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Biography
Charming, handsome, and easy-going, lead actor and megastar Burt Reynolds entered the world on February 11, 1936. He attended Florida State University on a football scholarship, and became an all-star Southern Conference halfback, but - faced with a knee injury and a debilitating car accident - switched gears from athletics to college drama. In 1955, he dropped out of college and traveled to New York, in search of stage work, but only turned up occasional bit parts on television, and for two years he had to support himself as a dishwasher and bouncer. In 1957, Reynolds's ship came in when he appeared in a New York City Center revival of Mister Roberts; shortly thereafter, he signed a television contract. He sustained regular roles in the series Riverboat, Gunsmoke, Hawk, and Dan August. Although he appeared in numerous films in the 1960s, he failed to make a significant impression. In the early '70s, his popularity began to increase, in part due to his witty appearances on daytime TV talk shows. His breakthrough film, Deliverance (1972), established him as both a screen icon and formidable actor. That same year, Reynolds became a major sex symbol when he posed as the first nude male centerfold in the April edition of Cosmopolitan. He went on to become the biggest box-office attraction in America for several years - the centerpiece of films such as Hustle (1975), Smokey and the Bandit (1977) (as well as its two sequels), The End (1978), Starting Over (1979), The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), and The Man Who Loved Women (1983). However, by the mid-'80s, his heyday ended, largely thanks to his propensity for making dumb-dumb bumper-smashing road comedies with guy pals such as Hal Needham (Stroker Ace, The Cannonball Run 2). Reynolds's later cinematic efforts (such as the dismal Malone (1987)) failed to generate any box office sizzle, aside from a sweet and low-key turn as an aging career criminal in Bill Forsyth's Breaking In (1989). Taking this as a cue, Reynolds transitioned to the small screen, and starred in the popular sitcom Evening Shade, for which he won an Emmy. He also directed several films, created the hit Win, Lose or Draw game show with friend Bert Convy, and established the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater in Florida. In the mid-'90s, Reynolds ignited a comeback that began with his role as a drunken, right-wing congressman in Andrew Bergman's Striptease (1996). Although the film itself suffered from critical pans and bombed out at the box office, the actor won raves for his performance, with many critics citing his comic interpretation of the role as one of the film's key strengths. His luck continued the following year, when Paul Thomas Anderson cast him as porn director Jack Horner in his acclaimed Boogie Nights. Reynolds would go on to earn a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, and between the twin triumphs of Striptease and Nights, critics read the resurgence as the beginning of a second wind in the Deliverance star's career, ala John Travolta's turnaround in 1994's Pulp Fiction. But all was not completely well chez Burt. A nasty conflict marred his interaction with Paul Thomas Anderson just prior to the release of Boogie Nights. It began with Reynolds's disastrous private screening of Nights; he purportedly loathed the picture so much that he phoned his agent after the screening and fired him. When the Anderson film hit cinemas and became a success d'estime, Reynolds rewrote his opinion of the film and agreed to follow Anderson on a tour endorsing the effort, but Reynolds understandably grew peeved when Anderson refused to let him speak publicly. Reynolds grew so infuriated, in fact, that he refused to play a role in Anderson's tertiary cinematic effort, 1999's Magnolia. Reynolds also attempted - in 1998 - to launch his own talk program, The Burt Reynolds Show, on a country music cable station; the endeavor involved Burt sitting around a table with his buddies, such as Harry Dean Stanton, and chatting up a storm. Audiences did not take to this, however, and the network almost immediately cancelled the program. Cinematically, Reynolds's appearances in lackluster productions over the course of the next decade, such as the direct-to-video comedy Cloud Nine (where he plays a buffet connoisseur who organizes a bunch of female strippers into a professional volleyball team) and The Dukes of Hazzard, where Reynolds appears as Boss Hogg, drowned out the perceived "second wind" of the actor's career. Though Reynolds woould keep things fairly light the following year with a vocal contribution to Duck Dodgers, an appearance on the Freddie Prinze, Jr. sitcom Freddie, and the straight to video Ray Romano/Kevin James comedy Grilled, he returned to both drama and the big screen with a supporting performance in the musical drama Broken Bridges; a low-key tale of a fading country music star that served as a feature debut for real-life country music singer Toby Kieth. The early 2000s did see Reynolds undertaking one extremely successful (if small-scale) endeavor. He authored and regularly performed a one-man show at his Florida-based theater. Promoted on his website, http://www.burtreynolds.com, as, "The laughs, the loves, the lies, the legends, the lies (not necessarily in that order)," the show involved Reynolds sitting before an audience and weaving tales from his boyhood and show-business past in Garrison Keillor mode. Audiences were mesmerized by this natural born storyteller. Reynolds has gained fame -- and infamy -- for his offscreen life, as well. Married to Laugh-In regular Judy Carne from 1963 to 1966, he has been romantically linked with actresses Dinah Shore (who was twenty years his senior) and Sally Field, in addition to tennis star Chris Evert. He was also married from 1988 to 1993 to actress Loni Anderson; their union ended in one of the most widely publicized acrimonious divorces in Hollywood history.
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