40 Years of Deliverance and Canoe Tripping hasn’t been the Same Since

Wednesday, 04 July 2012
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July 30th will be the 40th anniversary of that film that made everybody terrified to canoe down rivers, Deliverance.

Staring Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty, Deliverance is the story of four friends who decide to canoe down the (fake) Cahulawassee River in Georgia before the valley is flooded by the construction of a dam. Scariness ensues over the next hour and a half.

The Deliverance Canoe

To celebrate the anniversary, Yahoo movies (known for their hard hitting investigative journalism) interviewed the cast to get their memories of the making of the film.

The interview has the usual fluff but does have an interesting conversation about the cast learning to canoe and how they choose the canoes for the film:

Ronny Cox: That was the thing about Burt. When we were doing canoe practice, Burt couldn't be bothered with having to learn the right way to do stuff. But the thing was, he ended up being the best canoeist of us all, because he would just go there with this attitude of 'God D**nit, I can do this.' And he would just do it. So that spirit of 'I can do this' sort of pulled us through."

Jon Voight: Also, he had the much better canoe. He had the one that wouldn't sink!

Burt Reynolds: I didn't pick the pretty one, you did!

The Deliverance Canoe

Ronny Cox: The wooden Old Town canoe is not intended for white water. It's a lake canoe. No stability. The Aluminum canoe is very broad.

Burt Reynolds: Ronny, when we went out to pick the canoes, I said 'Jon is the lead in the picture, let him pick the canoe.'

Jon Voight: To tell you the truth, the reason why I picked the green canoe is because it matched our characters. There's no flash in our characters. We were kind of homeboys. And this was a more humble thing. But it was dangerous to pick that canoe, and we knew it, because every time you'd hit a rock you'd hear the ribs of the canoe give way. It wasn't a happy experience to have that canoe. But Ed should have been in that canoe. Lewis should have had the higher tech stuff, and he looked more like Lewis in that canoe.

But Burt laughed about my choice. Because we were very competitive always. And as soon as I made the choice, he was chuckling to himself knowing I'd be fortunate not to sink. Many years later he gave me the present of a small replica of that canoe, which I have on my mantelpiece, and it says 'Voight's Choice.'

Ronny Cox:  I saw in John Boorman's commentary on the DVD that in the course of making the film, Jon and I wrecked five canoes. That scene at the end of the picture where they find that half a canoe, they [the crew] didn't have to do that, we did that for them. Burt and Ned would run a set of rapids, if they had the slightest inkling of trouble, then the crew would make big bets that the two of us would wreck. You could make a lot of money betting on us wrecking.

If you are interested in seeing the two canoes in the flesh, they are currently on display at the Burt Reynolds Museum located in Jupiter, Florida.

Film capture credits: mickeyandava.blogspot.ca

David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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