Burton Leon "Burt" Reynolds Jr. (born February 11, 1936) is an American actor.
Reynolds' parents were Burton Reynolds, who was of a quarter Cherokee ancestry, and his wife, Fern. Reynolds states in his autobiography that his family was living in Lansing when his father was drafted into the United States Army. Reynolds, his mother and his sister joined his father at Fort Leonard Wood, where they lived for two years. After a short while, the Reynolds family moved to northern Michigan, across the road from his maternal grandparents' farm. Reynolds started attending school in Merritt, Michigan, where he felt he did not belong among the Native American, farm and backwoods children who made up most of the student body.
Reynolds' father was discharged from the Army in late 1945. In early 1946, while his parents were on a second honeymoon in Florida, his father was offered a job as general contractor for a new housing development in Riviera Beach, Florida. Reynolds moved to Riviera Beach with his parents, while his sister stayed in Michigan to finish the school year. The Reynolds family at first lived in a mobile home, but subsequently bought the first house that was completed in the new subdivision.
Reynolds thought he was in paradise. He had access to the Everglades to the west, the shore of the Lake Worth Lagoon to the east, and further east, across the Blue Heron Boulevard bridge to Singer Island, the Atlantic Ocean. He was fascinated by the Conch fishermen and their families who made up most of the population of Riviera Beach. After two years his father's contractor job ended, and Reynolds' parents bought a lunch counter and sundry store next to the bridge to Singer Island. As the business was close to a large dock and some fish and shrimp packing houses, business was good. Soon after, Reynolds' father was recruited as a police officer for Riviera Beach. When the police chief died a few years later, Reynolds' father became the chief. As his home was at the north edge of Riviera Beach, Reynolds attended school in Lake Park, just to the north of Riviera Beach. While he was in seventh grade, the Palm Beach County School Board decided that there were too few seventh grade students in the school to justify a teacher's salary, and Reynolds was transferred to Central Junior High School in West Palm Beach. Reynolds felt lost at the big school, and started hanging out with greasers and skipping school. He also began showing off with dangerous stunts, such as diving off the top of a raised drawbridge, and jumping from an airboat onto the back of a running deer. When Reynolds was twelve he became friends with Jimmy Hooks. After learning that Jimmy was being physically abused in his home, Reynolds took Jimmy home with him and told his parents he wanted Jimmy to be his brother. The family took Jimmy in, eventually officially adopting him years later when Jimmy was in his twenties. When Reynolds was fourteen he tried out for the football team at Central Junior High. He had never played organized sports, but worked hard at practice, earned his letterman's sweater, and was named to the county all-star team. The next year, when Reynolds entered high school, he made the varsity team, but did not have much opportunity to play. In his junior year he had more opportunity to play. Seeing his ability, and foreseeing that he was likely to receive scholarship offers, one of Reynolds' coaches persuaded him to take the courses necessary to enter a college. In his senior year Reynolds was named First Team All State and All Southern as a fullback, and received multiple scholarship offers. His most notable performance came against Swartz Creek High School where he rushed for 310 yards and four touchdowns while playing with a strained calf muscle. After graduating from Palm Beach High School in West Palm Beach, Florida, Reynolds attended Florida State University on a college football scholarship, becoming an all-star halfback.
The Florida State Drama Award included a scholarship to the Hyde Park Playhouse, a summer stock theater, in Hyde Park, New York. Reynolds saw the opportunity as an agreeable alternative to more physically demanding summer jobs, but did not yet see acting as a career. While working at Hyde Park Reynolds met Joanne Woodward, who helped Reynolds find an agent, and be cast in Tea and Sympathy at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. Reynolds received favorable reviews for his performance in Tea and Sympathy. Reynolds then went on tour with Tea and Sympathy, driving the bus as well as appearing on stage. After the tour Reynolds returned to New York and enrolled in acting classes.
He made his Broadway debut in Look, We've Come Through. Reynolds first starred on television, in the 1950s NBC series, Riverboat, and went on to appear in a number of other shows, including a role as blacksmith Quint Asper on Gunsmoke from 1962–1965. On June 11, 1959, he appeared as Tony Sapio with with Ruta Lee as Gloria Fallon in the episode entitled "The Payoff" of NBC's 1920s crime drama, The Lawless Years.
His film debut was in 1961, in the movie Angel Baby.
Reynolds appeared on ABC's The American Sportsman hosted by outdoors journalist Grits Gresham, who took celebrities on hunting, fishing, and shooting trips around the world. On March 15, 1978, Reynolds earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in the same year built a dinner theatre in Jupiter, Florida. During the first half of the 1990s, he was the star of the CBS television series Evening Shade, for which he won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.
Despite much success, Reynolds' finances were bad, due in part to an extravagant lifestyle, a messy divorce from Loni Anderson, and failed investments in some Florida restaurant chains; consequently, in 1996, Reynolds filed for bankruptcy. The filing was under Chapter 11, from which Reynolds emerged two years later.
Reynolds started a comeback with the movie Striptease in 1996, and the critically acclaimed Boogie Nights, in 1997, put his career back on track. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Boogie Nights and won a Golden Globe Award for the movie. He was considered a front-runner for the Supporting Oscar, but ultimately lost to Robin Williams, who won it for his role in Good Will Hunting.
Richard Clayton, who worked as Reynolds' agent and personal manager for twenty-two years, died on September 29, 2008.
At various points in his life, Reynolds was romantically involved with Lucie Arnaz, Adrienne Barbeau, Susan Clark, Sally Field, Lorna Luft, Tawny Little, Dolly Parton, Pam Seals, Dinah Shore and Chris Evert. His relationship with Shore garnered particular attention given the fact she was 20 years his senior. Reynolds was married to actress/comedienne Judy Carne from 1963 to 1965, and actress Loni Anderson from 1988 to 1993, with whom he adopted a son, Quinton Anderson Reynolds.
His autobiography, titled My Life, was published in 1994 with much writing help from his close personal friend, Al Glasgow.
On July 3, 1982, Reynolds lived out one of his dreams by once again getting involved with a sport that still holds a certain soft spot in his heart, by becoming a co-owner of the Tampa Bay Bandits, a professional football team in the USFL whose nickname was inspired by his then-recent Smokey and the Bandit movies. Other owners included John Bassett, a Canadian movie producer, and Stephen Arky, an attorney from Miami. Reynolds was a general partner of the team from 1982 to 1985, the entire existence of the USFL. The team held a winning record in every year. In 1983 they went 11–7–0 in the Central Division but did not make the playoffs. In 1984 they went 14–4–0 in the Southern Division and lost in the conference semifinals to the Birmingham Stallions 36–17. In 1985 they went 10–8–0 in the Eastern Conference but lost in the quarterfinals to the Oakland Invaders 30–27.
Reynolds also co-owned a NASCAR Winston Cup team with Hal Needham, which ran the #33 Skoal Bandits car, with driver Harry Gant.