After heading to New York, he began working in television and theatre and soon landed roles on the national series "Riverboat" and "Gunsmoke." Reynolds's star-making turn was in Deliverance (1972), followed by performances in The Longest Yard, Gator and his comic breakthrough, Smokey and the Bandit (1977). His success continued with Semi-Tough, The Cannonball Run and Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
In 1990, he started work on the television series "Evening Shade," for which he won an Emmy. A renewed interest in Reynolds's career came in 1997 with his role as a porn director in Boogie Nights, which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.