Sally Field Says First Oscar Win Was Tainted by Jealous Then-Boyfriend Burt Reynolds
He refused to attend the ceremony with her.
When Sally Field won her first Academy Award in 1980, taking home the Oscar for Best Actress, it should have been a perfect evening. However, her boyfriend at the time, fellow actor Burt Reynolds, put a damper on the celebrations by refusing to attend the ceremony with her.
Field, who won the trophy for playing the titular union organizer in the 1979 drama Norma Rae, was instead accompanied by a friend, as the now-77-year-old star detailed in Dave Karger's new book 50 Oscar Nights. Reynolds, the famously mustachioed actor known for Deliverance and The Longest Yard, petulantly stayed home. It was the culmination of a pattern of seemingly unsupportive behavior, as Reynolds had been dismissive of his partner's rising career right up until Oscar evening. Read on for more about their up-and-down relationship and what Field thinks about his snub now.
Field and Reynolds met making Smokey and the Bandit.
Field and Reynolds began dating four years before the 52nd Academy Awards, having met on the set of Smokey and the Bandit in 1976. The 1977 film stars Reynolds as Bo "Bandit" Darville, a renowned bootlegger who has been hired to haul 400 cases of Coors from Texarkana to Atlanta in just 28 hours while avoiding police. Field plays Carrie, a runaway bride who hitches a ride with the Bandit, the two eventually growing close as they flee the vengeful county sheriff who was to be Carrie's father-in-law. In reality, Field and Reynolds grew close as well and began dating during filming. The movie was a huge hit, becoming the second highest-grossing film of the year after the original Star Wars.
Field appeared in three movies in the two years after Smokey and the Bandit, two of which (The End and Hooper) co-starred Reynolds, at the time the bigger star. Norma Rae represented a major career level-up for Field—one that Reynolds allegedly resented. Field explains in 50 Oscar Nights, via People, that he was "not happy" about her awards buzz.
Reynolds told Field not to bother attending the Cannes Film Festival.
Norma Rae premiered at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival. As the lead, Field was expected to attend the festival to help promote the movie (and to be available should she be in contention for any of the prizes.) Reynolds, though, tried to dissuade her from making the trip to France.
"He did not want me to go to Cannes at all," Field recalled in 50 Oscar Nights. "He said, 'You don't think you're going to win anything, do you?'"
Field did end up going to Cannes, and she did win a very prestigious award, taking home the Best Actress Prize that year. Despite (or, perhaps, because of) Field's success, Reynolds was not any more supportive when the Oscars arrived, according to her.
Field attended the Oscars with a friend when Reynolds refused to be her date.
"When the Oscars came around, he really was not a nice guy around me then and was not going to go with me," Field explained of Reynolds in 50 Oscar Nights. It was a friend of hers who stepped in, accompanying her to the ceremony at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. David Steinberg, a comedian known for more than 100 appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and who has since become a prolific director of TV comedies, offered to take Field with his then-wife, Judy.
As the Forrest Gump star explained it, she "didn't know what to do" about her lack of a date. "Then David said, 'Well, for God's sakes, we'll take you.' He and Judy made it a big celebration. They picked me up in a limousine and had champagne in the car. They made it just wonderful fun," Field recalled.
Costume designer Bob Mackie made Field's dress for the evening, a white strapless dress with a sheer floral cover. She did her own hair and makeup.
Without Reynolds in attendance, field won the Oscar for Best Actress that night, beating out Jill Clayburgh, Jane Fonda, Marsha Mason, and Bette Midler. Four years later, she won the same award, taking home Best Actress for Places in the Heart. (It was during this second Oscar win when Field delivered her infamous "You Like Me" acceptance speech.)
Reynolds and Field didn't speak for 30 years after they broke up.
The Oscars weren't the end of their relationship; Reynolds and Field initially split up later in 1980, then dated on and off for the next two years before finally ending things for good in 1982. In her memoir In Pieces, Field revealed that she didn't speak to Reynolds for the last 30 years of his life. The Boogie Nights star died of a heart attack at age 82 in 2018, coincidentally just before In Pieces came out.
Reynolds, Field wrote in her book, "was a hugely important part of my life but for a very short period of my life."
In a 2022 interview with Variety, Field explained that their time together ended because Reynolds was "not someone [she] could be around."
"He was just not good for me in any way," the actor said. "And he had somehow invented in his rethinking of everything that I was more important to him than he had thought, but I wasn't. He just wanted to have the thing he didn't have. I just didn't want to deal with that."
Reynolds, for his part, called Field "the love of [his] life" in a 2015 Vanity Fair interview, adding, "I miss her terribly."
"I don't know why I was so stupid," he continued. "Men are like that, you know. You find the perfect person, and then you do everything you can to screw it up."
Reynolds expressed a similar sentiment in his 2015 memoir But Enough About Me. Speaking to Entertainment Tonight, he also called Field "one of the most underrated actresses" and the best he'd ever worked with. Who knows what might have been between the two of them had he thought to show that to her back in 1980?
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