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Ronny Cox Looks Back on 'Deliverance' 40 Years Later For Blu-ray Anniversary Release

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire June 26, 2012 at 10:50AM

Forty years ago John Boorman shocked audiences into never taking a canoe trip with his brutal outdoors thriller "Deliverance." Released in 1972 and starring a cast of (at the time) up-and-comers that included Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox, "Deliverance" is best known for the unflinching male rape scene that sets off a series of events from which the four leads can never look back. Despite the controversial subject matter, the film went on to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Picture and became one of the year's highest grossers.
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"Deliverance"
Warner Bros. "Deliverance"

Wait...you almost drowned?!

Right above the fall there where Drew gets shot and goes out of the canoe and he doesn't have a life jacket on. The way we could do it was to have two canoes run into each other and they could break the canoe in half there, and I'd go out of the water. Well it was below a damn and they'd release this amount of water, and there was so much water coming down through there, it almost swept us out. I was in the water myself. When I went into the water I hit my shoulder on a rock right below the surface. It didn't do any permanent damage but it sort of paralyzed my shoulder and I couldn't swim. And there's so much water that's sweeping down towards that waterfall and they have a rope strung across and I'm going along and I'm supposed to grab the rope. I grabbed the rope with my good hand but there is so much pressure that it swept me off of that. And there was only one other rope across another 30-40 feet down. If I miss that one I go over the waterfall and I'm dead. So I grabbed it and there was too much pressure it swept me off of that, and luckily a prop guy had just tied some rope around his waist and he jumped in the water and grabbed hold of me and kept me from going over the waterfall.

Talk about dedication to your craft!

Absolutely.

How did the crew react when instances like these happened on set? You said this happened more than once.

There was such a bond, but not just between the actors but between the whole crew. We were out there sort of by ourselves. This river was so pristine they had to use four wheel drives and sometimes Caterpillars to get us in at point A. We were out there isolated and alone and by ourselves all the time. When things went wrong we had to get them right ourselves or with the crew.

So going from this onto your next production, it must have no doubt been a shock?

It was! [Laughs] My very next production, luckily was a play that I had already done off-Broadway. So I already knew that character backwards and forwards because I had already done a production of the play. I played the character for five or six months. I don't think it threw me quite as much as if I was going into a regular script, because I knew this script backwards and forwards. But it was quite different.

Has any experience ever compared to your first one?

No. Not even close. Everything about that film was new, different, and life changing to me. That's one of the reasons why I wanted to write the book. Because I've carried these stories around with me for 40 years and in someways they are as fresh to me as they were 40 years ago.

Have you all remained close?

Pretty much. Sometimes we'll go two or three years without seeing each other. But when you put your life in somebodies hands in an experience like this, when we get back together it was although we were brothers and very little time has gone by. There's a real affection and bonding that happens with this.

"RoboCop"
"RoboCop"

It's funny that despite your performance in "Deliverance" -- in which you play the nicest guy of the bunch -- you're now best known for your villainous roles. What do you account that to?

[Laughs] I'll tell you the truth: In many ways I ascribe that to "RoboCop." After "Deliverance" came out I spent about the next ten or twelve years playing nothing but the moral guys. It wasn't until I got cast in "RoboCop." For some reason, because I had this backlog of people expecting me to be this decent nice guy, when he was evil he was like the worst evil. Someone said, "Ronny, you play this guy like an astronaut gone bad" [laughs]. And I have to tell you, playing the bad guys is way more fun than playing the good guys. You just get to make all these much more interesting choices as an actor.

How does working for Paul Verhoeven compare to working for John?

They're completely different. John is the most calming and supportive, and I'm not saying that Paul is not supportive, but he is volatile. He doesn't suffer fools gladly. He's prickly and mercurial whereas John is not…he's unflappable.

You must have heard that "RoboCop" is being remade.

Well first of all, I happen to think that the first "RoboCop" is pretty damn good. I also think that "Total Recall" was pretty damn good. I don't know why they're remaking it. I happen to hate remakes, not remakes as much as I hate sequels. I can only think of one sequel ever that was as good or better than the original. "Godfather II" I think is a really really great film, but that's about the only one I can think of of two that was good.

Given that you've worked with Paul on two of his most adored works, is there any hope of you two reuniting anytime soon?

I would love to do another film with Paul. I don't know if you know this but Paul has a PhD in chemistry. My late wife had a PhD in chemistry and there was sort of that connection to Paul. I really like working with Paul a lot and I would give anything to work with John Boorman again. I don't know that he's making many films these days.

This article is related to: Interviews, Blu-ray





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