Billy Redden

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Billy Redden (born 1956 in Rabun County, Georgia) is an American actor best known for his role in the 1972 film Deliverance. He played Lonnie, a banjo-playing teenager of the country in north Georgia, who played the noted "Dueling Banjos" with one of the principal actors. The film was highly popular and won numerous awards.

Early life and education[edit]

Billy Redden was born in 1956 in Rabun County, Georgia. At the age of 15, he was selected for a role in the feature film, Deliverance during a casting call at Clayton Elementary School in Clayton, Georgia. The filmmakers chose Redden for the banjo boy, described as inbred and intellectually disabled in the novel on which the movie was based. Redden does not suffer either problem; his distinctive look was enhanced using special makeup.

Adult life[edit]

Redden plays the instrumental "Dueling Banjos" opposite actor Ronny Cox on guitar. The scene is noted for foreshadowing the film's theme: exploring unknown and potentially dangerous territory. Redden did not play the banjo. A local musician, Mike Addis, reached around from behind Redden; his playing was disguised using careful camera angles.

Jon Voight said Redden "was a boy who had a genetic imbalance – a product of his mother and his brother, I think. He was quite amazing, a very talkative fellow."[1]

Redden next appeared in Tim Burton's 2003 film Big Fish. Burton was intent on getting Redden, as he wanted him to play the role of a banjo-playing "welcomer" in the utopian town of Spectre. Burton located Redden in Clayton, Georgia, where he was part-owner of the Cookie Jar Café, and also worked as a cook and dishwasher.

In 2004, Redden made a guest appearance on Blue Collar TV, playing a car repairman named Ray in a "Redneck Dictionary" skit. He represented the word "raisin bread" (as in "Ray's inbred"). He played a banjo in the skit.

In 2012, 40 years after the release of Deliverance, which was considered a landmark movie, Redden was interviewed in association with a documentary, The Deliverance of Rabun County (2012). It explored the feelings of people in Rabun County two decades later about the 1972 film. Redden said that though Deliverance was the best thing that happened to him, he never saw much money from the movie.

"I’d like to have all the money I thought I’d make from this movie. I wouldn’t be working at Walmart right now. And I’m struggling really hard to make ends meet." [2]

Noting some locals objected to the stereotypes in the movie, Redden said that the people in Rabun County were good people:

"We’re not a bad people up here, we’re a loving people. Rabun County is a pretty good town. It’s peaceful, not a lot of crime going on, just a real peaceful town. Everybody pretty much gets along with everybody."[2]


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