"Deliverance": Of dunking and dummies 40 years on

Tue Jul 3, 2012 4:36pm EDT
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By Jordan Riefe

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Forty years after "Deliverance" enthralled movie audiences and made Burt Reynolds a star, the lead actors gathered in Los Angeles this week to recall the film shoot that left them soaked on good days, and nearly took their lives on bad ones.

Shot in merciless river rapids in the wilderness of Georgia "Deliverance", starring Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox, was the tale of four Atlanta suburbanites who decide to test their mettle on a disastrous canoe trip.

Directed by John Boorman, the movie was nominated for three Oscars, including best picture, and was a box office hit. A premium Blu-ray edition was released this week to commemorate the movie's 40th anniversary.

Reynolds, who was 36 years old then, recounted one perilous scene in which he was thrown free of his canoe and sent skidding down a cascade wild, white water.

The scene was first shot with a dummy, which in daily film clips appeared unconvincing. So Reynolds, a former stuntman, volunteered to run the rapids himself.

"First thing I did was hit a rock, crack my tailbone, did a flip and I was in a hydro-flow. I couldn't get out," Reynolds, now 76, told Reuters.

Underwater, Reynolds quickly remembered the advice of a colleague: if you get caught in a hydro-flow, swim to the bottom and it will shoot you out.

"But he didn't tell me it's like being shot out of a submarine like you're a torpedo!" laughed Reynolds. "Everybody thought I was gone. They looked down and saw this nude man who looked 75 or so, crippled, walking along, coming back. It tore every piece of clothing I had off, including the high-top boots. I said to John, ‘What'd it look like?' And he said, ‘It looked like a dummy going over the falls.'"   Continued...

Actors (L-R) Ned Beatty, Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox and Jon Voight pose at the Steven J. Ross Theatre at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif. in this June 28, 2012 publicity photograph to celebrate the 40th anniversary and Warner Home Video Blu-ray release of the film "Deliverance," their Oscar nominated film they made together four decades ago. REUTERS/Peter Zakhary/Tilt Photo/Handout