Most know that infamous scene, with an unholy matrimony of hillbillies, forced pig squeals, and Ned Beatty’s unseemly underwear. Yes, it’s pretty cringe inducing, so let’s instead focus on the more impressive part of the movie: the stunts.
With a budget of $2 million, the producers had to make cuts somewhere. One might argue dumping stuntmen and foregoing production insurance would be less than an ideal solution, but that’s where they went. In the years after the movie’s release, more than 30 people have died trying to re-enact the river journey1, which suggests how insane throwing four actors into the wild Chattanooga River was.
Example: In an attempt to not kill Burt Reynolds, a stunt coordinator tried using a dummy in the actor’s place. The result was less than satisfying, and the coordinator deemed the result looking like «a canoe with a dummy in it.» On Reynolds’s own insistence, the scene was re-shot with him in it, resulting in him a breaking coccyx while being close to drowning. When asked how the scene looked, director John Boorman quipped: «like a canoe with a dummy in it».
Credit where credit is due, mind you: Actually having close-ups of the actors racing down the rapids really gave the movie a sense of realism.
Look at Jon Voight’s cliff-climb. It’d be hard for a professional to perform it, and when it looked like the actor was about to slip and fall in the movie… Well, no acting involved. One can’t help but wonder if Jared Leto would go this far in his method acting.2
The movie has received mixed reviews over the years, but it’s hard to not get caught up in the heart-pounding on-screen actions. And hey, say what you want about Burt over the last forty-odd years… Here he truly is fantastic.
The recipe: Ned Beatty Memorial Carnitas
I mean, if somebody deserves deliverance from anything, it’s Ned Beatty from pigs. So let’s once again turn to Cook’s Illustrated and their version of carnitas.
- 1 boneless pork butt, 4 lbs, cut into 2-inch chunks
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 small onion, peeled and halved
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 cups water
- 1 medium orange, halved
Add all ingredients into a Dutch oven, and heat it on a stove top until it simmers. Stir well.
Cover, and place in a 300 degree oven. After an hour, stir, and cook for an additional hour, until meat falls apart.
Remove from oven, and move the pork to a bowl. Discard onion and orange rinds. Place Dutch oven on high heat, and bring to boil, until liquid has reduced to about one cup.
Turn oven to broil, with the rack placed near the bottom.
Pull each piece of pork apart with two forks. Pour liquid into bowl, and add salt and pepper to taste. Place pork on a baking sheet, and broil meat for about 5 to 8 minutes on each side.
Serve, knowing Ned Beatty finally got his revenge on those damn swines.
1 And I would assume these people would have been trained outdoors types, too.
2 Actually, as an avid climber, he probably would. But you get my point.