Inside Sally Field’s Complicated Relationship With Ex Burt Reynolds

Actors Sally Field and Burt Reynolds were a high-profile couple in the late 70s/ early 80s. At the time, it seemed that the two were a match made in heaven with a relationship many longed to have. But after Reynolds’ death in 2018, Field revealed that their relationship wasn’t exactly the fairytale romance many believe it to be.

Sally Field and Burt Reynolds walking into a performance of 'Side by Side' in NYC in 1977
Sally Field and Burt Reynolds | Getty Images

Burt Reynolds and Sally Field dated for five years

Reynolds and Field first met on the set of their hit movie Smokey and the Bandit in 1977. The two quickly fell for each other and dating on-and-off for the next four years, during which time they appeared together in three more Smokey and the Bandit films.

In 1980, the couple called it quits for good.

Though both ultimately moved on with other people, Reynolds’ feelings for Field never faded. In 2015, he confessed that he still had lingering love for his ex-girlfriend while promoting his book, But Enough About Me: A Memoir. The actor even called Field the “love of my life.”

Burt Reynolds and Sally Field posing for a photo at a restaurant in Los Angeles
Burt Reynolds and Sally Field |Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

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“I miss her terribly,” Reynolds told Vanity Fair. “Even now, it’s hard on me. I don’t know why I was so stupid. Men are like that, you know. You find the perfect person, and then you do everything you can to screw it up.”

Although she remained mum on their relationship in the decades following their split, Field finally opened up about her and Reynolds’ dynamic in 2018. But she didn’t have similar sentiments to that of her ex.

Sally Field said she and Burt Reynolds were ‘a perfect match of flaws’

Less than two weeks after Reynolds’ death on September 6, 2018, Field released her memoir, In Pieces. In the book, the Steel Magnolias actor described Reynolds as controlling while detailing their complicated relationship.

“By the time we met, the weight of his stardom had become a way for Burt to control everyone around him, and from the moment I walked through the door, it was a way to control me. We were a perfect match of flaws,” she wrote. “Blindly I fell into a rut that had long ago formed in my road, a pre-programmed behavior as if in some past I had pledged a soul-binding commitment to this man.”

During an interview with Closer Weekly to promote her memoir, Field shared that Reynolds made her feel desirable and “gave me a feeling that I was sexy, and I wanted to be everything he ever wanted.”

However, she said that their dynamic ultimately took a negative toll on her sense of self.

“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,” she said. “We’d have ended up just feeling terrible.”

In a separate interview with the New York Times, Field said that her relationship with Reynolds was, in hindsight, an attempt on her part to recreate a version of her relationship with her stepfather, Jock Mahoney, who she claimed sexually abused her as a child.

“I was somehow exorcising something that needed to be exorcised,” she told the outlet. “I was trying to make it work this time.”

Sally Field is relieved that Burt Reynolds will never read her memoir

Seeing as Field got really candid about her romance with Reynolds in her memoir, she’s “glad” that he’ll never get the chance to read, or ask questions about those raw passages.

Burt Reynolds and Sally Field posing together at an outdoor event in 1977
Burt Reynolds and Sally Field | Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Getty Images

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“This would hurt him,” she told the Times. “I felt glad that he wasn’t going to read it, he wasn’t going to be asked about it, and he wasn’t going to have to defend himself or lash out, which he probably would have. I did not want to hurt him any further.”

But despite this confession, Field admitted to being was flooded with emotions after Reynolds’ death, noting that their time together was transformative in her life.

“I’ve always thought of him rather nostalgically… He was a very important part of my life, but for a tiny little part of my life,” she told NPR following Reynold’s death. “I was only with him for about three years and then maybe two years on-and-off after that. But it was so hugely important in my own existence, my own movement as a person.”