the great loves of his life.”
Loni Anderson Felt Like Cinderella
Burt Reynolds met his second wife, Loni Anderson, on the set of Stroker Ace where they portrayed two passionate lovers. It didn’t take long for their on-set feelings to trickle into their personal lives. They developed genuine feelings for each other and dated for several years before tying the knot in 1988.
They hosted a huge, flashy ceremony that suited both actors’ extroverted personalities. Anderson said she felt like Cinderella, who had just married Prince Charming, and Reynolds gushed over how grateful he was for marrying his best friend.
They Adopted a Son
It didn’t take long for the newlyweds to feel that something was missing. They longed for a bundle of joy to join their family, so they adopted a baby boy named Quinton. Reynolds proudly announced the adoption in The Palm Beach Post, letting the whole world know that, finally, at 52, he was a father.
Reynolds was once quoted saying, “He is my biggest achievement. He’s a wonderful young man who is now working as a camera assistant in Hollywood. He never asked for my help with his career, he did it all himself, and I’m so proud of him. I love him very much.”
Reynolds Regretted Marrying Anderson
Reynolds and Anderson’s marriage gradually dissolved into one big mess. Reynolds, for one, wasn’t too happy with Anderson’s spending habits. He accused her of blowing off all their money on ridiculously expensive outfits so that she wouldn’t be seen wearing the same one twice.
The couple ultimately split in 1993. He admitted that a lack of intimacy, as well as different priorities, caused them to part ways. He went so far as to say that he regretted marrying her in the first place. He claimed he knew it was a bad idea even as he walked down the aisle on their wedding day.
Anderson Claimed He Was Abusive
Reynolds called Anderson an unemployed actress with little confidence and poor mothering skills. Ouch. In return, Anderson lashed out and accused him of being an abusive husband. In 1995, she announced that he had physically abused her 12 times.
The actress confessed that she had kept it a secret for years because she didn’t want to cause a scene. She finally let it all out in an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle. She claimed that he hit her, shoved her, and left bruises all over her body. Their long and agonizing divorce finally came to an end in 2017, after Reynolds finished paying off everything he owed (mainly child support).
Sally Field, The One Who Got Away
Ahhh…. Sally Field. The darling, doe-eyed brunette who robbed Reynolds’s heart. The actor confessed that of all the women he dated, she was his biggest love. They met on the set of Smokey and the Bandit in 1977 and dated for five magical years.
Years after their breakup, Reynolds disclosed in his memoir that their failed relationship was the biggest regret of his life. “I would’ve been better when I was grown up and a lot more mature. I was pretty wild,” he wrote.
Why Did Sally and Burt Break Up?
In Sally’s memoir, In Pieces, she referred to her and Burt as “a perfect match of flaws.” She confessed that their relationship was very complicated and hurtful. But that’s not to say it lacked love and compassion. It was a weird, messy mingling of both sides of the spectrum.
“What happened is that I stopped existing. I dressed for him, looked for him, walked for him. He asked me to marry him many times, [but] I knew his heart wasn’t in it,” Sally confessed. The two split up after five years, a decision Reynolds regretted his whole life.
He Regretted Posing Nude for Cosmopolitan
Reynolds agreed to pose nude because he “thought it would be a kick.” But years later, he came to regret that bold move. Reynolds told Piers Morgan he was “very embarrassed it.” But Cosmopolitan, on the other hand, was nothing short of elated.
Reynold’s bare body caused 1.6 million copies of the magazine to sell out. For months, Burt was basically harassed on the streets by women pleading for an autograph. But he didn’t feel all too good about his frisky centerfold gig. He felt like it cost him an Oscar nomination for his performance in Starting Over (1979).
He Felt Clueless When It Came to Women
Despite his reputation as a hunky womanizer, Reynolds confessed he knew little about women. “I don’t know s***. The guy who tells me he does is arrogant and stupid,” he told E! News. But not everyone agreed with his honest statement.
Chris Rock, Reynolds’s co-star from the film, The Longest Yard, disagreed and said, “Anybody who’s been married and divorced as many times as him has got great stories. You just sit there. Burt Reynolds on women — it should be a ride at Disney.”
He Believed Most Men Are A**holes
In an interview with GQ Magazine, the actor confessed he believed most men behaved hideously: “It’s God’s fault. We just do what we are programmed to do. But if I knew why, life would be easier. I’m not sure why I was an a**hole. I just hope I can fix some of it.”
In that same interview, he confessed to missing his ex-girlfriend, Dinah Shore, whom he dated for four years. He missed her honesty, kindness, and her never ending optimism. Basically, all the traits Burt wished he had more of himself.
A Marlon Brando Look-Alike
Two handsome heartthrobs, Burt Reynolds and Marlon Brando were often compared. Instead of being flattered by the resemblance, both actors were upset. But they had good reason to feel that way! The comparisons led to some seriously annoying moments.
It got to the point where Reynolds was rejected from a film (Sayonara) because he looked too much like Brando (the film’s lead). Their physical similarities gave way to an exhausting and silly feud that lasted for several years.
Brando Seriously Disliked Reynolds
When Reynolds was considered for the part of Michael Corleone in 1972’s The Godfather, Brando threatened he would leave the cast before having to work on the same set with him. He thought Reynolds was a soulless narcissist.
In his words, “He is the epitome of something that makes me want to throw up … He is the epitome of everything that is disgusting about the thespian … He worships at the temple of his own narcissism.” That’s a pretty harsh thing to say about someone you haven’t even met in person.
The Reynolds-Brando Feud Took a Funny Turn
When Reynolds and Brando were nominated for the same Razzie award in 1997, things got pretty awkward. The award wasn’t desirable by any means. The clashing look alikes were competing against each other for Worst Supporting Actor.
Reynolds was nominated for his part in Striptease and Brando for his work on The Island of Dr. Moreau. Ultimately, Brando beat Reynolds by one vote, making him a worse actor than his look-alike. We wonder if he was satisfied by the result. It’s an embarrassing award, but at least he came out a winner, right?
Deliverance Was Incredibly Dangerous to Film
Looking back, Reynolds admitted that he had the time of his life on the set of the 1972 thriller, Deliverance. But he also said that the things they had to do on set were absolutely crazy, and he revealed that he didn’t know many actors who would agree to do them.
“They keep talking about a remake, but I don’t think you could find four actors crazy enough to do it. Not by any stretch of the imagination were we white water experts. We’d quit for the day and come back and practice,” he said, concluding with “[But] I have to admit that, in spite of the danger, or maybe because of the danger, it was the most fun I ever had.”
He Plunged Into a Mini Whirlpool
On the set of Deliverance, Reynolds found himself spiraling into a mini whirlpool. The scary moment happened after he fell over a 25-foot waterfall and plunged right into the spinning water. The frenzied rapids swallowed the desperate actor alive and, by some miracle, spit him out shortly after.
Reynolds sustained multiple injuries, including a serious one to his tailbone (which never fully went away). Moreover, the dizzying swirl ripped the clothes off his body! The startled actor got out of the water not only shaken but naked as well.
The Author of Stick Hated Reynold’s Adaptation
Reynolds was a huge fan of Stick, a novel written by Elmore Leonard in 1983. The book has an action-packed plot filled with thrilling scenes, and Reynolds felt like he could do an excellent job in turning it into a movie. Sadly, many disagreed with his final cut.
Studios kept pushing back the film’s release date, forcing Reynolds to re-shoot parts of the movie again and again. Their harsh rejections killed Reynold’s enthusiastic spirit. The final blow came when Elmore Leonard, the author himself, openly stated that he hated the adaptation.
He Clashed With the Director of Boogie Nights
Reynolds arrived on the set of Boogie Nights with little belief that anything good would come out of it. He butted heads a lot with director Anderson. One dispute became so violent that Reynolds nearly punched Anderson straight in the face.
He was so upset with the movie’s final cut that he even fired his agent for letting him accept the part. We bet the actor was ashamed of his impulsive move after the part earned him a nominee. Moral of the story, take a few deep breathes before you react.
Reynolds Was the Perfect Wingman
We’re not sure how great of a wingman Reynolds could have been, considering that he probably stole any girl who laid eyes on him. But according to former college buddy and ESPN sports host Lee Corso, the actor was the ultimate wingman in college.
The two played football together at Florida State University, and Corso referred to Reynolds as the “funniest guy on the team.” Humor AND good looks? There’s no way Reynolds was a proper wingman. We bet he stole 99% of the girls his friends were after.
He Ran Into Financial Troubles
In 1996, following his ugly divorce from Anderson and several bad investments, Reynolds filed for bankruptcy protection. He sold properties, auctioned off personal belongings, and did whatever he could to stabilize his situation.
“I’ve lost more money than is possible because I just haven’t watched it,” he told Vanity Fair; “I’ve still done well in terms of owning property and things like that. But I haven’t been somebody who’s been smart about his money.”
“It’s Always Possible to Spend More Money”
At the height of his fame, Reynolds owned a private jet, a helicopter, 150 horses, mansions in Beverly Hills and a massive ranch in Jupiter, Florida. Incredibly, the big spender told Vanity Fair that looking back, he “would have spent more money and had a lot more fun.”
In his heyday, the actor was making an estimated $10 million a year. We’re not sure how much of it he saved and invested, but when he passed away in 2018, his net worth was around $5 million. In any case, it’s safe to say that he led a very comfortable life.
A Spontaneous Pie Fight
When Reynolds appeared on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, he had no idea he would end up throwing pies at the show’s next guest, TV host Marc Summers. The battle began when Summers joined Leno, and the two made fun of Reynolds’s divorce.
All it took was a couple of insults for Reynolds to dump his mug on Summers’s lap. The atmosphere heated up, and the dispute was eventually settled in a pie fight. After the two boys let out enough steam and smeared each other’s faces, they ended it on an awkward note with an uncomfortable hug.
Burt’s Nighttime Club
Burt opened Burt’s Joint/Place in the late ‘70s. The club was located at the Omni International Hotel in downtown Atlanta, and it had a unique and slightly narcissistic décor – a glass dance floor with Burt’s face on it, along with the words “Burt’s Joint.”
Unfortunately, Reynolds’s nightlife career didn’t turn out as he expected it to, and he ended up closing the place after one short year. Even though Burt the nightclub owner didn’t work out so well, at least he had the guts to try, right?
He Released a Country Album
Reynolds decided to fulfill another one of his dreams when he released his country album, Ask Me What I Am in 1973. The disc came with a huge poster of Reynolds in a blue jumpsuit and a cowboy hat. Just what his lady listeners (and several men) longed for!
His album wasn’t a huge hit, although some die-hard fans rated it a 5/5. Ultimately, it’s a matter of taste. Some of his tracks are available on Youtube, and the entire album is up on Amazon. So, if you’re super interested in hearing his voice, give his album a go.
He Co-Wrote a Children’s Book
This might come as a surprise, but Reynolds co-wrote a sweet, whimsical children’s book titled Barkley Unleashed: A Pirate’s Tail. He wrote the story with Victoria Preminger, and their book hit the stores in 1997.
According to the book’s description, the tale “illustrates the importance of perseverance, the wonders of friendship, and the power of imagination.” It follows a dog named Barkley who sets on a journey to save a ship that pirates are attacking.
He Rocked a Toupee
For a while, Reynolds hid the fact he wore a toupee. But his 1996 bankruptcy ordeal exposed he owed over $100,000 to Edward Katz Hair Design. Gradually, Reynolds grew confident in his own skin and spoke up about his toupee collection.
His hairpieces allowed his to sport different hairstyles. Shorter, longer, curly, straight, he could enjoy all styles. If we’re being honest, we doubt Reynolds really needed a toupee to begin with. His sexiness had little to do with the hair on his head.
Charlie and Itchy Became Friends Forever
Reynolds voiced Charlie in Don Bluth’s 1989 animated movie, All Dogs Go to Heaven. And while most voiceover actors record their part individually, Reynolds read his line in the studio with actor Dom DeLuise, who played Itchy.
Both canine characters are super tight in the film, and this connection was reflected in real life as well. Reynolds and Deluise recorded their dialogues together and often joked around and improvised. Bluth admitted that their improvisations were “often better than the original script.”
He Thought Angelina Jolie Was an Incredible Director
Reynolds told GQ Magazine that he believed Angelina Jolie inherited her father’s talent and charisma. “I think she’s a great director. She has what her father has. Talent. And charisma. She always has. I remember even when she was ten, she was already provocative.”
Reynolds told Jolie’s father he was in for some trouble, because his daughter was going to grow up to be a beautiful, powerful woman. His predictions were certainly on point. There aren’t many men who would pass on the opportunity to be with the stunning beauty.
He Enjoyed Doing Crazy Stunts
Reynolds was always a very active and physical guy. Despite having to give up his football dreams, he remained an adrenaline junkie who took up any opportunity he had on set to jump, kick, flip, and dive (even if it cost him several injuries that remained with him all his life).
On the set of Smokey and the Bandit, Reynolds did many of the stunts himself. “I did a lot of things that were insane and crazy. Not for the money though, it was mostly for the fun,” Reynolds dished in a Q&A at the screening of the film.
The Last Thing Burt Did Before He Passed Away
Reynolds died of a heart attack on September 6, 2018 at the age of 82. One of the last things he did before his heart failed was rehearse lines for his role in Quentin Tarantino’s film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
“I found out from three different people that the last thing he did just before he died was run lines with his assistant,” Tarantino told Esquire, “Then he went to the bathroom, and that’s when he had his heart attack.”
Brad Pitt Was Grateful for Getting to Know Reynolds
Brad Pitt told Esquire Magazine that his two days he spent on set with the iconic actor were “some of the greatest moments” in his career. “You’ve gotta understand, for me, growing up in the Ozarks and watching ‘Smokey and the Bandit’, you know, he was the guy.”
Pitt added, “I had never met him, so being there with him reminded me of how much I enjoyed him as a kid. And then getting to spend those days with him in rehearsal, I was really touched by him.” The whole cast of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood were in a state of shock when he passed away.
His Death Was Totally Unexpected
Reynolds’s niece Nancy Lee Hess stated that while her uncle dealt with a few health issues, his death was totally unexpected. Seeing someone as tough as Reynolds suffer a sudden heart attack was a slap to the face and a huge wake up call for everyone around him.
“He was tough. Anyone who breaks their tailbone 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,” Nancy told the press.