Gunsmoke, The Longest Yard, Smokey and the Bandit and More of Burt Reynolds' Most Iconic Roles
He reached the highest highs and spectacular lows — look back at the actor's 50 memorable years on-and-off-screen from Life.com
Born in Lansing, Michigan, on Feb. 11, 1936, Burton Leon Reynolds Jr. was on track for a career in pro football when an injury sidelined him — and turned him on to acting. In 1959, he made a memorable entrance on TV as a young pilot in the series Riverboat.
For three seasons (from 1962-1965), Reynolds played half-Indian Quint Asper on TV's longest-running drama, Gunsmoke. That led to more parts in spaghetti westerns, but the rugged actor, who was one-eighth Cherokee, often wound up typecast in Native American roles.
The 1972 backwoods classic Deliverance launched Reynolds's career as a movie star. "That script changed my life," he told EW in 2005. "It was the only movie in forty-something years that I knew was going to be big."
MEASURE OF AN ACTOR
The athletic star scored a touchdown in the 1974 sports flick The Longest Yard. Playing a former pro quarterback turned convict earned Reynolds a Golden Globe nod — his first as a box-office leading man.
BOX OFFICE COWBOY
From 1978 to 1982 there was no bigger movie star than Reynolds, who was No. 1 at the box office for five years running. But the actor — whose streak began with Smokey and the Bandit — self-deprecatingly pointed out in 2005: "I'd been the number one star in the world and I was the only guy to go from number one to number 138."
HOW SWEET IT WAS
Reynolds fell in love with America's sweetheart Sally Field on the set of 1977's Smokey and the Bandit. They went on to make four more movies together and carried on a rocky five-year romance before calling it quits.
IN HAPPIER TIMES
After 11 years together, five of them married, Reynolds and Loni Anderson parted ways in a bitter divorce in 1993. But in happier times, Reynolds credited his ex for standing by him through what he describes as "the lowest point in my life," including prescription drug dependence and rumors that he had contracted AIDS.
A FATHER'S PRIDE
At 52, Reynolds became a first-time dad to son Quinton (here in 2004), whom he and Anderson adopted in September 1988. Fatherhood suited the star, who wrote in his autobiography My Life: "Quinton made me richer than any amount of money ever could have."
RIGHT ON CUE
Of his leading ladies, Reynolds said of pal Goldie Hawn, with whom he played Best Friends onscreen in 1992, "[She] is one of the sharpest ladies I've ever worked with. She laughs at all my stories, and in the right places too."
A WIN-WIN SITCOM
Reynolds (with costar Ossie Davis) made a TV comeback in the early '90s in Evening Shade, playing a retired pro football player who returns to his childhood home. The CBS comedy brought Reynolds his first acting Emmy in 1991, followed by a Golden Globe win the next year.
After a string of forgettable movies in the mid- to late-'80s (remember Rent-a-Cop?), the actor won a Golden Globe in 1992 for his work in TV. As co-producer, director and star of Evening Shade, Reynolds said, ''It's a wonderful feeling to love to go to work and to be working on something that you're really, really proud of."
THE XXX FACTOR
Though the actor and his Boogie Nights director Paul Thomas Anderson butted heads, the 1997 film about the rise of the porn industry revived his career, earning Reynolds his first Oscar nod. "My career has been like a heart-attack victim's," he told EW. "I was down at the bottom of the cellar and came back to the top."
AND ... ACTION!
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger congratulated Reynolds on his Taurus Lifetime Achievement Award for an Action Movie Star in 2004. The onetime box-office king even had a fan in Alfred Hitchcock, who called Smokey and the Bandit his favorite movie.
BACK IN THE GAME
Though he had initial reservations, Reynolds gamely returned to play the coach in the 2005 remake of The Longest Yard, starring Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. The film topped the Memorial Day weekend box office, bringing in $47.6 million.