Dueling Banjos….; Ned Beatty “squealing like a pig”….; this classic movie did for “backwoods rednecks” what Psycho did for motel showers.
How did we measure hailstones before the invention of golf balls? How did we discuss “rednecks” before we had “dueling banjos” and simply the word “Deliverance”. Ned Beatty has done well over 100 movies in his long career. I defy you to name two of them without including “Deliverance”. Can you think of Deliverance without picturing Paul Finebaum’s call-in audience?
As a Baby Boomer I’d put Deliverance on a short list of movies I recall where I saw it and who I was with ….. like “Jaws” ….. “Godfather” …. “Dr No”…. and, oddly, “ET”. What is on “your list”? Before you ask…. I don’t know if “Albert” has seen this or not. I’m going to guess “Not”.
RUMOR DEBUNK: It is NOT TRUE that a sequel is in the works:
Deliverance II – Dickie Baddour, Johnny Swofford, Roy Williams and “The Meez” decide to go on an adventure ….. riding Segways thru the parking lot at Carter-Finley Stadium on Gameday. Hollywood decided it would be TOO Gory plus they could not find any actors willing to play ANY of the four guys.
Not that you ever wanted to know everything about it…. but here it is if you ever did. I hope you will take the time to READ MORE. Lots of very interesting info….
Forty-five years after the publication of James Dickey’s acclaimed novel, an oral history of one of the most unforgettable Southern movies of all time
James Dickey was the kind of man who made Ernest Hemingway look like a florist from the Midwest, says his former student the writer Pat Conroy. And forty-five years ago this summer, Dickey’s book Deliverance was one of the hottest things on the stands, a literary triumph.
The novel tells the story of four Atlanta suburbanites and “the weekend they didn’t play golf,” as one of the movie posters later said. Instead, they decide on an excursion into the North Georgia wilderness that changes their lives. A canoe trip down the white waters of the fictional Cahulawassee River puts them smack-dab in the middle of backwoods hell.
They have to fight their way out, but not before one of them is raped and another dies. When Hollywood released the movie version in 1972, for which Dickey also wrote the screenplay, it became one of the signature—and most shocking—films of the decade.
III. ASSEMBLING THE CAST
Several actors were discussed to play the leads, including Lee Marvin and Gene Hackman. But Boorman eventually focused in on two names.
JOHN BOORMAN: Warner Bros. wanted two major stars, so I went to Jack Nicholson [to play Ed]. He agreed to do it and asked, “Who will you get to play Lewis?” I said, “I don’t really know yet.” He said, “What about Brando?” So I went to see Marlon Brando—spent the day with him. Finally, he said he’d do it. I asked, “Who’s your agent?” He said, “I don’t have an agent.” I said, “Well, what’s your price?” And he said, “I’ll take the same as you pay Jack.” I went back to Nicholson’s agent and said, “What do you want for Jack?” He said, “Half a million.” Now, Nicholson had never got more than $75,000. So I told studio head Ted Ashley. “Brando? Oh, God. He doesn’t mean anything anymore—he’s box-office poison.” Well, I thought Nicholson and Brando would work very well together. Ashley asked, “What does Jack want?” I said, “Well, he wants half a million.” “Half a million?!” Ashley almost went through the roof. Then he kind of calmed down and said maybe they would pay him that money because everyone in town wanted Nicholson. He said, “What does Brando want?” “I agreed to pay him the same as Jack.” Ashley then exploded, “I’d be laughed out of this town if I paid half a million for Brando.” I said, “Look, you asked me to get two stars. I got them. Now you’re saying you don’t want to pay them. What happens now?” He said, “Well, you make it for a price, go with unknowns, and let’s see what happens.”
The four canoeists, played by Ned Beatty, Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox, and Jon Voight, before they depart. Courtesy of Everett Collection
RONNY COX: I was in New York, struggling as a stage actor. They came to town looking for unknown actors and, God knows, I was unknown.
LYNN STALMASTER (casting director): The first person we cast was Ronny to play the character of Drew. Ned Beatty was performing at the Arena [Stage] theater in Washington, D.C., and I called him and said, “You’ve got to make yourself available.” We wanted him for the character of Bobby, who gets raped. Ned had no problem with the sodomy aspect—some actors did.
NED BEATTY (Bobby Trippe): I was talking to John Boorman, who was in England, and I said, “Are we going to fake it or are we going to do it?” And he said, “We’re going to act it. It’s going to be an acting thing.” I said, “Fine, I can do that.” That was the entire conversation about that as far as I can remember.
RONNY COX: It was not only my first film, but my first time in front of a camera. It was Ned’s first film, too. We had done like twenty-some plays together. They didn’t even know we knew each other.
LYNN STALMASTER: Ultimately, John Boorman zeroed in on Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds for the leads.
JOHN BOORMAN: Burt Reynolds had done three unsuccessful TV series. I wasn’t aware of this because I didn’t live in America. Warner Bros. threw up their arms in horror.
BURT REYNOLDS: I used to fall off a roof in a Western show at Ghost Town in the Sky, an amusement park in North Carolina. I got paid seventy-five dollars a week. I remembered this guy—Herbert “Cowboy” Coward, a wonderful actor—he played Pa Clampett or somebody who did the gunfight. His two front teeth were missing and he stuttered. So I suggested him to the director and…he came to read. God love him, Cowboy couldn’t read, so I gave him the lines and he was a marvelous actor. In the reading of the script, the director said, “Do you realize what you have to do in this picture?”—explaining to him that he had to jump this guy’s bones. He looked at the director. “I’ve done a lot w-w-w-worse things than that.”