Burt Reynolds has traveled his final, longest yard.
The hirsute actor whose sly smile and smooth wit made him one of the most popular movie stars of the 1970s, died of cardiac arrest today in Jupiter, Florida. He was 82.
The former halfback at Florida State University tackled television in the late 1950s and quickly gained notice for playing "half-breed" blacksmith Quint Asper on the top-rated TV western "Gunsmoke" in the early 1960s. Reynolds later starred in the title role of 1970's "Dan August," the ABC police series that aired for just one season.
After turning down an offer to play James Bond—a decision he would regret for the rest of his life—Reynolds broke through as a veritable movie star in 1972's "Deliverance," co-starring Jon Voight and Ned Beatty.
"If I had to put only one of my movies in a time capsule, it would be 'Deliverance,'" Reynolds said. "I don't know if it's the best acting I've done, but it's the best movie I've ever been in. It proved I could act, not only to the public but me."
For the next decade, Reynolds routinely starred in two to five movies a year, including '70s hits like "The Longest Yard," "Smokey and the Bandit," "Semi-Tough" and 1981's "The Cannonball Run."
Reynolds never stopped working, but his popularity waned—until he made a remarkable comeback as a porn movie director in 1997's "Boogie Nights." The role earned Reynolds the only Academy Award nomination of his half-century career, for Best Supporting Actor.
"Rest in peace to a legend and a friend," tweeted Mark Wahlberg, who played Reynolds' protégé in "Boogie Nights."
"Burt Reynolds was one of my heroes," said Arnold Schwarzenegger on Twitter. "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—check out his Tonight Show clips. My thoughts are with his family."
Photo: Warner Bros.