Burt Reynolds, the Oscar-nominated star of such classics as Smokey and the Bandit, Boogie Nights and Deliverance, has passed away in Florida after suffering a heart attack, a spokesperson confirmed.

He died at the Jupiter Medical Centre in Florida, surrounded by family. Reynolds’ niece, Nancy Lee Hess, told the BBC that his death had left her and the family “with a broken heart.”

“My uncle was not just a movie icon” She said. “He was a generous, passionate and sensitive man who was dedicated to his family, friends, fans and acting students.” She explained that, although he had health issues, his death was “totally unexpected” and has left the family in a state of shock. "I want to thank all of his amazing fans who have always supported and cheered him on, through all of the hills and valleys of his life and career” she added.

While his acting career began in the late 1950s, he got his breakout role in 1972’s Deliverance – the story of four friends on a canoeing trip deep in the backwoods of Georgia, who must fight for their lives after crossing paths with a group of hostile locals. Deliverance went on to be nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Editing and it shot Burt Reynolds into a whole new realm of fame.

From there, Reynolds went on to star in countless films that combined both action and comedy, in a unique formula that became synonymous with Burt Reynolds and echoed his fun-loving personality. Films like The Longest Yard, the Smokey and the Bandit Trilogy and The Cannonball Run perfectly represent the kind of man Burt Reynolds was and the kind of actor he wanted to be.

In 1997, Burt Reynolds was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Jack Horner; a charismatic, pornographic film director in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights. In a now infamous story, the working relationship between Burt Reynolds and Paul Thomas Anderson was so tumultuous that it ended in a physical altercation, with Reynolds reportedly throwing punches at Anderson. After seeing a rough-cut of the film, Reynolds was so unhappy with it that he immediately fired his agent for recommending the role to him and refused to join the promotional tour for the movie. However, once the final film was released and was inundated with rave reviews, many of which praised Reynolds specifically, he had a change of heart and eventually and went on to receive the first and only Oscar nomination of his storied career.

Unsurprisingly, there has been an outpouring of love and support for Reynolds and his family during this dark time, from many of Reynolds’ fellow Hollywood heavy-hitters.

Arnold Schwarzenegger shared a tribute to Reynolds;

“Burt Reynolds was one of my heroes” He said. “He was a trailblazer. He showed the way to transition from being an athlete to being the highest paid actor, and he always inspired me.” He added. “My thoughts are with his family.”

Actor Wesley Snipes, who became a bona-fide action hero throughout the 1990s in films like Demolition Man and Blade also tweeted a tribute to his close friend;

“I will never forget our dinners, laughs and the gems you dropped.” Snipes said. “Meeting you was one of the greater joys of my adult life and artistic career. You were the “Man” then, now & forever in my book.”

Snipes then ended his tribute with an emotional reference to 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit – one of Reynolds’ biggest and most famous roles.

“10-4 Bandit – you’ve got nothing but open road now. Love, WS.”

The screen is sure to be a lesser place without the cheeky, undeniable charisma of Burt Reynolds – a man who dedicated sixty-years of his life to the entertainment of others.

Rest in peace; Bandit.