Burt Reynolds is a Hollywood icon who was known for his easy-going personality, tough guy film roles and, of course, his mustache. He passed away in 2018 from a heart-attack at age 82 but a new REELZ documentary, Autopsy… The Last Hours of Burt Reynolds, reveals exclusive details into the actor’s death and asks if his’ on-screen antics and injuries played a role.
“Burt would do almost anything if the camera was turned on,” says John Boorman who directed Reynolds’ breakout performance in Deliverance.
Witnesses report Reynolds performing his own stunts in the Chatooga River, where he careened through rapids and slammed his spine on the rocks.
“He hit right on his tailbone and then he bounced, it was tough, and then he went into the water. It was a pretty harrowing thing,” recalls Jon Voight who co-starred in the 1972 film.
“He carried that injury for a long time after that,” Boorman adds.
Reynolds, whose career spanned 100 motions pictures, continued to do his own stunts in films like The Longest Yard in 1974 and racking up a number of injuries along. Reynolds suffered his most devastating injury on the set of City Heat in 1984.
“He was hit in a bar room fight by a chair that was supposed to be break away. The chair didn’t break away,” says Reynolds’ former publicist, Joe Sutton.
His opponent in the scene had picked up the wrong chair and smashed it into Burt’s head.
“He got up and he wanted to keep going,” says Marilu Henner, Reynolds longtime friend and co-star. “He did the whole movie with a broken jaw.”
Voight conquers that Reynolds was just as tough in real life as his on screen alter egos.
“One time I said, why are you having trouble walking and he says ‘Well I threw myself off a building yesterday, I did a stunt and landed on a car.’ Those cars are harder than you think,” says Voight
Despite his tough but easy-going image on screen, Reynolds took medication for panic attacks and anxiety. He used painkillers for the injuries he picked up doing stunts and the mix led to decades of addiction to prescription medication.
Did the combination of injuries and drug-use lead to the showman’s surprise departure?
There is much to be found out-- tune-in to Autopsy… The Last Hours of Burt Reynolds Sunday, August 16th at 8 ET/PT on REELZ!