How Burt Reynolds Helped Elizabeth Taylor Negotiate Her Historic $1 Million Cleopatra Salary
Burt Reynolds had a hand in helping Elizabeth Taylor nab a $1 million salary for her 1963 film Cleopatra
The actor, who passed away on Thursday morning in Florida at the age of 82, told PEOPLE in 2015 he helped Taylor negotiate her groundbreaking $1 million salary for the iconic Cleopatra.
Reynolds was good friends with Taylor, who passed away in 2011, saying, “I was very crazy about her.”
“She was enormously helpful to me in my career because I was having trouble with certain people, some of them in the press and some actors and she’s got a mouth like a sailor,” he recalled. “She said, ‘Don’t let those blankity-blank bastards get you down. You’ll be around long after they’re dead, just don’t you kill them.'”
In turn, the Boogie Nights actor gave Taylor some valuable advice as well when it came to negotiating her paycheck for 1963 film, which also starred her future husband Richard Burton.
“She was at my house and she was totally exhausted and I said, ‘Well, take a hot bath.’ And it wasn’t because I wanted her to take her clothes off but it wasn’t a bad idea,” he joked.
“She did, she got in the tub and she said, ‘What am I going to do? Those bastards want me to make this movie and I don’t want to make it,'” Reynolds explained.
What began as a simple advice turned into a historic moment for the legendary actress.
“I said, ‘Well, then, ask for a million dollars,'” Reynolds said. “Now, nobody, nobody had asked for a million dollars and she did. I went in the other room and I heard this scream and I came back and I said, ‘Are you all right?’ She said, ‘I got it. They’re going to give it to me.'”
Unsurprised by Taylor’s victory, Reynolds responded, “Well, there you are.”
The legendary actor died on Thursday morning at Jupiter Medical in Florida, according to manager Erik Kritzer.
In a statement, Reynolds’ niece Nancy Lee Hess said her 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. He was tough. Anyone who breaks their tailbone on a river and finishes the movie is tough. And that’s who he was. My uncle was looking forward to working with Quentin Tarantino (in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) and the amazing cast that was assembled.”
The Smokey and the Bandit star battled with health issues for the past several years. In 2013, the actor’s rep said he was in intensive care in a Florida hospital for treatment of flu symptoms, including dehydration.
In recent years, Reynolds was seen using a cane as he posed for photographs — he was spotted using one at his last major public appearance at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.