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‘Deliverance’ Cast Reflects on Landmark Film

29 Jun, 2012 By: Chris Tribbey

(L-R): Ned Beatty, Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox and Jon Voight

BURBANK, Calif. — For 40 years Deliverance has been an audience and critic favorite, a mainstream thriller ahead of its time.

Forty years later, Deliverance is even more important to the four men who made it so memorable.

“It was career-changing for me,” said Burt Reynolds (Smokey and the Bandit), who was mired in TV obscurity before Deliverance. “In many ways it was the highlight of my career. It still is.”

Deliverance made Reynolds a major movie star. The film marked the first screen appearances for stage actors Ronny Cox (Beverly Hills Cop) and Ned Beatty (Network), launching their movie careers. Jon Voight (Coming Home) took a risk with the film after his 1969 Midnight Cowboy success, and had it pay off.

The four actors were on hand at the Steven J. Ross Theatre at Warner Bros. Studios June 28 to mark the 40th anniversary of the film, and the special edition Blu-ray Disc recently released by Warner Home Video.

“We’ve got 6,700 films in our library, and about 500 of those have made it to Blu-ray,” said Jeff Baker, EVP and GM of theatrical catalog for Warner Home Video. “We’re very selective, based not just on consumer demand, but also the quality of the content. Deliverance is special. It was old-style film-making, and they just don’t make films like it anymore.”

No they don’t. Director John Boorman (Excalibur, Hope and Glory) shot the entire film in linear sequence, a rarity in 1972, much less in 2012. All four actors did their own stunts, and paid the price during filming: Reynolds busted his tailbone. Beatty almost drowned. Voight came within a foot or two of having his head split open on a rock while climbing a cliff.

“I don’t think you could find four actors weak enough in the mind [to repeat Deliverance],” Reynolds said. “It was incredibly dangerous.”

The risks were worth it, the actors agreed.

“I was always very careful [with projects], especially at that time, about what I was going to do next,” Voight said. “I found the values in [Deliverance] that everybody else found, but initially I was a little shy of it.”

For Cox the importance of Deliverance was more fundamental.

“This wasn’t just my first film, it was my first time in front of a camera,” he said, crediting Voight and Reynolds with coaching him through his first film role. “We all knew we were involved in something special.

“Everything I’ve done is a direct result of this.”

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