Ned Beatty death: How 'Deliverance', Bobby Tripe and 'squeal like a pig' changed movies forever
The scene depicts Beatty's character being raped at gunpoint as he is instructed to 'squeal like a pig' during the ordeal
Veteran actor Ned Beatty, who starred in popular movies like 'Deliverance', 'Superman' and 'Network', has died at the age of 83 years. Once hailed as the "busiest actor in Hollywood", the actor left behind his legacy of unparalleled roles that can never be replicated by anyone else. The Academy Award, Golden Globe and Emmy nominee earned his place in Hollywood as one of the top character actors to ever set foot in the industry. Starring in a multitude of movies, from horror to psychological thriller to animation, as well as television, Beatty has been active for nearly six decades in the acting domain.
Beatty appeared in 'Nashville', the 1975 movie where he played Lily Tomlin's hustler-lawyer husband. He portrayed a typical Miami district attorney in Alan J Pakula's 'All the President's Men' in 1976, dabbled with comedy by taking on the role of Lex Luthor's (played by Gene Hackman) sidekick Otis in 'Superman' in 1978 and the sequel that came in 1980. He was a huge name in television and was seen in some of the best roles, which include NBC's 'Homicide: Life of the Street' where he portrayed Detective Stanley Bolander. He also appeared on NBC's telefilm 'The Execution of Private Slovik' in 1974. Despite the wide range of characters he played, Beatty's brilliant portrayal of Bobby Tripe in 'Deliverance' will forever be etched in the minds of film connoisseurs.
Ned Beatty's film debut happened in 1972 with the classic film 'Deliverance', which starred Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds in lead roles. Despite the A-listers gracing the cast of the blood-curdling adventure thriller, Beatty managed to steal the show with his nuanced and near-perfect portrayal of Bobby Tripe. It was one of the shocking scenes from the movie involving Beatty that changed the face of cinema forever.
Beatty's character Bobby Tripe is shown to be brutally raped by another man, making it one of the most shocking scenes in cinematic history. Later, the scene even made it to the list of '25 most shocking moments in movie history' by Movie List.
The scene depicts Beatty's character being forced to strip at gunpoint in the backwoods of northern Georgia. As his friends watch from the sidelines, unable to help, Tripe is raped and humiliated by two mountain men. He is instructed to 'squeal like a pig' while being sexually violated in the most brutal, inhuman manner.
Hollywood has come a long way in 49 years since the release of 'Deliverance', and sexual assault or sodomy no longer remains an untouched arena in films. However, even today, the brutal scene is sorely difficult to watch, making the most seasoned film audience squirm at the edge of their seat.
According to Groovy History, the iconic dialogue "Squeal like a pig" was a rather late addition by director John Boorman in the script. The idea came from a crew member named Ross Berg, who proposed that Beatty's character Tripe should try to 'squeal like a pig' during the assault. The phrase struck Boorman and he decided to place the dialogue on Bill McKinney's 'Mountain Man', turning his character a darker shade of evil. Alternately, Ned Beatty had claimed later that he himself was the creator of his terrifying phrase. It is yet uncertain how exactly the phrase came about, but it is certain that it scarred the film's viewers forever.
The rape scene is shot in such a way so as to compel men into thinking about the brutalities of sexual assault from a victim's viewpoint. Such is the trauma of Bobby Tripe as a survivor, that his character decided to commit murder with his friends, to prevent the outside world from finding out about the assault. The hard-hitting theme is bound to make any viewer feel the pain of a sexual assault victim.
In fact, 'Deliverance' star Burt Reynolds himself admitted that the filmmakers attempted to make men understand the helplessness of a sexual assault survivor. "Women get this movie much quicker than men. Women also understand. You know, for so many years men threw the word rape around and never thought about what they were saying. And I think the picture makes men think about something that’s very important, that we understand the pain and embarrassment and the change of people’s lives," Reynolds had told Huffington Post.
In 2017, Collider published an article about the scene, claiming it to be a significantly misunderstood moment in Hollywood filmography. Played against the haunting sounds of banjo chords, the 'Deliverance' rape scene made way for the stereotyped portrayal of a (hillbilly) person. "And a redneck man’s desire to rape another man has been used in films as varied as Pulp Fiction and Dumb & Dumber; after 1972, confederate flags and bad teeth all became easy story codes to imply danger to another man that a rape could be coming," Brian Formo mentions in the article. He further adds, "Deliverance is about men who feel weak around other men, regardless of social or regional status, but it’s also about the freedom that men take for granted."
While dissecting the rape scene starring Beatty, Formo reminds of a previous scene where Burt Reynold's character Lewis says, "We’re gonna rape this whole goddamned landscape. We’re gonna rape it,” at the start of their adventure trip. In the end, the irony intensifies as his friend ends up suffering the same fate. Not only does it foretell the fate of Ned Beatty's character, but it also goes on to show how carelessly men with machismo often throw around words associated with sexual assault, without regard for the victim's mindset.
Ned Beatty took an immense risk by agreeing to such a scene at his very first movie in Hollywood. In fact, for years he was identified with the character as people would shout at him to 'squeal like a pig', wherever he went. Despite appearing in over 160 films after 'Deliverance', Beatty immortalized Bobby Tripe with his unforeseen, horrific, and hard-hitting scene, in his debut movie itself. It goes a long way to speak about Beatty's dedication and passion for acting, which he prioritized without considering the effect in reality.
The late actor is survived by his wife Sandra Johnson and his eight children from past marriages — Blossom, Doug, twins Charles and Lennis, Wally, Jon, Thomas, and Dorothy. His legacy continues to live on, as Bobby Tripe, Delbert Reese, Arthur Jensen, and beyond.