Burt Reynolds deserved an Oscar

Burt Reynolds, above, the heartthrob of Hollywood in the 1970s who died on Thursday at 82 in Palm Beach County, deserved an Oscar but missed it after being nominated for his role in the 1997 comeback film Boogie Nights.

However, he won several other honours including the Golden Globe and the New York Critics Award. His roles in Deliverance and Starting Over earned him critical acclaim.

The moustachioed actor was never one of the best actors in the world but, in his own words, he was the “best Burt Reynolds in the world”. Had he been more selective in the roles and restricted the number of projects he undertook, the actor could have become one among the world’s best.

As a youth, the actor’s dream was to become a professional footballer. A knee injury in a car crash, however, dashed his hopes and also stopped his football scholarship.

His father Burt Senior advised him to become a police officer like him after completing his studies in college. But Reynolds was destined to become an actor and not start his life as a parole officer.

At Palm Beach Junior College in Lake Worth, Reynolds met a teacher who changed his life forever. Watson B. Duncan III spotted his talent and persuaded him to do a role for a school play.  Reynolds did it well and won the 1956 Florida State Drama Award which included a scholarship to the Hyde Park Playhouse in New York where he got exposed to some of the best productions and performers.

It was no cakewalk for the promising actor to the stage, television or films. He patiently waited for an opportunity to prove himself and did odd jobs to make a living.

Reynolds moved to Hollywood in 1959 and got a role in the TV series Riverboat. Later, he appeared in many television shows including the 1962 western series Gunsmoke.

As a consummate actor, Reynolds believed one can excel in any medium. His passion to produce television series continued even after he become a Hollywood star.

The 1972 film Deliverance became a turning point in Reynolds’ acting the career. His style, masculinity and sense of humour made him famous overnight.

Reynolds became one of the best-paid actors in the film industry. He earned $5 million for a movie when his career was at its peak.

Among his popular, critically acclaimed, or successful films are White Lightning, Smokey and the Bandit, The Cannonball Run, Starting Over, Best Friends, The Longest Yard, and Semi-Tough.

Reynolds found himself in deep trouble in the 1990s because of his lavish lifestyle and some wrong decisions. His second marriage with actress Loni Anderson broke up in 1993. Three years later, he went bankrupt, owing more than $11.5 million after the failure of his businesses.

Although Reynolds was out of the woods in 1998, life was not the same anymore to him. The jaw injury he suffered on the sets and prolonged pain after the car crash made him addicted to narcotics and painkillers. In 2010, he underwent a quintuple bypass surgery.

Reynolds stuck to his roots and never forgot his Palm Beach County. Besides his home, he set up a studio and a theatre training company in Jupiter. He encouraged budding actors and loved to give away awards to them. One such award had changed his life forever.