Cult actor Ronny Cox has had a second life in classics like Deliverance, Total Recall and Beverly Hills Cop
You might not recognise the name, but you’ll certainly recognise the face. Ronny Cox has been in 50 TV series and 90 films, including some of the greatest cult films of all time – Deliverance, RoboCop, and Total Recall. He’s also been in some of the most ridiculous cult films of all time: Martians Go Home, The Beast Within, and The Car, as well as a truly insane TV project, police procedural/musical Cop Rock. In his latest film, Beyond The Reach, Sheriff Ronny faces off against craggy-faced businessman Madec (Michael Douglas), who decides hunting a human in the desert is the best use of his time/money. We spoke to Cox about the highlights of his cult career.
“I’d never been in front of the camera before that, so it was like magic. We were on the river, and sometimes you could forget you were making a movie. We were out in the woods, riding those canoes and fighting the rapids. It was such an amazing experience for me, because I’d never done anything like that before. I went from being a completely unknown actor to playing one of the major roles in a major motion picture, it was life-changing.”
“I have to tell you the truth, I was not as knocked out by the script as I was by Paul Verhoeven’s take on it. It was Verhoeven who brought the humour to it, and the ability to make us care. I think it’s a real triumph of directing. It’s become a bit of a cult classic now, and I just think Paul is the one who made that film. When I read for it originally, people were sniggering because of the title, RoboCop – they thought it was a second-rate film. But when I read with Paul I realised that he had a take on it – that’s what made it the iconic film it is today.
In many ways, RoboCop was as big a boon to my career as Deliverance was. I played Drew in Deliverance, and he was the moral one, the sensitive one. So for the next 10 or 15 years of my career, I got typecast as these sweet boy-next-door type roles. It was frustrating to me. If a role had blood and guts to it, because I was sensitive, I was considered weak. Sensitivity was somehow equated with weakness. So if a role had balls, I didn’t get it. I was considered soft. It was only when RoboCop came along that I got to play the bad guy. To this day, I prefer playing the bad guy. A good guy is no fun.”
HOLLYWOOD VICE SQUAD (1986)
“I’ve always been very selective on the films that I do, but my selectivity calls on finding a character I think I can bring something that no one else can bring to it. And Hollywood Vice Squad was one of Penelope Spheeris’ first films, and Carrie Fisher was in it too. You know that scene in Women On The Edge Of A Nervous Breakdown, where the character was making a movie, and they made her pee in a bottle during filming? That happened to Carrie Fisher on Hollywood Vice Squad! It was art imitating life!”
BEVERLY HILLS COP (1984)
“There’s something really great about working on something you know is going to be a big hit. It was Eddie Murphy’s big breakout film. There’s a confidence level when you go to work every day when you’re working on something that you know millions of people are going to see and love.
Having said that, when we did the first Beverly Hills Cop movie, the Beverly Hills police force hated us. They thought we were poking fun, they didn’t want us to shoot in Beverly Hills, they didn’t want to have anything to do with us. They welcomed us with open arms for Beverly Hills Cop 2.”
SOME KIND OF HERO (1982)
“I worked with Richard Pryor, who is the greatest stand-up of all time, I think. We did Some Kind Of Hero together, which was the first film he’d done after he burned himself up. He was kind of fragile at that time. We became really, really close friends on that. To this day no one has made me laugh as much before or since.
We did something on Some Kind Of Hero that I don’t think had been done before. I’d shot my scenes, and I left the set to go straight to work on Taps, Sean Penn and Tom Cruise’s first film. Now, in Some Kind Of Hero, me and Richard have a phone conversation, and I’d shot my half of the conversation before I left. After I’d been shooting Taps for a week or so, they got to Richard Pryor’s half of the conversation, and he wanted to do it with me – he didn’t want someone reading the lines off camera. So they called me in Pennsylvania, and we did the scene together that way, long distance. I don’t know if anyone’s done that before or since.”