This is the epic story of one of the most legendary stars to ever strut onto Hollywood.
Burt Reynolds was probably one of the most influential figures in American history, in Hollywood and the automotive enthusiast community. Originally called "Buddy," to differentiate himself from his father, Burt Milo Reynolds Sr. Burt Leon Reynolds had a distinctly American upbringing. Although initially born in Lansing, Michigan, on February 11, 1936. Burt would eventually tell people he was born in Waycross, Georgia, because "he didn't want people to think he was a Yankee." But, of course, having been born in Michigan certainly didn't mean he grew up in the North. Instead, his father was drafted into the military when Burt was just six years old, placing him in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. After his father was deployed to the beach of Normandy, the family moved back to Michigan and would later settle in Riviera Beach, Florida.
Watch the latest Motorious Podcast here.
Early Life And Football
This is where Burt Thrived as a star football player; he lived the American dream as the hotshot whose dad was the police chief. Soon after starting junior high school, Bury met Jimmy Hooks, who was living in an abusive situation. The two were best friends, and eventually, the Reynolds family took Jimmy into their home to get him away from the abuse he had suffered. Burt ultimately attended college via a football scholarship but sustained a knee injury that prevented him from continuing. He gave up the scholarship because he said it would have made him feel like a leach otherwise but later went back to playing football after surgery. Unfortunately, things were not all rainbows and sunshine for the aspiring athlete as he soon suffered a tragic car crash which again put him in the hospital. Eventually, he returned but was quickly blamed for a few lost games because of his various injuries.
The Beginning Of A Star
While still playing football in college, Burt began acting and eventually was given the scholarship to play in "Summer Stock" in New York. This proved to be a great opportunity as he met Joanne Woodward, an actress, who helped him find an agent. Although Reynolds still wanted to play football, he was fed up with the sport after being blamed for a lost North Carolina game. He was finally on the path he was born to walk, but he still needed some money, so he ended up waiting tables and driving a delivery truck to support his acting career. While things seemed dim in the financial aspect for Burt, his luck was about to turn around totally.
Burt's Big Break
Eventually, things started going pretty well for Burt as he received a contract with Universal Studios for seven years and began working with Darren Mgavin on the show "Riverboat." However, after 20 episodes, Burt Reynolds was fired for what he described in many stories as "bad acting." Still, he was later revealed to have been in a conflict with Darren Mgavin over some alleged harsh words Mgavin had said to a female extra. This resulted in a physical confrontation, and Burt was right back to square one as it became hard to find work because of his reputation for being difficult to work with.
Once again, Burt found just the opportunity he needed to scrape his way back into the spotlight with the hit TV show Gunsmoke. This made life a hell of a lot easier and more fun for Reynolds, who described it as the best time of his life because of the great chemistry he had with his fellow cast members. However, despite Gunsmoke's success and Burt's happiness, it was evident that Burt was more of a leading man than a supporting role. In 1965, Burt decided to leave the show after receiving some advice from the actor who played Doc.
And They Called It Puppy Love
About a year after joining the cast of Gunsmoke, Burt met his first wife, who he married six months later in 1963. While many people stay with their first marriage for many years or even decades, the relationship between Burt Reynolds and Judy Carne lasted for just two years. The two had different claims as to why they split, with Juby claiming that Burt was an abuser and Burt bringing up her continued drug abuse. Eventually, the pair made amends when Burt gave her a job later in life.
After leaving Gunsmoke, Reynolds starred in "Hawk," where he played a Native American investigator. The show was canceled after just three months, and Burt soon began working in movies such as "100 Rifles" with Jim Brown and Raquel Welch in 1969, "Sam Whiskey" also in 1969, and "Run Simon Run!" The final film started a bustling relationship with his co-star Inger Stevens. Unfortunately, after an argument with Reynolds in 1970, Inger Stevens ingested 50 barbiturate pills, resulting in overdose and death.
Yet another role that resulted in a relationship was Burt's appearance on Dinah's Place with Dinah Shore, who he was nearly 20 years younger than at the time. This relationship lasted for four years, making it the longest relationship he had until that point. Ladies troubles just kept coming after Burt with the film "The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing," in which he co-starred with Sarah Miles. This one didn't have much to do with romance, but it did implicate Reynolds in the death of David Whiting. David was Miles's financial adviser and was quite jealous of Burt and Sarah as they had spent some time together earlier that night celebrating Burt's birthday. He allegedly struck her, but she could escape the situation and seek refuge with Reynolds. The next day, David Whiting was found dead in Sarah's hotel room after hitting his head while on drugs.
In 1972 Burt Reynolds worked on the set of "Deliverance" about four Atlanta businessmen on a treacherous canoeing trip gone wrong. Reynolds wanted to do all of his stunts, much to the director's dismay, which eventually led to tragedy. The story goes that one particular scene had Reynolds's character falling off a waterfall. This act was supposed to be performed by a dummy, but when Reynolds saw the footage, he said, "it looks like a dummy going off the falls" and insisted on doing the stunt himself. Despite the director's warning against the action, Burt did it anyway, which led to him shattering his tailbone, which gave him a ton of pain for the rest of his life. While in the hospital, Reynolds reportedly asked the director how the footage looked, to which he replied, "it looks like a dummy going off the falls."
Likely the most devastating injury in Burt Reynolds's life came in 1984. He was hit in the face with what was supposed to have been a breakaway chair. Of course, you probably already know where this is going. That prop was not, in fact, a breakaway chair, but rather it broke away his jaw, leaving it shattered and in need of surgery. This started a downward spiral for Reynolds as he fell into a harsh habit of painkiller abuse.
By The South, For The South, About The South
"White Lightning," a film about a moonshiner turned police informant on a revenge mission for his murdered brother, was the first movie in a series that Burt and the producers said was "By the south, For the south, and About the south." Another film of this type was "The Longest Yard," a football movie regarded as the greatest of all time in the sports genre. This is possibly because it was filmed within a Georgia minimum security prison and used inmates as extras to add realism. "Gator," in 1976, was also a giant leap in Reynolds's career as it was the first film that Burt had ever directed himself.
Smokey And The Bandit
While filming "Gator" in 1976, Reynolds and a stuntman/director Hal Needham ran out of Coors beer. They later discovered that the maid was the one drinking it. Still, this humorous turn of events resulted in Needham making a new movie called "Smokey And The Bandit" about a couple of modern-day cowboys trucking a load of illegal beer from Texas to Atlanta. While filming, he became incredibly close with Sally Field, who played Frog, and soon the pair began dating, and the two would stay together for five years after that. Another exciting piece of the "Smokey And The Bandit" story is that Jackie Gleason, Sheriff Buford T. Justice, was so fond of scotch at the time that he had a secret code with his assistant. Every time Gleason asked for a hamburger, the assistant would bring him some scotch, making Jackie's incredible performance as the dimwitted Sheriff even more hysterical.
What Can We Say? The Guy Likes Cars!
"Smokey And The Bandit" started a trend of racing/car films directed by Hal Needham and starred by Burt Reynolds. One of the most notable was a film entitled "Stroker Ace." This 1983 classic was filmed at the Talladega Superspeedway and brought Burt Reynolds and Lonnie Anderson together. The pair began a romantic relationship for five years before they married in 1988. After adopting a son together, the couple lived happily together until they divorced in 1994, two years after losing his mother in 1992. Yet again, Burt was accused of abuse while Burt accused Lonnie of infidelity.
Despite a net worth of over $60,000,000 in the 1980s, Burt Reynolds was crippled by the divorce and eventually broke. Reynolds's significant financial slip-up was investing in two different fast food restaurant chains losing tens of millions of dollars. He was also in debt with a film network from which he had borrowed $4,000,000. From that point forward, his pay was cut severely, having been paid just $200,000 for the film "Strip Tease" instead of his co-star, who had made $12,500,000.
More Personal Life Issues
In 2004 Burt Reynolds lost his father to natural causes, with his sister dying just seven years later. He was incredibly close to both of them, which shattered him as a man. Despite this, things appeared to look up after a back surgery which relieved some pain for Burt. After this, Reynolds attempted to quit taking pain pills but soon saw a terrifying relapse. After selling off some assets, it was revealed that Reynolds was severely behind on his mortgage payments, so his friend and neighbor purchased his home and let him stay there for a meager rent.
In 2017, Burt Reynolds would film his final movie entitled "The Last Movie Star," which seemed to reflect the way Reynolds felt about the inevitable end to come. Burt Reynolds was 82 years old, and his health was failing him severely. When asked to reflect on his life and talk about any regrets, Reynolds said that the only thing he would have changed was spending more money and having more fun. Unfortunately, Reynolds was rushed to the hospital in 2018 due to chest pains, where he later died, having lived one of the most eventful and fulfilling lives in history.