Deliverance: When Real-Life Dangers Mirrored the Thriller

The 1972 classic thriller “Deliverance” is known for its intense and brutal scenes that left audiences terrified of canoeing.

However, these scenes were not just a product of Hollywood magic; they were shockingly realistic and nearly cost the lives of the actors involved.

The Film’s Impact and Plot

“Deliverance” is a film so impactful that it’s been preserved in the US Library of Congress for its cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance.

The story revolves around four friends from Atlanta who venture on a canoeing trip in the Georgian wilderness, where they encounter hostile locals and face disturbing events, including a harrowing rape scene.

Real-Life Perils During Filming

The actors’ perilous journey mirrored the challenges they faced in the film. Director John Boorman shared a behind-the-scenes mishap that almost turned tragic.

He recounted how his impatience during filming in the ferocious Chattooga River led to a situation they barely survived.

He described a scene where their canoe broke apart, and his decision to open all the sluice gates upstream led to a dangerous rush of water.

Burt Reynolds’ Near-Death Experience

The dangers didn’t end there. Burt Reynolds, who portrayed Lewis Medlock, filmed a scene where his character goes over a waterfall in a canoe.

Originally, a dummy was supposed to be used, but Burt insisted on doing it himself. This decision led to a broken tailbone and a near-drowning experience. He recalled going over the falls, hitting a rock, and enduring a whirlpool.

He emerged from the water, naked, as the whirlpool had torn off his clothes.

Jon Voight’s Cliff Climbing Stunt

Jon Voight, who played Ed Gentry, also put his life on the line during the filming of “Deliverance.” He insisted on performing his own stunts, including a close-up shot of him climbing a cliff.

He remembered a harrowing moment when he was about ten feet up on a slippery and nearly perpendicular face.

Voight warned the grips below that if he started to fall, he would push off the rocks for them to catch him. Miraculously, one of them caught him just in time, with a sharp rock inches from his head.

Success Amidst Perils

Despite the real-life dangers and cost-cutting stunts, “Deliverance” turned out to be a massive success, both critically and at the box office.

The film, featuring Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox, and Jon Voight, raked in $46 million on a modest $2 million budget.

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