In 1972, Burt Reynolds was a television actor and minor celebrity that was about to break out into the mainstream with his role in the film Deliverance. However, that same year also saw the actor take part in a risqué Cosmopolitan photo shoot that wound up stealing much of the attention away from the actor’s dramatic turn. Though the photo shoot played a large part in increasing the actor’s celebrity overall, he regretted it later on. Join Facts Verse as we explore the nude photo shoot that changed Burt Reynolds’ life.
Burt Reynolds was born on February 11, 1936, in Lansing, Michigan. When the future actor was young, his father was drafted into the United States Army. Because of this, Burt’s family moved around a lot while he was growing up. In 1946, the family settled in Riviera Beach, Florida, where Burt’s father took a position as the Chief of Police.
During high school, Burt started showing proficiency as an athlete. He got a football scholarship to attend college, but ended up showing more interest in theater after numerous athletic injuries. Eventually, Burt decided to head out to New York in hopes of starting an acting career. Many of his initial successes came via the stage, but the actor was eventually finding roles on television. Over a decade later, the actor was going to become one of the world’s biggest movie stars.
Before making it as a movie star, Burt was a star on television. The actor started his television career with a handful of guest-starring roles, appearing on shows such as Flight, M Squad, and Pony Express. After numerous guest-starring spots and a few recurring roles, Burt was cast alongside Darren McGavin as one of the leads on the television series Riverboat. Burt only appeared in 20 episodes of the show before calling it quits due to not getting along with his costar, but it helped him achieve notoriety as an actor that could hold his own as a lead on television.
Producers took notice of Burt’s turn on Riverboat, and the actor was soon offered a part on the classic Western series Gunsmoke. Star Dennis Weaver was planning on leaving the cast of the series, which meant there was soon going to be a void that needed to be filled by another actor. The writers came up with a replacement character named Quint Asper, and cast Burt in the part. Burt claimed that his time on Gunsmoke was the happiest time of his life, but he eventually had to give up his position because he felt that his character had run it’s course. The actor had been cast in the role of Quint Asper in 1962, and left the show in 1965.
After leaving Gunsmoke, Burt knew that his true desire was to be on the big screen. However, it was still some time before Burt would become the movie star that we think of today. Sometime after giving up his role on Gunsmoke, Burt was offered to take over the role of James Bond from Sean Connery. Burt turned the offer down due to the fact that he believed he was too American for the part. Thankfully, Paul Newman and Robert Redford were at work on a script with a part that was perfect for Burt, and it was soon going to catapult him straight into the upper echelon of Hollywood. Of course, the script in question was for Deliverance, the film that provided Burt with his breakout role!
Before appearing in Deliverance, Burt had appeared in several B-movies that did very little to help his career. However, Burt had also made a name for himself on the talk show circuit. On talk shows, Burt was able to showcase a side of himself that his film and television roles had not. There was a more affable side to the man than his tough guy roles let on, and he was able to share this personality via his appearance on late night television. The producers of Deliverance took notice of Burt during one of his late night talk show appearances. As well, a talk show appearance led to Burt’s famous 1972 appearance in Cosmopolitan.
Burt was offered the chance to pose for Cosmopolitan after appearing alongside it’s Editor-in-Chief on a late night talk show. The editor had come up with a progressive idea for a photo shoot and wanted to get a man that had some celebrity status, as well as some machismo. After being turned down by Paul Newman, the editor saw her talk show appearance alongside Burt as the perfect opportunity to offer the job to him instead. Burt agreed to it, and the rest is history! If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support. As well, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
At the time that Burt Reynolds posed for his famous Cosmopolitan shoot in 1972, he wasn’t nearly as big of a star as we like to think of him as today. The issue featuring Burt came out in April of 1972, just months before the release of Deliverance. Deliverance was the film that was going to make the world take Burt seriously as a Hollywood actor. However, his appearance in Cosmopolitan was the thing that was going to turn him into a sex symbol.
Cosmopolitan Editor-in-Chief Helen Gurley had pitched the appearance to Burt by telling him that there had never been a magazine that had displayed a naked man the same way that pornographic magazines displayed women. Helen believed that there was a huge demand amongst women for an objectification of the male figure that was similar to what pornographers were doing with the female form. The photo shoot was to depict Burt completely naked, with his genital area just barely covered by his arm.
The Cosmopolitan issue became a giant success, launching Burt to new levels of celebrity amongst the female demographic, as well as paving the way for more objectification of the male body in the future. Soon, Playgirl magazine was introduced as a gender-bent competitor to Playboy, and women were finding out that it was okay to look at naked men. The photograph of Burt featured in Cosmopolitan became an iconic image in it’s own right, and it has been parodied in popular culture many times. George posed for a similar picture during a memorable episode of Seinfeld, and Ryan Reynolds more recently recreated the picture while in character as comic book hero Deadpool.
Despite the many positive effects that the Cosmopolitan photo shoot had for both Burt’s career and male nudity in general, Burt grew to regret the decision to do it later on in life. Burt noticed a change in the audience’s reaction to him almost instantly after the issue featuring him was published, with women in the crowd becoming more sexually aggressive with their taunts and catcalling. The photo shoot had certainly made Burt more of a star, but at what cost?
The biggest reason that Burt grew to regret releasing his nude figure to the public so soon before the release of his breakout role in Deliverance was that he feels the decision prevented him from being taken seriously as an actor. Burt had been hoping for some serious awards consideration to come his way after his turn in Deliverance, and many agreed that the actor deserved it. However, he ended up being snubbed. Burt blamed the Cosmopolitan photo shoot for this, saying that the voters in the academy likely viewed him more as a sex symbol than as a legitimate actor.
Burt liked to have a few drinks before making his talk show appearances, and had likely had a few too many before agreeing to the photo shoot. If the actor had put more though into it, he might’ve decided to pass in order to focus more on his serious acting career. However, things ended up turning out well enough for Burt without the awards recognition. Although it didn’t net Burt an Academy Award, Deliverance was a massive success. Pretty soon, Burt was going to become the major movie star that he had always aspired to be, acting in films like 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit.
Though Burt’s Hollywood career certainly peaked in the 1970s, he had successful roles in films up until around the time of his death in 2018. After a period of critical stagnancy in the 1980s, Burt returned to form with his appearance in the 1997 film Boogie Nights. That film cast Burt as a porn director in the 1970s, which seemed perfect given the star’s status as a sex symbol during the decade. By the start of the new century, Burt had solidified himself as a legend.
Burt lived a long and successful life, but everything has to come to an end eventually. The actor passed away on September 6, 2018. At the time of his passing, the actor was 82 years old. The cause of Burt’s death was a heart attack, and he passed away at the Jupiter Medical Center in Jupiter, Florida. His ex-wife and son subsequently issued a statement saying that they were going to miss him.
A private memorial service was held for Burt on September 20, two weeks after his death. The service included many peers and admirers, including actress Sally Field and Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden. The actor’s ashes were cremated and passed onto his niece. A few years later, she had Burt’s ashes interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery on the day he would’ve turned 85.
Burt Reynolds starred in many more films besides the ones mentioned above. Comment down below to share what your personal favorite Burt Reynolds role is, or if you were surprised to learn that the actor grew to regret the photo shoot that helped turn him into a sex symbol in the eyes of women all across the world. As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!