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Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, Deliverance remains one of the quintessential films about man’s relationship with nature – as well as with his own nature. The Hollywood Reporter spoke with stars Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty about the tough challenges they faced bringing the film to life and how director John Boorman ultimately made it all possible.
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“I think John Boorman deserves so much credit,” Reynolds tells THR. “I remember that men had not really had a feeling about rape that they got when they saw the film. And it was the only time I saw men, sick, get up and walk out of a theater. I’ve seen women do that, but to see men do it, I thought maybe this film is more important in a lot of ways than we’ve given it credit for.”
Cox echoed Reynolds’ sentiments about Boorman, explaining that the filmmaker had such tight reins on the production that everything easily fell into place. “He had such a vision and it was almost shot like a guerrilla film or documentary and was so tight and well organized,” Cox said. “This film came in under budget and a couple of days under schedule… his artistic vision was the guiding light.”
While the characters were so well-written that they almost effortlessly complemented one another, Voight credits his co-stars for the smoothness and naturalism of their interactions with one another. “They’re all so different that each element has to play out separately in each character,” Voight said. “So if you throw a line into the middle of the four of us, we’d say, ‘That’s a Ned Beatty line. That’s Lewis.’
“And good actors, and these guys are all good actors, they know how to feed the elements of the others and how to stay in their own element.”
Voight revealed that one of the movie’s toughest scenes — his first return to civilization after surviving their ordeal — required almost nothing of him, simply because Beatty’s work opposite him was so wonderful. “When we come back from the experience and I come into this room, I come through several layers of screen doors, and visually it’s a return,” he said. “The way Ned handles that scene, almost I don’t have to do any work.
“The care, the delicacy with which he dealt with me knowing what I had been through — and here’s a guy who’d been through everything — his response to me made the scene for me.”
Watch the video above for more revelations about the cast’s experiences making the film. Deliverance is available on Blu-ray now.
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