Burt “The Bandit” Reynolds dead at 82

Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit

The Bandit is gone. Burt Reynolds, best known to car enthusiasts as the mischievous, macho, and mustachioed Trans Am owner who gave Jackie Gleason fits in the 1977 hit film Smokey and the Bandit, passed away earlier today at age 82.

Multiple sources reported that Reynolds was in a Florida hospital and surrounded by family when he died of cardiac arrest. He had a history of heart problems and underwent surgery in 2010.

Reynolds’ portrayal of the Bandit helped make him a top box office draw, and the black-and-gold 1977 Pontiac Trans Am he drove in the movie became an automotive icon. A ’77 Trans Am that was used to promote the movie sold for $550,000 at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction in 2016. Earlier this year, Reynolds’ personal 1980 Firebird Trans Am Indy Pace Car sold for $110,000 at Barrett-Jackson’s Palm Beach auction.

Burt Reynolds's 1980 Pontiac Trans Am Indy Pace Car
Barrett-Jackson

Reynolds was Hollywood’s top-grossing star for five consecutive years, 1978–82. In addition to Smokey and the Bandit (and Smokey and the Bandit II), he was best known for Deliverance, The Longest Yard, and Semi-Tough. Twenty years after Semi-Tough, Reynolds received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor for his portrayal of Jack Horner in 1997’s Boogie Nights.

The Georgia-born Reynolds played two years of college football at Florida State University (his roommate was ESPN football analyst Lee Corso) and turned to acting when a knee injury in the late 1950s ended his athletic career. After appearances on Broadway and television, his first movie role was in 1961’s Angel Baby.

Football remained a part of Reynolds’ life, both professionally and personally. In addition to his gridiron-themed films, he was part owner of the Tampa Bay’s U.S. Football League franchise—appropriately named the Bandits—in the 1980s.

“I always wanted to experience everything and go down swinging. Well, so far, so good,” Reynolds wrote in his 2015 memoir But Enough About Me. “I know I’m old, but I feel young. And there’s one thing they can never take away: Nobody had more fun than I did.”

See you down the road, Bandit.

1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit
1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit (Universal Pictures)