‘I Am Burt Reynolds’ New Documentary, 9 Things We Learned About the Beloved Icon
In the upcoming, heartfelt The CW I Am Burt Reynolds documentary directed by Adrian Buitenhuis, we see a beautiful portrayal of iconic actor Burt Reynolds, starting from his football days, following his famous ladies’ man persona to his marriage with Loni Anderson and all the way to his dying day. It includes candid stories from Loni Anderson, Jon Voight, Bruce Dern, and Marilu Henner to name a few, as well as other close friends, and features old, rare footage of Burt. Here are 9 things we learned about the Bandit star.
While growing up in West Palm Beach, Florida, he was extremely committed to football in high school and had plans to go to Miami, but since he was so into the ladies, he went to Florida State because the ratio of girls to boys was higher. After being offered a contract to play for the Baltimore Colts, his dreams of going pro were dashed when he succumbed to a knee injury. He at least starred in a few movies about his favorite sport.
In the early 1960s, both Burt and Clint Eastwood were under contract at Universal, but they couldn’t get the movie roles they desired. So, they both went to Italy to do movies and got their start in Spaghetti Westerns. Eastwood struck gold with The Good, The Bad & the Ugly; meanwhile, Burt made what is considered one of the worst movies of the genre, Navajo Joe in 1966.
Burt soon became a fixture on late-night talk shows due to his funny and charming personality. It was one appearance on the Johnny Carson Show that Deliverance director John Boorman spotted him and wanted to cast him immediately for the film. Burt felt it was truly the first good movie he made, as he would often make fun of himself and his roles in the talk show circuit.
The infamous Cosmopolitan photo shoot stemmed from once hosting the Johnny Carson Show and Cosmo editor Helen Gurley Brown was one of the guests. Making the point that Hugh Hefner had female centerfolds for years, she felt it was time for the ladies to have one and asked Burt to do the photo shoot. While he was a little concerned about how it would affect his career and being taken as a serious actor, he took the gamble anyway and it shot him to sex symbol status. However, Hollywood was not happy about it and the photo shoot is thought to have ruined his chances of getting an Oscar nomination for Deliverance.
Living a very extravagant lifestyle with a private jet, helicopters, the Tampa Bay Bandits football team, a house in Hawaii, several houses in Florida, the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater, and donations of money left and right, he spent every dime he made as he made it. It wasn’t until a few bad investment opportunities that he had to claim bankruptcy and sign his residual checks over for several years to pay off the bankruptcy. The crown jewel of his money though went to the Jupiter Ranch, a 144-acre ranch that he bought in Jupiter, Florida. He once held an opening for the sprawling estate in 1974. He invited the press and locals and 10,000 people showed up! Sadly, he once again had to claim bankruptcy in the ’90s and had to sell it.
Hal Needham was the stunt guy in Hollywood and, wanting to direct, he wrote the script for Smokey and the Bandit. Hal and Burt were best friends since he was Burt’s stuntman, although Burt did many of his own stunts. Hal got him to sign on for the film. While the film tanked at both NYC and LA premieres, Burt said they released it wrong. Being known for his Southern charm, he said it had to be released in the South, and so it was. It went on to be the 2nd biggest movie in 1977, behind a little movie called Star Wars.
While filming City Heat with Clint Eastwood, he got injured doing one of the stunts, which led to a hairline fracture in his jaw that turned into TMJ syndrome. With it being incredibly hard for him to eat, he lost a ton of weight, and at the time he was rumored to have AIDS. Due to the tremendous amount of pain he was in, he became a pain pill addict and almost died from trying to quit them cold turkey once. He sadly struggled with this addiction for many years.
When Burt and Loni Anderson finally married in 1988, he bought her wedding ring in every gem possible so she could never say it didn’t match her dress. The pair were together since 1982 and shared an adopted son, Quinton, but later went through a very messy divorce after splitting in 1993. It was in 2015 that Burt came out saying that he let the real love of his life, Sally Field, get away.
While always hungry for an Academy Award, he didn’t receive his first award until it came in the form of an Emmy with his hit TV show Evening Shade in the early ’90s. When Boogie Nights came along, he was adamant he didn’t want to do it and was often yelling at the director about how much he didn’t want to. It wasn’t until Nights director Paul Thomas Anderson said to him, “You act this way in the film, and it will win you an Academy Award” that he agreed. He was nominated for an Academy Award as porn producer Jack Horner but lost out to Robin Williams. He still despised doing the role.
I Am Burt Reynolds premieres Saturday, December 30 at 8 pm on The CW and is part of the new I Am series.