Hollywood is mourning the death of one of its icons after Burt Reynolds, the star of films such as Boogie Nights, Deliverance and Smokey and the Bandit, passed away at the age of 82.
The legendary actor is reported to have died in a Florida hospital with his family by his side, after having suffered a heart attack on Thursday (September 6th). He had undergone major heart bypass surgery eight years ago.
Reynolds’ niece, Nancy Lee Hess, told BBC News that her uncle’s death had left the whole family “with a broken heart”.
“My uncle was not just a movie icon, he was a generous, passionate and sensitive man who was dedicated to his family, friends, fans and acting students,” she said. “He has had health issues, however, this was totally unexpected. I want to thank all of his amazing fans who have always supported and cheered him on, through all of the hills and valleys of his life and career.”
Though he starred in nearly 100 films, Reynolds enjoyed the best part of ten years at the top of his game as an actor during the 1970s. Having broken through with 1972’s Oscar-nominated Deliverance, he was renowned as a classic Hollywood sex symbol, combining his effortless charm with rugged good looks.
He enjoyed further hits with action comedy Smokey and the Bandit, which was the second highest-grossing film of 1977 behind Star Wars: A New Hope, and 1974’s The Longest Yard. One of his last hits was 1982’s The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, a comedy musical in which he starred alongside Dolly Parton.
However, his star waned as the Eighties progressed, with his fortune decimated by poor investments in restaurants and a Floridian football team. In 1997, though, he enjoyed a brief career revival with his role in Boogie Nights as a porn film director, for which he was nominated for an Oscar.
Reynolds was married twice, firstly in a two year relationship with British actress Judy Carne in 1963, but their divorce two years later was caused by accusations of her lavish spending habits and his infidelity. He then married American actress Loni Anderson in 1988, and adopted their son, Quinton, but that relationship disintegrated in 1993.
However, he also had an on/off relationship with his Smokey and the Bandit co-star Sally Field, whom he later said was the love of his life.
“There are times in your life that are so indelible, they never fade away,” the now-71 year old Field said in a statement reacting to Reynolds’ death. “They stay alive, even 40 years later. My years with Burt never leave my mind. He will be in my history and my heart, for as long as I live. Rest, Buddy.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger was just one of dozens of tributes to flood in after Reynolds’ death was announced. “He was a trailblazer,” the Terminator star said. “He showed the way to transition from being an athlete to being the highest paid actor, and he always inspired me.”
Reynolds had been due to star in Tarantino’s Manson family murders film Once Upon a Time In Hollywood at the time of his death. He was to play George Spahn, the rancher who allowed the Manson family to live on his property.
“I always wanted to experience everything and go down swinging,” he wrote in his second autobiography, ‘But Enough About Me’, in 2015. “Well, so far, so good. I know I'm old, but I feel young. And there's one thing they can never take away: Nobody had more fun than I did.”