Pop culture Q&A: Body double plays banjo in ‘Deliverance’

[10 November 2009]

By Rich Heldenfels

Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)

Q: We were watching the 1972 movie “Deliverance” the other night and had a question. Who was the young man who “played” the banjo in the “Dueling Banjos” music segment? I know the sounds were dubbed, but was the young man a local or an actor? Has he ever appeared in anything else?

A: That was Billy Redden, who was in elementary school when director John Boorman cast him in the Burt Reynolds-Jon Voight movie. He had never acted in a film before and would go more than 30 years before performing in his second — the Tim Burton-directed “Big Fish.” Instead, he reportedly worked in and partly owned a diner in Georgia. According to a 2003 profile in England’s Independent, “His mother even sold the banjo which he was given as a keepsake to pay some outstanding bills.”

Not that he could have made use of the instrument. You are correct that Redden did not play the banjo; in fact, a body double was used for the on-camera playing. The hit version of the song was by Eric Weissberg.

Q: I really enjoyed “Warehouse 13” last summer on the SyFy channel. Are they going to bring it back?

A: Yes, the fantasy series has been picked up for a second season to air in 2010.

Q: Adam Rodriguez has been on “CSI: Miami” since the beginning. Why is he leaving the show?

A: Rodriguez, who plays detective Eric Delko, and the show could not reach agreement on a new contract, Entertainment Weekly reported. But the disagreement was far from rancorous; instead of just leaving him to die after the show’s season-ending cliffhanger last spring, a deal was worked out for him to appear in part of the current season on the way out the door. And Rodriguez has found other work, including roles on “Ugly Betty” and in the big-screen Tyler Perry’s “I Can Do Bad All By Myself.”

Q: I know that “Crime Story” starred Dennis Farina, but who was the other guy, the bad guy?

A: Anthony Denison, now one of the regulars on “The Closer” with Kyra Sedgwick, played Ray Luca, the ambitious mobster matching wits with lawman Mike Torello, played by Farina. The series favored serialized storytelling and cliffhangers, including an unresolved one; the last episode had Torello and Luca fighting on an airplane that crashed into the water, leaving open the matter of who had survived.

Q: In the 1970s, there was a wonderful Christmas movie titled “The Homecoming,” starring Richard Thomas. It was the kick-off to “The Waltons” TV series. I’ve never seen it for sale with the other holiday movies. Is it available anywhere on DVD or VHS?

A: The movie was released on DVD about six years ago and is still available. If your local video retailer cannot get it, try online seller Amazon.com.

Originally titled “The Homecoming” and also known as “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story,” the film premiered in December 1971; it was the second adaptation of Earl Hamner Jr.‘s semiautobiographical fiction, following the big-screen “Spencer’s Mountain” in 1963. (“Spencer’s” is also on DVD.) While “The Homecoming’s” cast is not the same as the TV series, it did include several future “Waltons” regulars, among them Richard Thomas (John-Boy), Ellen Corby (Grandma Walton) and Judy Norton (Mary Ellen).

Q: Someone recently asked if the 1974 buddy cop film “Freebie and the Bean” was going to be released on DVD. What about another 70s era buddy cop film, “The Choirboys”? Is it ever going to be released on DVD?

A: So far, the terrible adaptation of Joseph Wambaugh’s novel has been released on VHS but not on an authorized DVD.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/article/116043-pop-culture-qa-body-double-plays-banjo-in-deliverance/