Nobody had more fun than I did


When Quentin Tarantino was casting his new movie Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, it made sense for him to turn to Burt Reynolds.

As it turned out, Reynolds died before shooting his scenes in a film that will tell the story of how the movie business was changing as it emerged out of the 1960s.

Reynolds, who passed away aged 82 after suffering a heart attack in Florida, was the very epitome of the movie star who thrived during those crazy days of the film business of five decades ago.

He was an actor of his time, a time very different from today.

Already with the hit TV show Gunsmoke behind him, Reynolds exploded on to the big screen in John Boorman’s 1972 thriller Deliverance.

He told an interviewer: “It was strange because John said he had seen me and I said, ‘What did you see me in?’

“I named off this reel of dreadful films I’ve made and he said, ‘No I saw you on The Tonight Show and you were in control of four people. This guy has to be in control’.

“I never thought I would get a film from The Tonight Show but I’m thrilled.”

Actor Burt Reynolds (C), followed by his son Quinton (L), arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of the Warner Brothers pictures The Dukes Of Hazzard at the Grauman's Chinese theatre in Hollywood July 28, 2005
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Burt Reynolds with his son Quinton in 2005

Hollywood was thrilled with him too. The movie The Longest Yard followed, a chance for him to revisit his own roots as an aspiring sports star, something injury cut short.

Then came the movies that defined him as a moustachioed, playful outlaw: Smokey And The Bandit and The Cannonball Run confirmed him as box office gold.

His on-screen relationship with Sally Field – “the best actress I ever worked with” – is one of those fixtures in the memory of late 70s and early 80s Hollywood.

In response to his death, Field said: “There are times in your life that are so indelible, they never fade away.

“They stay alive, even 40 years later.

“My years with Burt never leave my mind.

“He will be in my history and my heart, for as long as I live.”

circa 1985: Film star Burt Reynolds as a sheriff
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Burt Reynolds chose roles he enjoyed rather than ones that would endear him to critics

He always faced questions about why he did not pursue more artistically challenging roles, the ones more beloved of the critics. They didn’t interest him, he said, because he liked what he was doing.

Like most actors, he suffered a career dip but, unlike many actors, emerged from it to earn an Oscar nomination, for his performance Boogie Nights.

It was said that he turned down roles in Star Wars and Die Hard – it was even claimed he was touted as James Bond – but he kept on working.

His family said his death was unexpected. He wasn’t just a movie icon, they said, but a “generous, passionate and sensitive man whom was dedicated to his family, friends, fans and acting students”.

And, despite all the ups and downs of a life in Hollywood, he ended his autobiography with these words: “I always wanted to experience everything and go down swinging.

“And there’s one thing they can never take away: Nobody had more fun than I did.”

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