Goodbye, Bandit: Burt Reynolds fans remember 'stud' actor online

The actor drove into moviegoers' hearts with such films as Cannonball Run and Smokey and the Bandit.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
CNET freelancer Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
3 min read

Actor Burt Reynolds, the mustachioed icon who starred in such films as Smokey and the Bandit, Deliverance and The Cannonball Run, has died at 82, CBS News confirmed on Thursday.

Reynolds' niece, Nancy Lee Hess, paid tribute to her uncle in a statement.

"My 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," Hess said. "He has had health issues, however, this was totally unexpected. He was tough. Anyone who breaks their tail bone on a river and finishes the movie is tough."

Hess was referring to Reynolds' role in Deliverance, where he famously injured his coccyx while filming.

Reynolds was set to act in director Quentin Tarantino's upcoming film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, scheduled for a 2019 release, but had not yet filmed his role. Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio also star in the film, which centers on the 1969 Manson family murders.

"My uncle was looking forward to working with Quentin Tarantino, and the amazing cast that was assembled," Hess said. "I want to thank all of his amazing fans who have always supported and cheered him on, through all of the hills and valleys of his life and career."

Born in Michigan in 1936, Reynolds played football for Florida State University before injuries ended his sports career and he moved into acting. His acting career began on television in the 1950s before heading into film. His breakout movie was 1971's Deliverance. 

He was also offered the role of British super spy James Bond, Reynolds said, but he turned it down, thinking only an Englishman should play that iconic role. He also said he turned down the part of Han Solo in Star Wars.

Rejected roles aside, Reynolds made quite a career for himself as a devil-may-care man film fans either wanted to be or wanted to be with. He was Hollywood's top-grossing star each year from 1978 through 1982, according to CBS News. A bearskin-rug centerfold he posed for in Cosmopolitan magazine became a famous photo, though Reynolds later said he regretted the shot.

His most famous roles came in the late '70s and early '80s, when he starred in such movies as Smokey and the Bandit, The Cannonball Run, Semi-Tough and The Longest Yard. But he had a comeback of sorts with 1997's Boogie Nights, for which he earned a best supporting actor Oscar nomination.

As news of his death spread, fans and famous friends alike paid tribute to Reynolds. "You can be cool but you'll never be Burt Reynolds cool," wrote one fan.

Former California governor and fellow actor Arnold Schwarzenegger called Reynolds "one of my heroes," going on to say, "he was a trailblazer. He showed the way to transition from being an athlete to being the highest paid actor, and he always inspired me."

Reynolds appealed to various groups of fans, and car lovers had a special relationship with the man who made being behind the wheel look so cool. Wrote one Twitter user, "You were the reason why I was so into cars. From Cannonball Run to Smokey and the Bandit. Damn. You were a real stud!" Retired NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the Los Angeles Auto Show also acknowledged the man who played the Bandit. 

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