‘Deliverance’: Ned Beatty Could Never Quite Escape His Rape Scene

Cultural norms were very different in 1972. TV shows and movies were “cleaner” in many ways. Few areas of entertainment showed the experience of sexual assault or the aftermath of rape. Still, a few producers, writers, and directors dared to venture into what was considered taboo territory.

John Boorman, the director of survival thriller Deliverance, took it a step further with one of the most vivid rape scenes onscreen. Ned Beatty was new on the acting scene at the time. He and his on-screen attacker both had a hard time escaping the reputation they received from their authentic and terrifying performance.

‘Deliverance’ shocked and terrified audiences in 1972

Deliverance follows four adventure-seeking men from Atlanta who embark on a canoe trip in the remote northern Georgia wilderness. Led by Lewis Medlock (Burt Reynolds), the friends set out on their journey and choose to canoe in pairs. But they get separated along the way.

Ed Gentry (Jon Voight) and Bobby Trippe (Beatty) encounter a pair of mountain men who emerge from the woods, one of them carrying a shotgun. After a verbal altercation, the men force Trippe to undress, and one of the mountain men violently sodomizes him. Before they rape Gentry, Medlock sneaks up on them and kills the rapist. The other mountain man escapes.

The group buries the body and continues their journey downstream. However, the men reach a dangerous stretch of rapids. The fourth friend, Drew Ballinger (Ronny Cox), falls into the water. The canoes collide, throwing the remaining men into the river. Medlock asserts that their stalker, a mountain man, shot Ballinger, who dies of his injuries.

Gentry climbs to the top of the gorge and clumsily ends up shooting the mountain man. The remaining men weigh down the bodies to ensure they are never found. After finally arriving at the small town of Aintry, the men take Medlock to the hospital and make up a story about Ballinger’s death to avoid a possible double-murder charge.

The Aintry sheriff doesn’t believe them. However, since he can’t charge them for anything without evidence, he warns them about returning to the town. The trio leaves with a promise to never talk about what happened during their trip.

Ned Beatty didn’t want to do the rape scene repeatedly

Jon Voight and Ned Beatty canoe down a raging river while filming a scene for 1972's 'Deliverance'
Deliverance stars Jon Voight (L) and Ned Beatty film a scene for the 1972 movie | Warner Brothers/Getty Images

Deliverance was Beatty’s first film. And the 10-minute rape scene largely shot him to stardom. According to IMDb, the rape scene was filmed in only one take because Beatty didn’t want to film it repeatedly.

The Warner Bros. censors even tried to trim the rape scene as well as Ballinger’s death scene. But, as the director, Boorman held fast in his refusal to trim either. Interestingly, the rape scene was more graphic than what viewers saw, as it was supposed to include a lot of swearing.

The famous “squeal like a pig” line was actually an attempt to clean up the scene for later TV viewings. As it turns out, Boorman did like the clean version and decided to go with it. Still, it didn’t take away from the fact that the scene was disturbing on all fronts for audiences at the time and even those who view it today.

Viewers were especially shocked to see a scene where a man forcibly sodomized another man. Regardless, Deliverance experienced critical and commercial success as 1972’s fifth-highest grossing film. It even earned several award nominations.

The New York Times included the movie on its list of The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made at No. 219. In 1974, the famous instrumental song, “Dueling Banjos,” earned the Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance.

The late Ned Beatty had an extensive acting career

Deliverance helped put Beatty on the map and launch his career. The Louisville, Kentucky native starred in several other acclaimed movies and appeared on TV shows. By the time he died of natural causes on June 13, 2021, Beatty had over 100 credits, including 160 movies, reports IMDb.

Some of his most notable appearances include roles in Network, All the President’s Men, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Rudy, The Shootist, The Green Mile, First Blood, and Charlie Wilson’s War. However, even with all of his acting credits, Beatty could never escape his role in Deliverance. Movie buffs will always remember him for his incredible performance and dedication to the part.

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