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The Deliverance Scene Burt Reynolds Regrets Filming

From Smokey and the Bandit to The Longest Yard, Burt Reynolds starred in some of the most iconic movies of the 1970s. However, Deliverance was arguably the film that propelled the legendary actor into the mainstream consciousness (along with a risqué photoshoot he did for Cosmopolitan to coincide with the movie's release). The survival thriller follows a group of city slickers who go on a canoe trip in the Georgian backcountry, only to encounter unwelcoming locals with violent tendencies in the process. Deliverance was controversial at the time of its release, though it was a massive success that gained heaps of critical acclaim.

As noted by Collider, the film's most infamous scene involves Ned Beatty's character being assaulted by a hillbilly and made to "squeal like a piggy." That being said, there was another scene, which involved Reynolds, that proved to be even more taxing, even if it didn't have the same chilling effect on moviegoers. It involved a dangerous stunt that Reynolds agreed to perform in an effort to prove himself as a tough guy. Unfortunately, he regretted the decision for the rest of his career.

Burt Reynolds got seriously injured after performing a river stunt in Deliverance

The scene in question saw Reynolds paddling a canoe that goes tumbling down a waterfall. While Deliverance director John Boorman originally insisted on using a stuntman or a dummy for the stunt, Reynolds' macho bravado got the better of him and he fought for his right to do it himself. Boorman caved to the actor's demands in the end, but Reynolds ended up wishing he'd chosen the risk-free method when he suffered a broken tailbone for his troubles.

Reynolds opened up about the incident in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2015. During the conversation, he admitted that he should have let the dummy take the fall down the rapids instead, as it would have saved him a lot of everlasting pain and grief. According to Reynolds, he landed on a rock and almost drowned. 

"I couldn't get out and [a] guy there said, 'If you get caught, just go to the bottom. You can get out but you can't swim against it.' So I went down to the bottom. What he didn't tell me was it was going to shoot me up like a torpedo. So I went out. They said later that they saw this 30-year-old guy in costume go over the waterfall and then about 15 minutes later they saw this nude man come out. It had torn everything — my boots and everything — off," he recalled. 

On top of that, the tailbone injury caused him difficulty for decades. "I went over the falls and the first thing that happened, I hit a rock and cracked my tailbone, and to this day it hurts," Reynolds said at the time, three years before his death in September 2018 and 43 years after Deliverance's debut.

He later told Business Insider in March 2016 that he wished he would have let his longtime stunt man and close friend Hal Needham perform the sequence. When asked if there were any stunts that, in retrospect, Reynolds would have preferred Needham do, he said with a laugh, "Yeah, there's a couple. When it's cold and I'm limping around I think, 'Why didn't I let Hal make some money and I just sit down?' But you can't go back. It was a dumb macho thing."

Burt Reynolds suffered many on-set injuries

Unfortunately for the late actor, the injury he sustained while filming Deliverance wasn't a one-off experience. Over his expansive career, Reynolds got bruised, bumped, and banged up in all sorts of ways while shooting projects. Reynolds opened up in a 2012 interview with Variety about many scenes-gone-wrong that could have been fatal but thankfully weren't. 

Notably, a fight scene for 1984's City Heat didn't go as planned, leaving Reynolds with a broken jaw after another actor struck him across the face with a metal chair. The accident left Reynolds with temporomandibular joint dysfunction that, as he explained in his memoir But Enough About Me, "messes with your balance and your sensory perception" and can make the sufferer feel constantly seasick (via Den of Geek). "[I had a] blinding headache and ringing in my ears. [...] Every time I tried to speak my face clicked. My bite was so lopsided I couldn't chew. I could only drink liquids, and I began losing weight," Reynolds wrote. The pain affected his career for two full years until he got a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Later on, in 1991, Reynolds became engulfed in flames while shooting a scene for Evening Shade; a prop fire extinguisher shot out baby powder that then lit on fire. "My entire face and head were in flames. If you see the shot, you say, 'He's dead,' but my eyebrows were singed, and that's about it," Reynolds told Variety.

Even after enduring that much pain while doing what he loved, Reynolds maintained an informed, level-headed outlook on stunt work: "Everyone's in a hurry on a movie set and faster is better, but you can't rush stunts. You've got to take your time and eyeball them and really get a good sense that everyone can come out the other end safely."