Friends say the late Smokey And The Bandit star was devastated when his ex refused to deny rumors that he had AIDS. They claim betrayal caused him decades of pain that lasted “until his dying breath."
Being stabbed in the back by Field wounded Reynolds so deeply that his cardiac arrest may have been brought on by the actor suffering a “broken heart,” friends believe.
Steel Magnolias star Field launched a no-holds-barred attack on Reynolds in a 1986 tell-all interview about their tortured relationship, four years after their bitter break up.
The former Hollywood power couple first got together in 1977 after they co-starred in the smash Smokey And The Bandit, released the same year.
Field, now 71, admitted in her sensational 1986 chat that she was initially blown away by Reynolds’ “macho” image. The Forrest Gump actress gushed about accepting his offer to appear as Smokey’s smuggling sidekick
“Burt was a macho movie star, very attractive,” she gushed. “So I thought, ‘Even if the film doesn’t work, if he thinks I’m attractive in it, other people will think so, too.’”
But she admitted that despite her initial attraction to Reynolds, their romance soon turned toxic when the actor began to treat her like a housewife and controlled her every move.
A low point came when Reynolds banned her from going to the Emmy awards to pick up her Outstanding Actress award for playing schizophrenic Sybil Dorset in 1976’s NBC drama Sybil.
“He didn’t feel I should go to the Emmys,” she said. “I remember sitting in this condominium, watching it by myself. Burt wasn’t feeling well and had gone to sleep. When I won, I felt, ‘You schmuck, why weren’t you down there?’ Typical Field move. I allowed other people to lead me. I was so dependent on other people.”
She claimed Reynolds “wasn’t really very important to him.”
“He was busy directing a film; mine was a TV movie,” she said.
Field added that she desperately tried to please him by dressing sex and walking seductively.
“I like being exhibited by a man in some ways, like an object,” she said. “I wanted to be the perfect person I never could be before.
I wanted to be everything he ever wanted. That was terrible, because what happened is that I stopped existing. I dressed for him, looked for him, walked for him. I was trying so hard the first three years to allow him some space, to let him do what he needed to do – with me still there.”
She added Reynolds always hated her swearing on the set of Smokey as he “came from an era when women were one way and men another and never the twain shall meet”.
But the actress finally broke free of his control and said her inner “savage” emerged. Reynolds was disgusted and felt “betrayed.”
“I came up to the surface, is what I did,” she said. “I got mad. And all the colors that I try to hide from all these guys – these fathers and men – finally came out. Burt said, ‘Who is this? I don’t know you’. He felt betrayed. This person he’d come to depend on, who was patient and kind, baked pies and made brownies and rubbed his feet and ran home to feed her kids, then ran back to feed him and never asked for any space and lived in her car and never asked for a coat hanger!”
She added, “All of a sudden, I went, ‘What the f**k is going on? I am a human and these are my needs and how do they fit in with yours?’”
Oscar-winner Field and Reynolds had a bitter break up after the actress left him for her second husband, film producer Alan Greisman.
She revealed that before she ended things, Burt would beg for her to marry him and settled down.
Field jeered: “He asked me to marry him many times at the end.
“He begged me, ‘Please, let’s try it’. But I didn’t want to. I knew that his heart wasn’t in it. He wanted the girl back he had had before, but I was never going to be that way again. We’d have ended up just feeling terrible. We didn't part close friends. We’re still not. I am, unfortunately, an all-or-nothing-at-all kind of person.”
Field informed Reynolds by writing him a letter that she was getting married to Alan – adding, “I don’t know whether or not he cared to hear that.”
After the end of their relationship, Reynolds’ life spiraled into a cycle of loneliness, brushes with bankruptcy and break-ups with girlfriends and wives, including Loni Anderson.
His dramatic weight loss sparked rumors he had contracted AIDS after years of womanizing – gossip Reynolds always violently denied, and which he said left him devastated.
But when Field – who he referred to as “The One” – was asked after their break up to deny the rumor, she said: “I wouldn’t have any way of knowing one way or another… there’s always been something going on around him… he’s had health problems ever since I’ve known him.”
She sniffed: “Burt tries to be all things to all people, and he pushes himself some places he shouldn’t. He thinks that unless he's doing the kind of work that, say, Al Pacino or Robert De Niro does – intense, dramatic work – then he’s not an actor.
“But I don’t think he’s comfortable with that kind of intense emotional revealing. He doesn’t like to reveal himself that way in life, yet he’s mad at himself because he can’t do that on the screen.”
Reynolds admitted Field’s words cut deep, yet constantly babbled towards the end of his life he wanted her back in his life.
The actor said about her 1986 chat: “We haven’t been in touch since. I wish I could turn back the clock. I’m sorry I never told her that I loved her, and I’m sorry we couldn’t make it work. It’s the biggest regret of my life.”
Sources today said the cardiac arrest that killed Reynolds was brought on by a “broken heart” over being plunged into illness without a woman like Field by his side.
Reynolds died at age 82 in a Florida hospital on September 6.
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