Billy Redden (born 1956) is an American actor, best known for his role as a backwoods mountain boy in the 1972 film Deliverance. He played Lonnie, a banjo-playing teenager in north Georgia, who played the noted "Dueling Banjos" with Drew Ballinger (Ronny Cox). The film was critically acclaimed and received nominations for awards in several categories.
Redden was born in Rabun County, Georgia, on October 13, 1956.
At the age of fifteen, he was discovered by Lynn Stalmaster, who was scouting for the movie Deliverance. Stalmaster recommended Redden to the director John Boorman, though Redden was not an albino child as Boorman had requested, and Redden was cast.
He portrayed a banjo-playing "local" during the film's famous "dueling banjos" scene. Boorman felt that Redden's skinny frame, large head, and almond-shaped eyes made him the natural choice to play the part of an "inbred from the back woods." Because Redden could not play a banjo, he wore a special shirt which allowed a real banjo player to hide behind him for the scene, which was shot with carefully chosen camera angles that would conceal the player, whose arms were slipped around Redden's waist to play the tune. The hidden banjo player was shown playing "clawhammer" style, while the soundtrack had the banjo music as three finger "Earl Scruggs" style.
For his work on Deliverance, Redden received only $500. After Deliverance, Redden appeared in three more films, playing the same banjo-playing character in each of them.
In 1984, he was cast (uncredited) in Lamberto Bava's action drama Blastfighter, starring Michael Sopkiwand Valentina Forte. The film was recorded in and around Clayton, Georgia, and many people recall it as a mixture of Deliverance and First Blood.
His next appearance was in Tim Burton's 2003 film Big Fish, with Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, and Billy Crudup. 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, where he was part-owner of the Cookie Jar Café, and also worked as a cook and dishwasher. Redden was paid $200/day for his work on the film.
In 2004, Redden made a guest appearance on Jeff Foxworthy's 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 the banjo in the skit.
Redden currently lives in Dillard, Georgia and works at a Walmart.
In 2012, 40 years after the release of Deliverance, Redden was interviewed in association with a documentary, The Deliverance of Rabun County (2012). It explored the feelings of people in Rabun County four 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.
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.