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The Secrets of Deliverance

The cast of the classic movie squeal like...four very good friends chatting about the past.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
All it takes to make a lasting friendship and classic movie is near death experiences and pretend sexual assault. Four guys paddling down a river. What could go wrong? That's the premise for one of the most harrowing of harrowing river movies - Deliverance (The new 40th Anniversary Blu-ray is out now.) Stars (and bffs) Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Jon Voight and Ronnie Cox shared with us the secrets of making the classic.

Good Question
Burt Reynolds: My first thought after seeing it recently: Why wasn't I nominated?!

[Editor's Note: Deliverance came out in 1972, the same year as The Godfather, which swept the Academy Awards. It's still a sore subject with these guys.]

Ronnie Cox: Burt should have been nominated and Ned should have been nominated.

Ned Beatty: This is a plea that we all should be nominated this year, no matter what movie we're in. The Godfather was tough to beat. What is it about those guys who are kind of short and wear those shoes and they shoot people? What is it about them? People love them to death.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Just Do It!
Jon Voight: We shot some of the movie in one take. We didn't shoot a lot of extra footage. I had one moment where I didn't think I could maneuver the canoe. We were on the rapids and we couldn't hesitate. And I told director John Boorman this and he said, "Give me the damn oar!" He had less training that we had, and he jumped in and grabbed the oar, went down the river, went over the thing and under the thing, and turned around, came back to us and said, "Do it!" After that, everybody did it.

The Secret of THAT scene
Beatty: I was blessed in that scene because the guy raping me was one of the better actors I worked with.

Reynolds: He also had a crush on you.

Beatty: If you ever do something physical like that, and we were physical, you want to work with someone who is real. You don't want to work with a guy who has never been in a fight.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Reynolds: I just remember the guy who played the rapist (Bill McKinney) would sit three tables away from us during lunch, just staring at Ned. Later I asked Bill why he was doing that. He said he was taught by Bruce Dern. And Bruce Dern said your main thrust…pardon the pun…should be to scare the hell out of Ned Beatty. And he did.

Beatty: Oh yeah. But after that, we were kind of buddies. Did you know he could sing?

Cox: He had an album!

Reynolds: But up until that time, he didn't speak! He just stared.

Gotta Have The Rape Scene
Beatty: The scariest thing was that there were murmurs of not doing the rape scene. People felt like we shouldn't do it.

Reynolds: Men used to throw the word "rape" around in a casual sense. In an asinine way. I remember on opening night, men, not women, men getting up and running out of the theater. They weren't so cavalier about that word after that movie.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Too Scary For Kubrick
Cox: Kubrick was doing Full Metal Jacket, and he wanted the drill sergeant to be really mean, and he looked at Deliverance over and over. Kubrick thought Bill McKinney could be the guy. But he was frightened to death to meet Bill. Finally Bill flew to Kubrick's place in Europe, and when he hit the ground, he was given the news that Stanley Kubrick didn't want to see him and to go back home. And they sent him back. And I think it's because Kubrick was too frightened to meet Bill McKinney.

It's (Almost) Real
Cox: We shot this film in sequence.

Reynolds: You know why? I asked the director John Boorman about that. He said, "Because if one of you drowns, I can write that into the script."

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Cox: The easy rapids were in the beginning. They get harder as you go along. So the movie really goes from Point A to Point B. Shooting in sequence means better detail. When Jon is climbing up the mountain, look at his watch. The face of the watch is steamed over with the water, because we've been in the water for six weeks. You'd never have thought to do that if it were out of sequence.

Who Was Right?

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Cox: I felt very strongly that my character Drew was right. They should have turned themselves in. Taking the time to bury that guy meant that the other guy could climb up to the top of the mountain. So the decision to hide the body may have led to Drew's death.

Voight: I've been thinking about. I'm not in agreement with Ronnie. The country had just gone through the Vietnam War, but not all the men went to war. There was a real psychological crisis there, the idea that you're questioning your own manhood. The guys who didn't go to war, they know that other people were taking their place. What is heroism? How do you confront evil? I feel that that's part of the movie's resonance.

It Wasn’t All Sunshine
Beatty: I got mad one time. They were rehearsing the scene after the rape and I wasn't there. They didn't tell me. I didn't have any lines, but I thought I should be there for the rehearsal to look at them. But that's the only time I got angry.

Where Are They Now?
Beatty: My character would still be selling insurance, because you never can tell what's going to happen.

Reynolds: My character had no guilt about killing the guy. I think he relived it and thrived on it.

Voight: My character probably stayed in touch with the guys. And he probably spent time with Drew's family and looked after his kid. He probably relived the moment when he killed a man. He had the last nightmare of the film. I think he had recurring doubts about himself.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Reynolds: I've done a lot of movies, but the friends from that movie are the closest friends I have. It was like going through war together. There was a kind of bond that developed. We all almost drowned at one time or another, and the other three saved the one who was drowning.

Too Much Testosterone
Voight: Well, we had a lot of female leads. They just never made it to camera.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012

The Deliverance 40th Anniversary Blu-ray is out now!