Saturday, April 18, 2009
Billy Redden in 2003 at 49 years of age
What ever became of the boy who played the banjo (The Wikipedia describes him as the "creepy banjo kid") on the porch in 1972's Deliverance?
As it turns out, Billy Redden, the man who may be the most famous banjo player of all time, can barely play at all.
In 2003, Redden appeared in Tim Burton's movie "Big Fish." It was his first movie since his appearance in Deliverance. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted Burton on Dec. 23, 2003: "I never forgot that image." The spooky and haunting Redden appeared in one of the key scenes of "Deliverance." Redden said he did not mind being a hillbilly icon in the film, but he was embarrassed by what he--unintentionally, hilariously--called the film's "love scene" (a violent rape that turns the sylvan rafting trip into a nightmare). Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty starred in the film. Voight claimed that Billy is the son of an unholy union between his mother and his brother). I find no confirmation of that, but I've never believed much that emerges from that rabid Republican's mouth.
Billy Redden in 1972 - click to enlarge
Tim Burton eventually located Redden in Clayton, Georgia, where Redden works as a cook, dishwasher and part-owner of the Cookie Jar Cafe. "Big Fish," drew the attention of media as far away as London and throughout the United States. "Quite a few people have come in to meet me," Redden said.
Burton gave Redden the banjo he used in the film,and a video about how to play the banjo. Redden said he would give it a shot.
Redden's performance on that porch, in the Dueling Banjos is one of my most memorable and creepy movie scenes ever. After that scene (and the Ned Beatty "love scene"), you knew anything could happen in this bizarro hillbilly world. I might have some cousins in that film. Billy and I might even be related, when you think about some of Our People's breeding practices back there (and maybe even out here). We're not quite in the "I'm My Own Grandpa" camp, but who knows?