The dueling banjo scene in John Boorman's Deliverance (1972) is one of my favorite musical moments ever in a film. It's simultaneously delightful, funny, and deeply creepy. I watched the clip recently and decided to find out who played Lonnie, the young inbred fellow picking opposite Ronny Cox. The actor is Billy Redden from Rabun County, Georgia who was 15-years-old at the time. Redden was "discovered" during a casting call at his school in Clayton, Georgia. Special effect makeup was used to augment Redden's already-unusual features. He didn't actually play the banjo. According to The New Yorker, "Boorman had had to deploy another boy to hide behind the swing and slip his hand through Redden’s sleeve to finger the changes." Redden wasn't a fan of Burt Reynolds: “Burt didn’t want to say nothing to nobody,” Redden told The New Yorker years later. “He wasn’t polite. And he made us look real bad--he said on television that all people in Rabun County do is watch cars go by and spit.”
Redden's IMD profile says that for a time Redden gave "Deliverance Tours" along the Georgia river where the film was shot. After Deliverance, Redden didn't appear in another movie until Tim Burton's Big Fish. Burton located Redden working in the Cookie Jar Cafe in Clayton, Georgia. Since then, Redden had a bit part on Blue Collar TV as an inbred car mechanic who played the banjo.
Below, a video interview with Redden from last year.
“We ask strangers on the street which celebrities they’ve been told they look like.” Another fun piece from our friend and collaborator Joe Sabia, for Vanity Fair.
Smash TV’s Megaplex feels like your entire 1980s life flashing before your eyes. Note: some of the 80+ films include 80s nudity.
Vanity Fair breaks down the individual incomes of people who work on a major Hollywood blockbuster. Assuming a budget of $200m, the breakdown is approximate but based upon average union rates and published figures. [YouTube]
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