Bill McKinney

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Bill McKinney
Born (1931-09-12)September 12, 1931
Chattanooga, Tennessee, U.S.
Died December 1, 2011(2011-12-01) (aged 80)
Greater Los Angeles Area, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1967–2011

William Denison "Bill" McKinney (September 12, 1931 – December 1, 2011) was an American character actor whose most famous role was the sadistic mountain man in John Boorman's 1972 film Deliverance. McKinney was also recognizable for his performances in seven Clint Eastwood films, most notably as Capt. "Redlegs" Terrell, (cavalry) commander pursuing the last rebels to "hold out" against surrendering to the Union forces in The Outlaw Josey Wales.

Early life[edit]

McKinney was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He had an unsettled life as a child, moving twelve times. Once when his family moved from Tennessee to Georgia, he was beaten by a gang and thrown into a creek. At the age of 19, he joined the Navy during the Korean War. He served two years on a mine sweeper in Korean waters, as well as being stationed at Port Hueneme in Ventura County, California.[citation needed]

While on leave from this posting, he visited Los Angeles; during this time, he decided he wanted to be an actor. Upon his discharge in 1954, he settled in southern California, attending acting school at the famous Pasadena Playhouse in 1957. His classmates included Dustin Hoffman and Mako. During this time, McKinney supported himself by working as an arborist, trimming and taking down trees - he continued working in this field until the mid-1970s, by which time he was appearing in major films.[citation needed]


After Pasadena Playhouse he moved onto Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio, making his movie debut in exploitation pic She Freak (1967). For ten years he was a teacher at Cave Spring Middle School. He made his television debut in 1968 on an episode of The Monkees and attracted attention as Lobo in Alias Smith and Jones. It was the film Deliverance which provided his breakthrough in 1972, and remains his signature role.[citation needed]

He cemented his reputation as an onscreen villain in the 1970s with appearances in Junior Bonner, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean and The Parallax View. It was with Clint Eastwood that McKinney would become most associated, becoming part of Eastwood's stock company[1] after they worked together in Michael Cimino's Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, in which McKinney played a character called Crazy Driver. He starred as 'Capt. "Redlegs" Terrell' in The Outlaw Josey Wales under Eastwood's direction. He appeared in another six Eastwood films from The Gauntlet in 1977, Every Which Way but Loose in 1978, Any Which Way You Can in 1980, Pink Cadillac in 1989 when the stock company disbanded.

Other memorable roles include a misanthrope who is done in by John Wayne's The Shootist. He also appeared in such later films as (Rambo) First Blood (1982) portraying State Police Capt. Dave Kern, Heart Like a Wheel (1983), Against All Odds (1984), Back to the Future Part III (1990), and The Green Mile (1999). He appeared in the TV movie The Execution of Private Slovik (1974), while guest-starring on such television shows as The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Starsky and Hutch, The A-Team, Murder, She Wrote and Columbo: Swan Song. He also had an uncredited role in the TV miniseries Roots (1977), playing alongside Georg Stanford Brown, Lloyd Bridges and Burl Ives.

McKinney took up singing in the late 1990s, eventually releasing an album of standards and country & western songs appropriately titled Love Songs from Antri, reflecting Don Job's pronunciation of the infamous town featured in Deliverance. One of his songs featured in the film Undertow, directed by David Gordon Green.[2] He also played Jonah Hex in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series called "Showdown". In February 2010 he accepted a role in the Robin Hood–inspired horror film Sherwood Horror[3] and formerly had a short cameo in 2001 Maniacs.[4]


McKinney's death was announced on his Facebook page on December 1, 2011.[5][6] The announcement read:

"Today our dear Bill McKinney passed away at Valley Presbyterian Hospice. An avid smoker for 25 years of his younger life, he died of cancer of the esophagus. He was 80 and still strong enough to have filmed a Dorito's commercial 2 weeks prior to his passing, and he continued to work on his biography with his writing partner. Hopefully 2012 will bring a publisher for the wild ride his life was. He is survived by son Clinton, along with several ex-wives. R.I.P. Bill sept.12 1931 - dec. 1 2011" [sic]".


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