When someone thinks of Burt Reynolds, the thought of a “sex symbol” might rattle around in their head rather than a versatile actor, which the actor attributed to a nude photoshoot from the 70s. Reynolds put together some time on television’s beloved Gunsmoke. He also starred in some movies but did not break out as a major star immediately.
That all changed with his appearance in Deliverance. Burt Reynolds received great accolades for his work as Lewis Medlock in the 1972 movie. But he took his newfound fame one step further. Reynolds believed that posing nude for Cosmopolitan in 1972 may have hurt his Oscar chances.
Originally, Burt Reynolds did it as a joke and, apparently, wanted to make a statement. He posed nude for a centerfold at the urging of magazine editor Helen Gurley Brown. Again, while it was all in fun at the time, Reynolds eventually had misgivings about doing it.
Burt Reynolds Spoke Out About Photo Shoot
“I never would have done it if I didn’t have Deliverance in the can,” he said during an interview as part of a documentary titled I Am Burt Reynolds. And Reynolds didn’t have any idea that directors in Hollywood would find that in bad taste. He thought they might see it and simply laugh it off. Unfortunately, that did not happen.
“It was for laughs,” Reynolds said. “It was a take-off on the whole male chauvinist attitude of Playboy, and they’re making a comment and they’re right.”
Alan Rifkin, director of a Burt Reynolds film titled The Last Movie Star, said that the photoshoot did affect Reynolds’ career. “Suddenly he was sex symbol Burt Reynolds instead of (a) serious actor,” Rifkin said. “He always believed that photo killed his opportunity to get an Oscar nomination for Deliverance.”
Nancy Lee Hess, Reynolds’ niece, spoke about that moment in the documentary. She said, “Everyone else enjoyed it, but I don’t think it was something Hollywood approved of.”
‘Deliverance’ Co-Star Claims Photo Didn’t Ruin Reynolds’ Career
Jon Voight, one of Reynolds’ co-stars in Deliverance, disagreed with that sentiment. He also appeared in the documentary.
“It did not [ruin his career]. It enhanced it. (And) it was a gutsy move,” Voight said while laughing in the interview. “It was his humor. Burt always had a sense of humor in every decision he made.”
Later in life, while chatting with Piers Morgan in 2012, Burt Reynolds admitted that he didn’t consider his posing for the photo as a goof. “I’m very embarrassed by it,” he said. “I thought it cost some actors in Deliverance an Academy Award.”
Reynolds opened up more about what his life was like during this time in My Life. He wrote in 1994 that women turned even more aggressive toward him than ever before. “Standing ovations turned into burlesque show hoots and catcalls. They cared more about my pubes than they did about the play,” he wrote.
Burt Reynolds also opened up a little more about the Cosmopolitan situation with Steve Harvey in 2018. It was just before he died, too. “I didn’t know there was going to be a commotion about it,” he said. “It wasn’t a big deal to me. I said, ‘I’ll do it, but I’ll have to have my hands…in front of me.’ And I have very small hands.”
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