Burt Reynolds got Herbert "Cowboy" Coward the iconic supporting role in 'Deliverance'
Herbert "Cowboy" Coward, who played Toothless Man in the 1972 film Deliverance, died in a car crash Wednesday, multiple outlets report.
The 85-year-old and his passenger, girlfriend Bertha Brooks, 78, were killed in the collision that happened in Haywood County, North Carolina, according to local news outlets WLOS and FOX Carolina, citing North Carolina State Highway Patrol officials. His pet Chihuahua dog and pet squirrel also died in the crash.
A spokesperson for the North Carolina State Highway Patrol did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
Coward was reportedly turning onto the highway when he was hit by an oncoming truck, driven by a 16-year-old who was then taken to the hospital.
According to WLOS, authorities said Coward and Brooks were not wearing seatbelts, and the teen driver was not believed to have been speeding. No charges were filed.
Coward's wife of 51 years, Dorothy, died in September 2011. They had four children together.
His memorable role in Deliverance involved a disturbing scene with costar Jon Voight. The film, directed by John Boorman, also starred Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox. The film was nominated for three Oscars, including Best Picture, in 1973.
Back in 2018, late actor Reynolds told Conan O'Brien about recommending Coward for the part.
"John Boorman, an Irish director, the best director I ever had, said, 'Where am I gonna find these guys ... the Mountain Men?' And I said, 'I know a guy. He can't read and he can't write or anything, but I'm telling you, if we can get him we got something special.' So I said, 'Let me bring him in. His name's Cowboy, and you'll see if you like him.' "
When Coward delivered his own take on one of the lines during the audition, Reynolds recalls he was given the role on the spot.
During filming, Reynolds said he told Coward, "'Cowboy, just whatever you wanna say, say it. They'll cut it out if they don't like it,' " he recalled. "He just started ad-libbing up a storm. And they kept every word he said because it was gold."
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