McKinney in Every Which Way but Loose
September 12, 1931|
Chattanooga, Tennessee, U.S.
|Died||December 1, 2011
San Fernando, California, U.S.
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, commander pursuing the last rebels to "hold out" against surrendering to the Union forces in The Outlaw Josey Wales.
William Denison 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. While on leave, he visited Los Angeles; during this time, he decided he wanted to be an actor. Upon his discharge in 1954, he settled in California, attending acting school at the famous Pasadena Playhouse in 1957. His classmates included Dustin Hoffman and Mako Iwamatsu. 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.
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.
He starred in The Outlaw Josey Wales under Eastwood's direction. He appeared in six more Eastwood films including The Gauntlet, Every Which Way but Loose, Any Which Way You Can and Pink Cadillac.
Other memorable roles include Jay Cobb, who is done in by John Wayne's The Shootist. He also appeared in such later films as First Blood (1982), 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) and guest-starred on such television shows as the 1976 western Sara, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Starsky and Hutch, The A-Team, Murder, She Wrote and Columbo: Swan Song. He 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 and 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. He 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 and had a short cameo in 2001 Maniacs.
"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]".
- "Deliverance". The New York Times.
- "Bill McKinney Filmography". The New York Times.
- "Bill McKinney". The New York Times.
- Wiegand, Chris (December 8, 2011). "Bill McKinney obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
- "Sherwood Horror Adds a Legendary Character Actor". DreadCentral.
- "Sherwood Horror Finds Deliverance Baddie", Shocktillyoudrop.com; accessed May 31, 2014.
- "Bill McKinney, Deliverance's Mountain Man and Eastwood Sidekick, Dead at 80 - E! Online". Uk.eonline.com. 1931-09-12. Retrieved 2011-12-02.
- Bill McKinney - Facebook