Burt Reynolds and the Photos That Reveal His Incredible Life

The world has been shocked and saddened by the news of actor Burt Reynolds’ passing. While he was in many movies and TV shows which fans will never forget, some may not remember how long successful his career in the Hollywood spotlight was. Here’s a look through photos of the actor’s fantastic life and legacy.

1. He originally didn’t want to be an actor!

Burt Reynolds circa 1975

Burt Reynolds circa 1975 | Terry Disney/Express/Getty Images

Although he had a very successful acting career, Burt Reynolds didn’t originally want to go into show business! Reynolds, a Michigan native, attended Florida State University on a football scholarship. He only turned to acting after an injury put his football dreams on the backburner.

Next: And then on the small screen …

2. His big break on TV

Burt Reynolds in a promotional poster for ‘Riverboat’ |NBC Television/Getty Images

Reynolds’ had instant star power, even when promoting his first roles. He had his big-screen debut in the film Angel Baby before becoming a regular on the show Riverboat and then starring in Gunsmoke. While he may be best known for his work on the silver screen, he reportedly acted in hundreds of TV episodes throughout the span of his career.

Next: Off-screen …

3. One of his earliest Hollywood romances

Burt Reynolds with Lori Nelson

Burt Reynolds with Lori Nelson | Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

You can’t talk about Burt Reynolds without talking about the harem of beautiful women he was romantically linked to over the years. Rumors first swirled in 1959 that Reynolds and actress Lori Nelson were going to be married. Their engagement was called off multiple times, and they never made it down the altar.

Next: Burt Reynolds as 007?

4. He was almost James Bond

Burt Reynolds with Michael and Shakira Caine | Keystone/Getty Images

Reynolds reportedly turned down the role of James Bond because he didn’t think an American could pull off the popular spy role. But as the picture about clearly shows, turning down the role didn’t stop him from attending the film’s premiere.

Next: Of course, you also can’t talk about Burt Reynolds without talking about …

5. His big break

Burt Reynolds in 'Deliverance'

Burt Reynolds in ‘Deliverance’ | MSNBC via YouTube

Reynolds’ career expanded through the 1960s with regular TV and film work. But he truly cemented himself as a serious actor in the 1970s after he stole the big screen in Deliverance. He also gained fame early in the decade from roles in White Lightning and Shamus, among others.

Next: With a big film comes extra attention …

6. A jet-setting life

Burt Reynolds at the London Airport in 1973 | Keystone/Getty Images

With the success of several of his films in the early 1970s, Burt Reynolds became a regularly-photographed celebrity even as he traveled abroad. This also meant his personal life — including his romantic interests — became regular fuel for the tabloids.

Next: He wasn’t just famous for his movies …

7. The Cosmopolitan piece

Burt Reynolds circa 1975

Burt Reynolds circa 1975 | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Of course, Reynolds’ star soared even higher in the early 1970s because he emerged as a sex symbol. In 1972, he posed nude for a Cosmopolitan Magazine centerfold — a spread which reportedly also transformed Cosmo from a mainstream magazine to what it is today.

Next: In addition to being cool with taking his clothes off …

8. He was perfectly comfortable goofing around

Burt Reynolds sharing a laugh with Johnny Carson

Burt Reynolds sharing a laugh with Johnny Carson | MSNBC via YouTube

Despite his shot to stardom, Reynolds maintained an ability to laugh at himself. One of the best examples of this was when he would go onto The Tonight Show and let Johnny Carson poke fun at him. Reynolds later talked about the bond he had with Carson, saying the two were instant friends.

Next: To be fair …

9. He never quite gave up on football

Burt Reynolds in 'The Longest Yard'

Burt Reynolds in ‘The Longest Yard’ | Movieclips via YouTube

A movie career allowed Reynolds to return to the gridiron, even though he was only pretending to play football this time around. He starred in The Longest Yard in 1974 as quarterback Paul Crewe — a role played by Adam Sandler in the 2005 remake. (Reynolds made a cameo in the remake as well.)

Next: His most famous role ever?

10. The legend of ‘Smokey and the Bandit’

Burt Reynolds in 'Smokey and the Bandit'

Burt Reynolds in ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ | @bbcnews via Instagram

Deliverance may have been Reynolds’ first big movie. But audiences young and old likely associate him most for the mustachioed grin he sported in 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit alongside Sally Field — who he dated on and off for five years afterward.

Next: Speaking of which …

11. His lovely leading ladies

Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton

Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton | MSNBC via YouTube

As a leading man, Burt Reynolds acted alongside some of the most prominent women in show business. In addition to starring in more movies with Field, he worked with Madeline Kahn win At Long Last Love and Dolly Parton in Best Little Whorehouse in Texas among others.

Next: Continued success …

12. A career spanning the ages

Burt Reynolds in 'Cannonball Run'

Burt Reynolds in ‘The Cannonball Run’ | MSNBC via YouTube

A new decade kicked off, and Burt Reynolds kept right on snagging leading roles. He lit up the screen in movies such as The Cannonball Run before spending the early ’90s back on television in the show Evening Shadewhich earned him an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award.

Next: When he wasn’t in front of the camera …

13. His directorial chops

Burt Reynolds on set

Burt Reynolds on set | MSNBC via YouTube

Like a select few other great actors of his time, Reynolds took his talents behind the camera and directed a handful of films, He made his directorial debut in 1978 with Gator, the sequel to White Lightning which Reynolds himself starred in just a few years prior.

Next: Things weren’t so great off-set …

14. A personal life in turmoil

Burt Reynolds and his son, Quinton

Burt Reynolds and his son, Quinton | Frederick M. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Unfortunately, Reynolds’ mostly made headlines in the 1990s because of his very messy — and very public — divorce from actress Loni Anderson and a custody battle over their son, Quinton. The ordeal was so astronomical that Reynolds had to file for bankruptcy in 1996.

Next: Last but not least …

15. He still found success at the end of his career

Burt Reynolds alongside Julianne Moore in 'Boogie Nights'

Burt Reynolds alongside Julianne Moore in ‘Boogie Nights’ | MSNBC via YouTube

After years away from the spotlight following his mounting personal issues, Burt Reynolds began making cameos in several films and putting himself back onto the Hollywood scene. Perhaps his most memorable role from this time in his career was as porn filmmaker Jack Horner in Boogie Nights, which earned him an Oscar nomination.

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