Burt Reynolds became a Hollywood legend in his own right with an acting career that spanned almost 60 years. After his breakout role in 1972’s Deliverance, Reynolds would later take on iconic roles in The Longest Yard, Smokey and the Bandit, Boogie Nights, and more. A lot of major Hollywood actors even owe it to Reynolds, who turned down major roles that made them stars as big as he was. This is why everyone is taking a moment to remember Burt Reynolds upon the news of his passing in 2018.
Surprisingly, Reynolds didn’t even want to get into acting and the profession has nothing to do with what he calls his greatest accomplishment.
Burt Reynolds Originally Wanted To Become A Football Player
Burt Reynolds grew up in Michigan before his family moved to Riviera Beach, Florida during his teen years. He began playing football and 10th grade at Palm Beach High School, where he was named First Team All State and All Southern as a fullback.
His football talents took him to Florida State University on a football scholarship. His intentions of becoming a professional football player were put to an end in 1957. That year, he decided to give up football after a crushing loss to North Carolina State. His abilities to play were hindered by multiple injuries.
He Was Encouraged To Act After His Professor Heard Him Read Shakespeare
After giving up football, Reynolds still continued to pursue an education at Palm Beach Junior College. It was there that he took an English class taught by Watson B. Duncan, who encouraged Reynolds to try out for a play that he was producing called Outward Bound.
Duncan wanted Reynolds to try out after hearing him read Shakespeare in class. It’s almost unsurprising that Reynolds ended up getting cast as the lead. He ended up winning the Florida State Drama Award in 1956 for that performance. Since then, Reynolds has cited Duncan as a mentor and the most influential person in his life.
He Soon Got Serious About His Acting Gigs
Along with his Florida State Drama Award, Burt Reynolds was also granted a scholarship to the Hyde Park Playhouse, a summer stock theater in New York. Even though he had no intentions of becoming an actor at that point, he took up the opportunity to get out of taking on summer jobs that were physically demanding.
While in New York, actress Joanne Woodward helped Reynolds find an agent and he subsequently made his Broadway debut on Look, We’ve Come Throughand even went on tour with the company. Afterward, he began taking acting classes and was told that he should move to Hollywood.
The Reason He Was Rejected From A Marlon Brando Film
One of the first movie roles that Burt Reynolds auditioned for was for the 1957 flick, Sayonara. He didn’t end up snagging the role since he was told that he looked too much like Marlon Brando, who was cast as the lead.
Despite this initial rejection, Reynolds would get a lot of movie offers over the course of his career and there were plenty roles he turned down that he regrets. His biggest regret is turning down a chance to play James Bond in 1969, telling producer Cubby Broccoli, “An American can’t play James Bond. It just can’t be done.”
Speaking of Marlon Brando, the actor had some strong opinions on Burt Reynolds.
Reynolds Regrets That Nude Cover Shoot He Did In 1972
Among other regrets that Burt Reynolds has had in his life, one of the biggest was posing nude for a 1972 issue of Cosmopolitan. Reynolds got roped into it after appearing on The Tonight Showwith CosmoEditor Helen Gurley Brown.
1972’s Deliverance had come out just as all 1.6 million copies of Reynolds’ cover sold out. The actor lamented that the cover overshadowed the movie: “I thought it cost some actors in Deliverance and Academy Award… I think it cost Jon [Voight]. I think it cost Ned Beatty, who certainly deserved an Oscar nomination. I think it hurt me, too.”
Burt Reynolds Was Nominated For An Oscar For A Role He Didn’t Want
One of Reynolds most iconic roles is that of pornography producer Jack Horner in 1997’s Boogie Nights. But what you don’t know is that getting Reynolds to sign on to the film was like pulling teeth.
Director Paul Thomas Anderson had to ask Reynolds eight times before he finally broke down. Reynolds recalled, “One night – the eighth time – he came to my hotel room and I said, ‘Look, you don’t get it.’ And I went a little berserk. And at the end of the tirade, he said, ‘If you can do that in the movie, you’ll get nominated for an Academy Award. And he was right.”
Reynolds Suffered From An On-Set Stunt For Most Of His Life
During the ’80s, Reynolds lost so much weight – 40 pounds, to be exact – that people speculated he had contracted AIDS. While that was far from the truth, something did happen to him that caused him to look so frail.
He was struck in the face with a metal chair while filming 1984’s City Heatand broke his jaw, and for a while was unable to eat solid foods, which explained the weight loss. He would subsequently suffer from the joint and muscle disorder TMJ for the rest of his life and at one point was driven into a severe drug dependency.
Burt Reynolds Had Enemies In Hollywood
Burt Reynolds was told that he looked like Marlon Brando early on in his career, which may have even added to Reynolds’ admiration for the Hollywood heavyweight. But for Brando’s part, he for some reason hated Burt Reynolds.
Brando threatened to drop out of The Godfatherwhen Reynolds was considered for the role of Michael Corleone. He has never even met Reynolds personally, but still felt compelled to say at one point, “He is the epitome of something that makes me want to throw up… He worships at the temple of his own narcissism.”
He Might Have Earned An Oscar For This
Surprisingly, Burt Reynolds never managed to actually win an Oscar. But he might have, if not for the fact that he turned down the lead role in 1983’s Terms of Endearment. He chose to do Stroker Aceat the time, so the role in Termswent to Jack Nicholson, who ended up winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Reynolds has said of the role, “I regret that one most of all because it was a real acting part. I wish I would have done it, and thinking back now, it was really a stupid decision, but I made a lot of stupid decisions in that period.”
Remember That One Time He Made A Country Album?
For as long as his career was, one thing about Burt Reynolds that is often overlooked is the album he released in 1973. Reynolds had a reputation in entertainment for having quite an ego, so this probably explains why he decided to record Ask Me What I Am.
If you can’t recall this milestone in Reynolds’ career, it’s probably because the album was largely unforgettable. One critic even gave the album a score of “E+.” For what it’s worth, he did sing a song for Smokey and the Bandit, as well as alongside Dolly Parton in The Best Little … in Texas.
Speaking of Smokey and the Bandit, it hits closer to home for Reynolds than you’d expect…
Smokey and the BanditWas Written By His Stunt Double
1977’s Smokey and the Bandit was ostensibly the most popular film in Burt Reynolds’ career. He may have been the star of the film, but his connection to it goes even deeper than that. Smokey and the Bandit was created by Hollywood stuntman Hal Needham.
Needham frequently doubled for Burt Reynolds and the pals became so close that they became roommates. Needham lived in Reynolds’ poolhouse for 12 years. He was working as Reynolds’ stunt double on the set of 1976’sGator, when he got the idea for Smokey and the Bandit. He noticed his Coors beer brought in from California kept getting stolen from his fridge.
Smokey and the BanditOutsold Star WarsFor A Brief Moment
Smokey and the Banditwas a huge hit when it came out on May 19, 1977. In fact, it was so huge, it was the only film in history to outsell Star Wars, which came out six days later. Considering that few films could hardly stand up to the premiere of a Star Warsinstallment these days, it’s surprising that Smokey was able to outsell Han Solo – for a week at least.
The first week after both films premiered, Smokey cashed in at $1.7 million, over the $1.6 that Star Warsmade. In the latter’s defense, however, Smokey and the Banditwas showing in almost 500 theaters, while Star Warswas shown in less than 50.
And speaking of Star Wars, would you believe Burt Reynolds was supposed to be in that film too?
Burt Reynolds Had The Chance To Play Han Solo
While it’s impossible to imagine anyone other than Harrison Ford as Han Solo, there was a short window in history where things could have been different. In fact, before Ford was even cast, Star Warsproducers offered the part of Han Solo to Burt Reynolds.
Like many other distinct roles he was offered, Reynolds turned down Han Solo as well. Though we can’t know for sure why he turned down this role, at the end of the day it probably just wasn’t meant to be. It’s not like he didn’t have roles that made him iconic anyway.
Reynolds Wasn’t Having It With Marc Summers
One of the more memorable moments outside of his career was that time he got into a pie fight with television host Marc Summers on a 1994 episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. During the segment, Reynolds gets visibly irritated with Summers for turning his back on him and after Summers took a jab at Reynolds’ divorce, Reynolds wasn’t having it.
Later Summers said of the incident, “He hugged me and said, ‘I only did that because I really like you.’ You wait to get on The Tonight Showyour whole life. You’re sitting next to Burt Reynolds. He drops water on your crotch, then you get into a pie fight!”
Burt Reynolds Passes Away At 82 Years Old
On September 6, 2018, the world received the sad announcement that Burt Reynolds passed away at the age of 82. At the end of his decades-long career, he suffered from heart problems and eventually ended up at the Jupiter Medical Center in Florida, where cardiopulmonary arrest took his life.
He is survived by his adopted son Quinton Anderson Reynolds, who entered his life during his first year of marriage with ex-wife Loni Anderson. Reynolds has said of his son, “He is my greatest achievement. He’s a wonderful young man and is now working as a camera assistant in Hollywood. He never asked for any help with his career, he did it all himself, and I’m so proud of him. I love him very much.”