Burt Reynolds' Biggest Regrets in His Own Words: 'I Was a Fool'

Sprinkled in between the happy memories of his long career, Burt Reynolds revisited with PEOPLE the mistakes he felt he had made in his life

Burt Reynolds lived a long and colorful life before he died Thursday at the age of 82.

The Smokey and the Bandit actor opened up about some of his regrets to PEOPLE in 2015 for an in depth feature about his ups and downs. Sprinkled in between the happy memories of his long career, the actor also revisited the mistakes he felt he had made.

Many of those mistakes, he said, involve the women he loved and lost: second wife Loni Anderson (“It wasn’t roses and lollipops”), Sally Field and Dinah Shore. The latter two, he said, “were wonderful, and I moved on from them much too soon. They probably moved on a little too late.”

When it came to Fields, Reynolds never stopped holding a candle for her. The actor revisited his crush in interviews before his death and spoke at length about her to PEOPLE.

“It was real. I really cared for her. She’s very, very special,” Reynolds said. “Her mother and I, I loved her mother. She said, ‘Now I know you’re going to break her heart, but please be gentle.’ I said, ‘I don’t know how you could break somebody’s heart and be gentle, but I don’t intend to break her heart.’ You never intend to. She was great. I mean, she still is. I’m surprised she isn’t married by now, and I’m glad.”

Burt Reynolds
The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

There were career regrets too, including posing for his infamous nude Cosmopolitan centerfold in 1972, a move he felt detracted from his work in Deliverance, which was released three months later.

He also passed on the Oscar-winning Jack Nicholson role in 1983’s Terms of Endearment.

“I was a fool. I had about three pictures that I told other people I would do and in retrospect, I think back and all I had to do is say, ‘Can we just put this off until I finish this picture?’ and they would’ve said, ‘Sure,’ ” he recalled to PEOPLE. “I wished I would have done that one picture, I think it could’ve changed things for me.”

Student Showcase of Films at the Palm Beach International Film Festival, Florida, America - 11 Mar 2016
Larry Marano/REX/Shutterstock

The legendary actor also had parting wisdom on how to handle mistakes: “Well, you live with it. You just go on but the friends you make, the ones that are real friends, they’re wonderful.”

Reynolds is survived by members of his family, including his adult son, Quinton, who he adopted with ex-wife Loni Anderson.

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