R.I.P. Bill McKinney of Deliverance and The Outlaw Josey Wales
The Hollywood Reporter notes the death of Bill McKinney, a prolific character actor who excelled at playing crazed villains in numerous movies, including several opposite Clint Eastwood—though of course, there is no question that he will always be most readily identified as the man who made Ned Beatty “squeal like a pig” in Deliverance. McKinney’s Facebook page confirmed his death with a note that mentioned he’d suffered from esophageal cancer after being “an avid smoker for 25 years of his younger life.” He was 80.
With a grim set to his eyes and wide mouth, McKinney was a natural for Westerns, taking on a recurring role on the gunfighter series Alias Smith And Jones after an early sporadic career in B-movies like She Freak and bit parts on TV shows like The Monkees and I Dream Of Jeannie. He would have his breakout role in another backwoods setting on 1972’s Deliverance, playing a part that was credited only as “Mountain Man,” but was central to the rape scene that cemented the film’s legacy.
McKinney reportedly took martial arts training in order to believably dominate Ned Beatty, and he appeared to take such genuine sadistic pleasure in pretending to sodomize him that even co-star Burt Reynolds once suggested in his autobiography that McKinney was a bit nuts, and maybe even ready to rape Beatty for real. McKinney later laughed this off as false, but certainly McKinney genuinely seemed to enjoy his most infamous minutes of movie history: After all, his personal website bears the URL www.squeallikeapig.com.
McKinney would play similar heavies again and again, most often in Westerns—including The Life And Times Of Judge Roy Bean, Sam Peckinpah’s Junior Bonner, and The Shootist, where he had the honor of being one of the last men ever killed by John Wayne on screen—with his other most closely associated roles coming as part of Clint Eastwood’s stock acting company. After first meeting Eastwood on Michael Cimino’s Thunderbolt And Lightfoot (where he played a part credited only as “Crazy Driver”), McKinney starred in seven Eastwood films at all—most notably playing the captain tracking the titular character by the dead men he leaves behind in The Outlaw Josey Wales—and sticking with him through 1989’s Pink Cadillac.
Other notable McKinney roles included playing the assassin in Alan J. Pakula’s The Parallax View (a part, in typically shadowy McKinney fashion, credited as “Parallax Assassin”), and the State Police Captain who’s called in to deal with Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo in First Blood. He also had parts as a prison guard in The Green Mile, Back To The Future III (as the engineer whose train is hijacked by Doc Brown and Marty McFly), and in City Slickers II: The Legend Of Curly’s Gold, plus a lengthy TV résumé that included shows like Starsky And Hutch, B.J. And The Bear, The A-Team, The Fall Guy, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Baywatch, and Walker Texas Ranger, just to name a few.
While also taking up singing in the late '90s (you can buy his self-released country CD Love Songs From Antri here), McKinney continued to act steadily until very recently, with the Facebook note that announced his death mentioning he’d just completed a Dorito’s commercial only a couple of weeks ago, and that he’d also been working on an autobiography that’s currently seeking publishers. Given how often McKinney worked with some of the most iconic, rough-and-tumble men in the film business, his obvious devilish sense of humor, and the fact that his death notice concludes with a smirk that he’s survived by “several ex-wives,” that book would probably be a hell of a read.