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Our Favorite Bandit: These Are The Best Roles Where Burt Reynolds Broke The Law

Burt Reynolds left behind a lifetime of work and inspiration on how to live — and sometimes, how not to. 

By Jon Silman

Yes, he’s gone and we are all in mourning, and yes, there have been maybe too many nude photos of him in everyone's Instagram feed. But let’s not forget one thing - he wasn’t just a damn fine actor, he was at his best when playing the so-called worst types of people. That’s why here at Oxygen.com we’ve decided to highlight Mr. Reynolds' finest outlaw roles. The ones where he didn’t have to adhere to annoying societal constraints like not robbing banks, having to drive the speed limit or not shooting people through the heart with arrows.

Burt as Quint Asper in “Gunsmoke”

While maybe not a criminal per se, no list of Reynolds' best outlaw roles would be complete without a mention of Quint Asper, the half-white, half-Comanche he played in the 1960s show gunsmoke. In this scene, Quint takes care of a blowhard who thinks he can shoot his way out of any problem. Reynolds shows his calm, cavalier charisma while also displaying the fighting agility of a ninja/samurai hybrid. A leg-kick over a table to a suplex into a horse’s trough and holy crap can that man kick some ass and look good doing it.

Burt as Lewis Medlock in “Deliverance”

Burt made his big-screen debut in this notorious movie known not only for giving us the visceral pleasure of the song “Dueling Banjos,” but for a notorious man-on-man rape scene that shocked viewers when it came out in 1972. Burt plays Lewis Medlock, one of four men from Atlanta who want to take canoes into the Georgia wilderness. They get separated and two of the men run into two backwoods boys who are, let’s just say, not so kind to them - they tie one guy to a tree and rape the other. In this scene, they’re getting ready to sexually assault Ed Gentry (played by a young Jon Voight), when Medlock, as cold as a fresh ice cube, takes aim with his bow and fires an arrow straight through one guy’s heart. Like a true outlaw, later he helps his buds hide the body and convinces them to pretend it never happened.

Burt as Bo “Bandit” Darville in “Smokey and the Bandit”

No online list would be worth its weight in bytes without a mention of what is perhaps Reynolds' best known role: the smooth talking, outlaw living, crazy-driving Bo Darville. This is the movie where Reynolds' sports his classic cowboy hat, mustache and button-up combo look that made ‘70s women swoon. In this scene from the movie, he displays his proclivity for remaining cool, yes, but also his expert comedic timing. As he’s barreling toward a broken bridge he mutters “that’s not good,” as if he was asking someone to pass the butter. He turns around the narrow road only to be faced with a legion of cops cars and he deadpans “well, that’s worse.” It’s Mr. Reynolds at his best.

Burt as Jack Horner in “Boogie Nights”

While again not necessarily a criminal, porn producer Jack Horner was definitely an outlaw. In this role, we see an older, more weathered Reynolds in a role that got him nominated for an Academy Award and won him a Golden Globe. We get to witness the man’s penchant for being able to dig into a role, to be simultaneously an artist and a sleazebag - someone who could bend morality around a stripper pole, and still make it seem right. In this scene from the movie, Jack waxes poetic to Mark Wahlberg’s Dirk Digglar character, making porn sound like art and art sound like porn until the two are meshed together like pressed, wet clay. 

Burt as Burt Reynolds in Real Life

Let’s get real. The real life Reynolds was perhaps as irreverent toward societal norms as his characters were. Take this article in Vanity Fair, which showed how the man lived at his peak. He peacocked around in velvet and silk. He owned properties in Florida, California, Georgia and even the smoky mountains of North Carolina. He had a jet, a helicopter and many, many cars — and 150 horses. Oh, and more than $100,000 in toupees, made by the man known as “the Armani of hair replacement.”

Not shocking given his spending habits, he had his financial woes, too, though. He was forced to file for bankruptcy three years after his divorce from second wife Loni Anderson in the mid ‘90s, with debts totalling around $11.2 million, according to Variety Fair. When he died, he was only reportedly worth around $5 million, according to People.com.

But perhaps we’ll let the man say it in his own words:

“I’ve lost more money than is possible because I just haven’t watched it,” he told Vanity Fair. “I’ve still done well in terms of owning property and things like that. But I haven’t been somebody who’s been smart about his money. There are a couple of actors who are quite brilliant with the way they’ve handled their money.” He smiles. “But they’re not very good actors.”

R.I.P. Mr. Reynolds. You lived the way we wish we all could.  

[Photos: Getty]