Although McKinney and Ned Beatty knew how they had to handle the violation scene, and it was all staged and there were no bad blood between the two professional actors, McKinney did train in martial arts, so he could appear more menacing. He trained on Judo for the violation scene, according to an interview for the Bristol Daily in 2005, and believes this helped him to appear more convincing when tormenting Ned Beatty on screen.
Has worked as a tree surgeon.
He and his Deliverance (1972) partner Herbert 'Cowboy' Coward were named the top villains of all time in Maxim magazine's "Maxim Goes to the Movies" issue for their performance as the mountain men in the John Boorman classic.
He appeared in eight movies with Clint Eastwood from 1974 to 1989, when Eastwood stopped using his "stock company".
Originally, Stanley Kubrick wanted McKinney for the role of the Drill Instructor in Full Metal Jacket (1987). McKinney was about to fly to London to meet with him, but Kubrick canceled at the last moment. He later explained to friend John Boorman that the prospect of meeting the Mountain Man from Deliverance (1972) was simply too terrifying.