It wasn't all acting on the set of Smokey and the Bandit for Sally Field and Burt Reynolds. After the two co-stars met in 1977, they ended up in an intense five-year relationship. Though it didn't last, before his death Reynolds referred to Field as the "love of my life."
"Even now, it's hard on me. I don't know why I was so stupid," Reynolds told Vanity Fair in 2015. "Men are like that, you know. You find the perfect person, and then you do everything you can to screw it up."
When they first connected, Field had already been married to Steven Craig, with whom she had two children, Peter and Eli. Reynolds had ended his marriage to Judy Carne. (The sex symbol actor also had relationships with Dinah Shore and Tammy Wynette.) While from an outside perspective it might have seemed that Reynolds and Field had a dreamy Hollywood romance, Field later explained that wasn't the case.
In her memoir In Pieces, the Oscar winner referred to their relationship as a "perfect match of flaws," saying that she had fallen into the same rut that caused her to revolve her life around a man. Initially, she was drawn to Reynolds' incredible charisma and charm. But Field says Reynolds changed at the peak of his fame. According to Field, Reynolds became very controlling, which made their relationship complicated. His stardom turned him into a sex symbol and he clearly knew it and embraced it.
At the start of filming for Smokey and the Bandit, Field was fresh off a successful TV career starring in the hit shows The Flying Nun, The Girl with Something Extra and Gidget. Reynolds was already a working actor after films like White Lightning, The Longest Yard and Deliverance. But Smokey and the Bandit turned him into a bonafide movie star. Throughout their relationship, the couple starred together in three more films — Smokey and the Bandit II, The End and Hooper.
Field told Good Morning America that she and Reynolds had an electric connection while filming.
"We had known each other about three days, four days at that point [during the filming of Smokey and the Bandit]. It was instantaneous, and four days felt like four years," Field said. "You can see it in our faces. We were sort of, you know, deeply entangled," she told Diane Sawyer. "That nature of it wasn't just, 'Oh, this is a love affair.' There was some ingredient between us having to do with my caretaking and him needing to be taken care of."
Though she was flattered that Reynolds referred to her as the love of his life, she was relieved that he was no longer around to read her memoir In Pieces. She opened up about his drug abuse and how he dismissed her when she tried to get him some help.
"This would hurt him," she told The New York Times. "I felt glad that he wasn't going to read it, he wasn't going to be asked about it, and he wasn't going to have to defend himself or lash out, which he probably would have. I did not want to hurt him any further."
Before he died of a heart attack in 2018, Reynolds told The Daily Mail that the end of his relationship with Field was the biggest regret of his life.
"I did four movies with Sally and spent five years with her. She was the love of my life and I screwed the relationship up. That sense of loss never goes away. I have no idea what Sally thinks about it. She could pick up the phone and speak to me but she never does. I spoke to her son recently. He said that his mum talks about me all the time. Maybe she'll phone me one day. I'd love to have that conversation."
Despite all of the complications and pain, Field was still "flooded with feelings and nostalgia" after Reynolds passed away.
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