Did Burt Reynolds secretly hate his iconic nude photoshoot?
Who could forget Reynolds as Cosmopolitan’s first male centerfold? He posed for the 1972 issue nude while laying on a bearskin rug with a hand covering his private area while smoking a cigarette. It quickly became viral (before the internet was even a thing). However, it did overshadow his film Deliverance, where he gave a stellar performance in that same year.
His issue sold over 1 million copies and his photo turned into merchandise. His photo can be seen on underwear, shirts, pillowcases, towels, among other items. It is even proudly displayed inside the women’s bathroom at the Safe House bar in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
“He believed even though Deliverance was very successful, [the nude photo] hurt everybody’s chance of getting Academy Award recognition because it trivialized it,” he noted. Reynolds later did earn an Oscar nomination in 1997 for Boogie Nights.
A close friend of Reynolds told that he wanted to be famous for his work not his photo.
“He wanted to have it all – he wanted the fame and the respect, but only the fame came to him,” his friend stated.
“Standing ovations turned into burlesque show hoots and catcalls,” Reynolds later told Cosmopolitan. “They cared more about my pubes than they did the play.”
Burt Reynolds Tells the Story of How it Came About
In early 1972, Burt Reynolds was a guest on The Tonight Show. Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown was also a guest on the show. She was promoting her book, “Sex and the Single Girl.” She pitched the idea to him during a commercial break. She wanted it to be a “milestone in the sexual revolution.” As it was only females being nude in magazines, never males.
“Although no one had ever shown a naked man in a magazine before, Helen believed women have the same ‘visual appetites’ as men,” Reynolds previously said. (Playboy already debuted in 1953.) “She wanted the same prerogative for women… She said I was the one man who could pull it off.”
Ironically, she told a lie. She asked Paul Newman before Reynolds but he turned her down. Reynolds said yes but had several cocktails in the greenroom prior to the show.
“Helen didn’t have to talk me into it. I was flattered and intrigued,” he recalled. “I wish I could say that I wanted to show my support for women’s rights, but I just thought it would be fun.”
He agreed to the shoot before the commercial break ended. Burt Reynolds picked up two quarts of vodka for the big day. That day it was also freezing outside. Reynolds said that was “bad for a naked man’s self-esteem.”
Reynolds said that he also posed with a dog and hat in front of his “tallywacker.” The photographer burned the outtakes and gave him the negatives.