So as not to bury the lede, Burt Reynolds wrote in his memoir about his great forsaken love.
“I’m sorry that I never told her I loved her, and I’m sorry that we couldn’t make it work. It’s the biggest regret of my life.”
Reynolds was talking about Sally Field, the lauded actor and his former lover. The two met in 1977 when he entreated The Flying Nun star to be in his new movie Smokey and the Bandit.
The two had a five-year relationship that ended decades ago but meant enough to Reynolds to devote a chapter in his book “But Enough About Me,” titled simply, ‘Sally Field.’
Reynolds became fodder earlier this year when he misspoke in an interview saying he met Field when she was seven. Reynolds, who was 82, died Thursday. His niece Nancy Lee Hess said in a statement reported on by The Hollywood Reporter said,, “He has had health issues, however, this was totally unexpected. He was tough …”
In a statement to People magazine, Field said, “There are times in your life that are so indelible, they never fade away. They stay alive, even forty years later. My years with Burt never leave my mind. He will be in my history and my heart, for as long as I live. Rest, Buddy.”
Here’s what you need to know about Burt and Sally:
1. Reynolds Wanted Field to Star With Him in ‘Smokey and the Bandit.’ Universal Said She Wasn’t ‘Sexy.’ Reynolds Said, ‘Talent is Sexy.’ The Rest is History
In his book, Reynolds wrote that he’d approached the studio about having Field co-star in what ended up being a massive commercial success, Smokey and the Bandit. The studio balked. Field had not appeared in a major feature, they said. Reynolds went above heads and got the go-ahead to reach to to Field.
Despite the fact that Reynolds was the movie star of he ’70’s with Cannonball Run, Deliverance, and The Longest Yard all rainmakers, Field said doing a “commercial” movie wasn’t the right move for her. Her agents disagreed.
Reynolds didn’t actually meet her until their first rehearsal, he wrote. He was “taken with her immediately,” saying she was “strong and funny and spectacular in the cold reading,” meaning the first time they read the script together.
2. Reynolds & Field Fell in Love, Made 4 Movies Together & Were a Couple for 5 Years, Almost Marrying Once or Twice
In his book Reynolds said, “One of the things people say about Smokey is that you watched two people fall in love on the screen, and it’s true. If ever the old cliché chemistry applied …” it did between the two of them, he wrote. He added that Field was a consummate professional and stuck to the script and not goofing around while reheasring and filming. Reynolds said he encouraged her to ad lib occasionally.
He said that “at one point broke into a marvelous improvisation …we were in the car and she put her feet on the windshield and started dancing and talking about how she’s always wanted to be in a play. She went on and on with funny, open-book kind of stuff that was brave and real. That’s when I realized I was falling in love.”
They starred together in Smokey And The Bandit, its 1980 sequel Smokey And The Bandit II, The End in 1978 and Hooper also in 1978.
3. ‘You Find the Perfect Person & Then You do Everything You Can to Screw it Up’
In his book, Reynolds wrote, “After we broke up, I wanted to see her again, but she refused and I fell apart. I wrote her a letter saying, ‘Could we just go to dinner?’ and the answer was no. I still wanted to see her but my pride stepped in and I gave up.”
And in 2015, more than three decades after their split Reynolds told Vanity Fair, “I miss her terribly. 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.”
Field, when asked over the years to comment on Reynolds public statements about losing the love of his life, is respectfully quiet though once said simply if there was something to say, she’d say it to him.
“I have no response, really …and any response I would have would belong to him.”
4. Field’s Body of Work in TV & Film Has Been Honored With Academy, Screen Actor Guild, Emmy, Golden Globe, People’s Choice & Film Critics Awards Among Others
The into-boys surfer girl Gidget in 1965, the inexplicable Flying Nun the late 60s into 1970, to Sybil, the TV miniseries where her performance earned her an an Emmy award for her incredible portrayal of a young woman with multiple personalities, to her two Academy Award-winning roles – one for Norma Rae and the other for Places in the Heart – and scores of films and TV shows in between, the more than half-century career of Field, now 71 (looking like 35) is one of the most enduring and endearing in Hollywood.
Reynolds praised Field’s work as an actor. He noted though in his autobiography, “Sally has spent most of her professional life working for respect, so after Gidget and The Flying Nun, she spent the next 10 years trying to live those roles down.”
5. Field Has a Memoir Coming Out Called ‘In Pieces.’ In His Book, Reynolds Explained Field’s ‘You Like Me’ Comment
And in keeping with his observation about her career, Reynolds wrote that earning the respect of her fellow actors was important to her.
“… that explains why when she won her second Oscar for Places in the Heart she said, “I haven’t had an Orthodox career, and I wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time, I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!'”
Reynolds wrote that Field was “making a reference to a line in Norma Rae but nobody got the joke and Sally got slammed for it. To make it worse, people misquoted her saying. ‘You like me, you really like me!’ That line has been dogging her ever since.”
Field’s memoir, ‘In Pieces’ hits bookstores Sept. 18.
In its review, Booklist said her story is “a memoir as soulful, wryly witty, and lyrical as it is candid and courageous… Eye-opening and deeply affecting… Arresting in its dark disclosures, vitality, humor, and grace, Field’s deeply felt and beautifully written memoir illuminates the experiences and emotions on which she draws as an exceptionally charismatic, emphatic, and powerful artist.”