Burt Reynolds boogied his way into pop culture prominence, becoming a celebrity icon and sex symbol during the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.
Reynolds’ illustrious career earned him countless honors and nominations, including Emmys, Golden Globes, and Academy Oscars, for great films such as 1973’s White Lightning and 1997’s Boogie Nights. But his triumph was not always unassailable.
Reynolds was once forced to retire from acting owing to an on-set stunt that went awry.
Reynolds began his career in television before becoming a movie star.
Reynolds’ career took off after he dabbled in theatrical acting and won a TV contract that landed him roles on iconic Western TV episodes like Gunsmoke and Riverboat.
“He became a recognized figure to TV audiences,” the Biography explains. “Both gorgeous and affable, Reynolds grew in popularity in the early 1970s by appearing on various talk shows, notably Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, where he would become a regular guest.”
Things only improved, and Reynolds soon went from the little screen to the big screen. “His tough-guy portrayal as macho Lewis Medlock in John Boorman’s backwoods nightmare Deliverance (1972) cemented him as a bona fide star,” according to IMDb.
According to the site, this established Reynolds’ status as a sex symbol and a wild icon of masculinity.
Many of Reynolds’ films featured difficult stunts, which proved his undoing.
Reynolds collaborated with another Hollywood legend, Clint Eastwood, on the film City Heat in 1984.
The buddy-crime thriller follows a private investigator (Reynolds) and a police officer (Eastwood) as they work together to investigate a mob-related crime despite their disagreements.
“Little did Reynolds know, however, that City Heat would significantly impact his career and star power,” Den of Geek adds.
There is a scene in the film where Reynolds’ character is involved in a brawl. Reynolds’ assailant knocks him in the head with a chair during combat.
And this is where things went wrong: when Reynolds practiced, the stunt worker was meant to whack him with a unique stunt chair designed to be flimsy so as not to injure the actor.
Yet there was a miscommunication. The stunt worker accidentally grabbed a metal chair, not the stunt chair, and swung at Reynolds’ skull.
According to Den of Geek, Reynolds complained of ringing ears and a “blinding headache.”
“My face clicked every time I tried to speak,” Reynolds recalled. “I couldn’t chew because my bite was so uneven. I could only drink liquids, and I began to lose weight.”
Reynolds’ health began to deteriorate as a result of the accident.
Reynolds took medications and pushed through to finish filming, but Den of Geek reported feeling he let down the cast. “I wrecked the movie,” he is said to have said.
Reynolds needed time to recover from the injury and took a two-year sabbatical from performing. This absence from Hollywood and his weight loss fueled speculation that Reynolds had AIDS.
After years of persistent pain, Reynolds was finally diagnosed with a jaw joint problem. Reynolds noted that the joint condition impacted his sensory perception and balance.
“It’s like being seasick all the time,” Reynolds explained. The answer required major reconstructive jaw surgery, but Reynolds could resume acting when everything was said and done.
However, his health issues were far from over. According to ABC, Reynolds had a “series of health difficulties” for decades, including time in rehab in 2009.
Reynolds had become hooked on drugs administered to him following recent back surgery. “The next year, Reynolds had quintuple bypass surgery.”
Reynolds died on September 6, 2018.