Burt Reynolds, a leading Hollywood actor in the ‘70s and early ‘80s who made a habit of criticizing the entertainment industry for its lack of diversity in front of and behind the camera, died Thursday in Jupiter, Florida, at the age of 82.
His death reportedly followed a heart attack.
Later in life, after working in films and TV for more than 50 years, Reynolds rebuked the industry for neglecting to open doors for African-American, according to The Guardian. He also lamented the racial discrimination that he saw growing up in Florida.
“I didn’t like things about the south, I hated it, I really did. It still isn’t right, it won’t ever be right in our lifetime. I really did think things would have progressed by now. I certainly thought we would have a lot more black directors, writers, producers,” he said.
He made headlines for a bizarre remark recently. During a March interview on the Today show, he spoke with host Hoda Kotb about wanting George Clooney to portray him in a movie someday. He then told Kotb that he was “so proud of you for not having your lips larger,” according to People.
“Okay, Burt,” she responded, looking quite uneasy. Perhaps the actor felt comfortable making such comments because he was part Native American, according to Babble.com.
Reynolds was born in Waycross, Georgia and attended Florida State Univeristy for two years on a football scholarship. He had a promising football career as a running back until he suffered a knee injury in a car accident ended that dream, Variety reported.
He then pursued an acting career and moved to New York, where he struggled to find work until his big break came in a revival of “Mr. Roberts” in 1956. He would go on to star in such films as “Deliverance,” “Smokey and the Bandit, “The Longest Yard” and “Semi-Tough.” After a few bad films, he turned to TV, where tried to revive his career.