Tributes are pouring in today for Burt Reynolds, who died at age 82 with his family by his side this morning. He’d been dealing with heart problems for nearly a decade.

Arnold Schwarzenegger tweeted, “Burt Reynolds was one of my heroes. He was a trailblazer. He showed the way to transition from being an athlete to being the highest paid actor, and he always inspired me. He also had a great sense of humor.”

Ben Mankiewicz, host of Turner Classic Movies, tweeted, “For those my age, #BurtReynolds was for a time the biggest movie star in the world. When the picture was good, he was great – charming, self-depreciating, tough, and sexy. I think if he’d believed in his own talent more, he’d be considered among the screen’s finest actors.”

The Hollywood star and romancer might never have become an actor had he not been injured as a star football player while a student at Florida State University. An English teacher later convinced him to try out for a play based on his reading of Shakespeare in class. Reynolds got the lead and won the 1956 Florida State Drama Award for his performance.

Gunsmoke, 1962

Over his long career, the actor, director, and producer starred in, and won awards for, many television series and feature films, such as Gunsmoke, Deliverance, The Longest Yard, Smokey and the Bandit, and The Cannonball Run.

Reynolds was once turned down for a film in 1957 because he looked too much like Marlon Brando. He later grew his trademark thick mustache to solve that problem. Reynolds’ 1972 breakout performance in Deliverance made him a star, and his role in Smokey and the Bandit made him wealthy. Lucky for Harrison Ford, Reynolds turned down the role of Han Solo in Star Wars.

Burt Reynolds-publicity photo

He said in his 1974 memoir that he never would have had the same career without Johnny Carson, the host the “Tonight Show”, who frequently invited him as a guest or stand-in host. “From my first appearance in the late sixties, we were captivated by each other.”

Reynolds underwent a quintuple heart bypass in February 2010. Yet, still in 2017, he acted in four film projects… Check out his latest memoir, But Enough About Me.

WATCH an interview conducted in his ‘man cave’ at home broadcast in February on TODAY…

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