Bill McKinney was an American character actor born on August 17th 1931 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was best known for his roles in several iconic films of the 1970s and 1980s, including Deliverance, The Great White Hope, and The Natural.
McKinney began his acting career in theater, appearing in several productions in the 1960s. He made his television debut in 1968 on an episode of The Monkees and attracted attention as Lobo in Alias Smith and Jones. He made his film debut in the 1972 film Deliverance, directed by John Boorman, where he played the memorable role of ‘Ned Beatty’s’ attacker. This role brought McKinney critical acclaim and helped to establish him as a talented character actor.
Throughout his career, McKinney appeared in over 50 films, working with some of the most influential directors of his time, including Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, and Sydney Pollack. He was also a regular on the stage, appearing in several theatrical productions and regional theaters.
Some of McKinney’s other notable film roles include Cleopatra Jones, The Great White Hope, The Natural, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Gauntlet, Every Which Way But Loose, Any Which Way You Can, Pink Cadillac, First Blood, The Parallax View, 2001 Maniacs, The Green Mile, and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
He was also a prolific television actor, appearing in numerous series, mini-series, and made-for-TV movies throughout his career including The Fall Guy, Columbo, The A-Team, The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, The Lazarus Man, Baywatch, Murder She Wrote, Riptide, Cover Up, Legman, The Master, Galactica 1980 and a whole lot more!
McKinney was known for his gruff, no-nonsense demeanor and his ability to bring depth and authenticity to his characters. He was a sought-after character actor, and was highly regarded by his peers and fans alike.
Bill McKinney passed away on December 1, 2011, at the age of 80 from esophageal cancer at his home in San Fernando, California. His death was announced on his Facebook page on the same day. The announcement read:
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″
He is remembered as one of the most talented and versatile character actors of his generation, and his legacy continues to inspire new generations of actors. In a statement, fellow actor and friend Kris Kristofferson said, “Bill McKinney was a gifted actor, a true character, and a great friend. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.”
Pamela Susan Shoop