Burt Reynolds turns 81-years-old on Feb. 11. While he has had an incredible career in the entertainment industry, for the past five decades, the actor, who’s best known for his work in the 1970s films Deliverance and Smokey and the Bandit, has made headlines for his love life as much as his movie roles. Burt Reynolds was married twice, but there’s no denying his biggest romance was with longtime girlfriend Sally Field.
Burt Reynolds has long been known as a ladies’ man—his past loves include Laugh-In star Judy Carne, whom he married briefly in 1963, singer Dinah Shore, tennis icon Chris Evert, and second wife, actress Loni Anderson. But his most high-profile — and happiest — relationship was with Field.
Burt Reynolds dated Sally Field for five years beginning in 1977 when they met on the set of the movie Smokey and the Bandit. The lovebirds mixed business with pleasure, co-starring in four flicks—Smokey and the Bandit, Smokey and the Bandit II, The End and Hooper—before they split for good in 1982.
In a 2008 interview for Oprah’s O Magazine, Sally Field talked about her first meeting with Reynolds, who contacted her after her Emmy Award-winning role in the TV movie Sybil.
“Believe it or not, that role led to Smokey and the Bandit,” Field told Oprah.
“This time, Burt Reynolds called me up personally. I pretended it wasn’t shocking and scary that he would call me. He said he had this movie and the script wasn’t very good but that he trusted me and would make it work. Actually, there was no script; in the end, we made up half the movie.”
Field also confirmed that she dated Reynolds, who is 11 years her senior, “off and on” during that time and added that they were “together pretty solidly for three years.”
But while Burt Reynolds has nostalgic memories of a fairytale romance, Field told Oprah that her co-star reminded her of her volatile stepfather.
“Burt was very similar to my stepfather in so many ways, and with all due respect to what an interesting man Burt is, a lot of our time was about my needing to be able to walk away from that profound connection to my stepfather,” the actress said.
Reynolds has admitted that the decade following his split from Field was the darkest period of his life. In his 2015 memoir, But Enough About Me, Burt detailed an addiction to prescription painkillers after a jaw injury, and said he was plagued by AIDS rumors due to his rapid weight loss.
“I just kept working,” Reynolds revealed. “I thought the only way to make these rumors go away is to keep working… it really was an awful period.”
Burt went on to marry actress Loni Anderson, a union that would last six years, but he later admitted the WKRP in Cincinnati star was not the love of his life.
“Nope,” Burt told Men’s Health. “Absolutely not.”
Instead, Reynolds has gone on record multiple times as saying Sally Field was the love of his life—and that he’s still not over her. In a 2015 interview with Vanity Fair, Reynolds admitted he still thinks about his estranged ex.
“I miss her terribly,” Burt revealed.
“Even now, it’s hard on me. I don’t know why I was so stupid. Men are like that, you know. You find the perfect person, and then you do everything you can to screw it up.”
Actress Sally Field pictured in 1977 pic.twitter.com/eHncvkNQrI— Histi Pics (@HistoryOnSepia) January 15, 2017
After hearing about Reynolds’ love proclamation, Field told People she had no comment on the subject.
“I have no response, really, and any response I would have would belong to him.” The actress said at the time.
Field also admitted she hasn’t talked to Reynolds in years.
“We don’t really talk to each other, no,” she told EW.
Burt Reynolds previously hinted that he reached out to his ex in recent years, but to no avail.
“You’d think after a guy says ‘I love you and I hope we can make another movie together,’ that you’d hear from them,” Burt told The Guardian in 2015. “But I never heard a word, so I guess I’m never going to hear.”
Reynolds elaborated on his comment about Sally Field being the love of his life, telling People he even loved her mom.
“I really adored her,” Reynolds said of his ’70s sweetheart.
“It was real. She’s very, very, special…I loved her mother.”
Reynolds also revealed that Sally Field’s mom predicted he would break her daughter’s heart and just asked him to “be gentle.”
“I said, ‘I don’t know how you could break somebody’s heart and be gentle, but I don’t intend to break her heart,” Burt recounted. “You never intend to.”
Take a look at the video below to see Burt Reynolds talking about the love of his life, Sally Field.
[Featured Image by Hulton Archive/Getty Images]