Burt Reynolds biography

Without a Paddle

Burt Reynolds

Date of Birth: February 11, 1936

Born Burton Leon Reynolds Jr. in Waycross, Georgia, Reynolds attended Florida State University on a football scholarship, and became an all-star halfback. However, a knee injury and a debilitating car accident forced him to switch from athletics to drama. Reynolds then began to act in theater plays. In 1955, he dropped out of college and headed to New York in search of onstage work. Bit parts on TV as a stuntman were all that came his way until 1957, when he appeared in a New York City Center revival of Mister Roberts, and shortly thereafter was signed to a TV contract. He went on to regular roles on the TV series Riverboat, Gunsmoke, Hawk, and Dan August.

His breakthrough film was John Boorman's Deliverance (1972) opposite Jon Voight. The film not only established him as both a star and a serious actor, but it was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. That same year, he became a major sex symbol when he posed for the first nude male centerfold in Cosmopolitan.

He went on to become the biggest box-office attraction in America for several years, starring in films like Hustle (1975), Smokey and the Bandit (1977) (as well as its two sequels), The Cannonball Run (1981), Starting Over (1979), and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982). With his profits, he built the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater near his sprawling Jupiter, Florida, ranch. However, by the mid '80s his heyday was over, and he ceased to be a successful film star.

Box office flops like Stick and Rent-a-Cop, along with rumors that the quarter-Cherokee actor had contracted AIDS (he was actually suffering from a joint ailment), were career cyanide. The TV series Evening Shade provided Reynolds a brief pick-up and an Emmy, but when his marriage to Loni Anderson dissolved into an ugly, endless tabloid saga, Reynolds' career (and product endorsement contracts) nose dived.

In the mid-1990s, Reynolds attempted to make a comeback that began with his role as a drunken, right-wing congressman in Striptease (1996), as a pro-life activist leader in the abortion-rights satire Citizen Ruth , and as an opportunistic hood named "Wacky" Jacky Jackson in Mad Dog Time.

None of these efforts could keep him out of the red: in late 1996, Reynolds filed for bankruptcy, declaring debts in the neighborhood of $10 million.

The following year, he took another shot at rebuilding his career with a creditable supporting turn as a porn director trying to legitimize his art form in Boogie Nights , writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson's epic of the San Fernando Valley smut industry circa the late '70s. Representing probably his finest performance since the '70s, the Golden Globe-winning, Oscar-nominated characterization brought Reynolds a much-needed resurgence of critical and popular approval. He hoped to keep his momentum up in films such as Mystery Alaska (1999), Snapshots (2002) and Without a Paddle (2004).

In 2000 Reynolds received the Children at Heart Award for his humanitarian work with children injured by the Chernobyl nuclear fallout in the former Soviet Union.

Reynolds, who adopted a son, Quinton, with Loni Anderson, died at his home in Jupiter, Florida of cardiac arrest at the age of 82 on September 6, 2018.