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It’s not hard to see why Burt Reynolds considered Deliverance to be the best film he’d ever been in. The critically acclaimed thriller was one of the top grossing films of 1972 and earned three Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Picture.
However, the making of the film was anything but ideal. It was shot in sequence so that the actors would get better at canoeing as the rapids got stronger. Director Boorman also allegedly said that if one of the actors died from the harsh conditions he could work that into the script.
1. The film was almost super star-studded.
Charlton Heston was offered Reynolds’ part, but turned it down to do Antony and Cleopatra. Jack Nicholson agreed to play Ed (Jon Voight’s part) as long as Marlon Brando played Lewis. However, the actors' combined fees added up to more than $1 million – half of the movie's budget – which was unrealistic. Henry Fonda was also considered for Ed as well.
2. Reynolds almost didn’t star.
Burt Reynolds almost didn’t appear in this movie because of The Godfather. Reynolds was being considered for the part of Michael Corleone. However, Marlon Brando was adverse to the casting and threatened to quit if he was cast. So Reynolds chose Deliverance, which proved to be his break-out role.
3. The end sparked a horror trope.
Deliverance influenced horror films in a big way. In the film, Jon Voight dreams that one of the mountain men reaches out of the water to seek revenge. Director Brian DePalma used this jump scare in his film Carrie, and subsequent horror films have continued to use it ever since.
4. Redden “played” the banjo without hands.
Billy Redden didn't know how to play banjo. So to simulate realistic chord playing during "Dueling Banjos", another boy – a skilled banjo player – played the chords with his arm reaching around Redden's side while Redden picked. Musicians Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell played on the soundtrack.