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"I was up to 50 Halcions a day"
Excerpt from TV Guide Interview
with Burt Reynolds April 25, 1992
TVG: Burt, you've partly explained this before but how did you get so sick ?
Reynolds: On the first day that I went to work on the movie "City Heat" with Clint Eastwood, shooting the very first scene, I got hit in the head with a chair. When you choreograph stunts, it's like a dance routine. If anybody messes up the stunts, it can be a disaster. One guy who was in the scene wasn't a professional stuntman – I think he was a wrestler with an IQ of about 8. He was supposed to hit me with a balsa wood chair, but instead he picked up a wrought-iron chair and hit me on the head with it. It dropped me like a sack of potatoes. I started getting dizzy immediately, I could hardly walk, I felt nauseated. But I was fighting for my career; I didn't want to say anything about being hurt. Clint, who says about 15 words a year, saw me in pain later on, motioned to the assistant director, and said he was sick. "Wrap it," he said. So everybody went home. That's the Clint Eastwood nobody knows.
TVG: What did the injury do to you ?
Reynolds: I broke my jaw and shattered my temporomandibular joint. The pain was worse than a migraine. It is like having an army of people inside your head trying to get out through ears, eyes, your nose. It never stops. The worst part of it is, there is no center. You can't stand up. You can't move your head. It's like the worst seasickness all day long. And you lie there in bed.
That's when I started going to the doctors. There are so many charlatans out there. I ended up spending a fortune, going to maybe 28 doctors all over the United States. You are in such pain you'll do anything. One guy said, "I am going to saw your bottom teeth right off." And he did. Then I looked really cute. I could put my tongue through my teeth.
TVG: And you took lots of pills ?
Reynolds: Are you crazy ? I have this unbelievable constitution, so I took maybe 30 to 40 pills a day.
TVG: And it didn't touch the pain ?
Reynolds: Morphine I took. But the thing that got me hooked on the most was Halcion. The sleeping pills they're just finding all the bad things about.
TVG: How many were you taking ?
Reynolds: I was up to 50 a day.
TVG: Fifty Halcions?
Reynolds: Yeah, of the blue ones, strong ones. And still talking! "Uh Loni I'm gwong too gowhoa downshtairs." She'd say, "What, I just gave you three sleeping pills." My tolerance went up. I would get out of bed and take five pills. And I'd be awake and five or six hours later I'd take five or six more. So, yeah, 50 pills over a 24-hour period.
TVG: Would you say you were insane?
Reynolds: I was insane. But what was amazing was, Loni never treated me like I was insane (Tears up. Composes himself). It finally got to the point where it was like being an alcoholic and you say to yourself, I have problems. And this problem was worse than all of the other problems.
TVG: The problem was the addiction to the pills?
Reynolds: The problem was that I was going to die. I wasn't even aware of it. I was sleeping longer and longer. I was taking 50 pills a day. Fifty! Doctors told me if I had taken one more I would have died. It was that simple.
TVG: Did you ever consider checking into the Betty Ford Clinic?
Reynolds: No, because of all of the kids I had worked with at my theatre, it was very important to me not to be portrayed as a drug addict. I felt a tremendous amount of responsibility. So I went home and did something incredibly stupid – I went cold turkey.
TVG: What was that like?
Reynolds: I went into a coma for about eight or nine hours. At one point they tell me that the doctors brought Loni in to say goodbye to me. And I had the whole out of body experience. I heard the doctor say, "We're losing him." And I was going...
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