Though it’s been years since they were a couple, Burt Reynolds admitted before his death that he was still in love with his former co-star and girlfriend Sally Field. And now, the actress is opening up about how she felt about Burt’s bold public claim.

“I was always flattered when he said that,” the 71-year-old said in a new interview with Diane Sawyer. “But he was a complicated man. We’d known each other about three days, four days [when we filmed Smokey and the Bandit]. It was instantaneous and four days felt like four years. You can see it in our faces. We were sort of, you know, deeply entangled.” Sally added, “The nature of it wasn’t just, ‘Oh this is a love affair.’ There was some ingredient between us having to do with my care-taking and him needing to be taken care of.”

When Burt was asked during a recent interview who the love of his life was, the late Hollywood icon candidly opened up about his five-year romance with Sally. “You’ve had an incredible career [with] so many great roles and so many great loves,” Today co-anchor Hoda Kotb said during her Thursday, March 15 sit-down with Burt. “But I’ve always wondered; when I think about the women in your life — who would you consider the love of your life?” Burt then replied, “You’re naughty, you really are. I’m dead in the water, no matter what I say. Well, she was [age] seven when I fell in love with her and she stayed seven for about 11 years. I would say, Sally.”

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                                                         (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Burt and Sally first starred on-screen together in 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit and subsequently dated for five years. While speaking with Hoda on Today, the actor remembered fighting to get Sally cast in the movie. “I wanted her really bad for Smokey and [the filmmakers] said, ‘Well, she’s not sexy.’ And I said, ‘You don’t get it, talent is sexy.’ And she’s got that,” he said. After Smokey, the duo co-starred in two 1978 flicks, Hooper and The End, and Smokey and the Bandit II in 1980. 

That interestingly wasn’t the first time Burt had spoken out about his past romance with Sally. During another exclusive interview with Closer Weekly, he revealed, “I think we would have been very happy. If anybody asks about that period of my life, it was a wonderful time. I was — and still am — very proud of her.” Sally has also praised Burt in the past. “Burt was the most important influence that came into my life other than my children at the time,” she has said. 

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                                                        (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

“He gave me a feeling that I was sexy, and I wanted to be everything he ever wanted. [But] that was terrible because what happened is that I stopped existing. I dressed for him, looked for him, walked for him. He asked me to marry him many times, [but] I knew his heart wasn’t in it. We’d have ended up just feeling terrible,” she shared. In the years following their breakup, Burt has said, “I don’t know why I was so stupid. Men are like that, you know. You find the perfect person, and then you do everything you can to screw it up.”

Sadly, Burt and Sally were no longer close and hadn’t not spoken in years before Burt’s passing from a heart attack in early September at age 82. When once asked if she kept in touch with Burt, Sally replied, “We don’t really talk to each other, no. When subsequently asked about Burt once declaring her “the one that got away,” Sally quipped, “Well, yeah.” Burt recently told Closer he still loved Sally “very much.” He continued, “I wish I could stay in touch with [her], but I live in Florida.” We would have loved for them to work out…