Known best for roles in "Deliverance," "Robocop" and the original "Total Recall," Eastern New Mexico University graduate Ronny Cox said his favorite role will always be the guy strumming the guitar.
"The thing that gives me the most pleasure in the world is music," Cox said. "I never feel more alive than when I'm doing shows. I won't let any movie or television show interfere with my music."
The Cloudcroft-born and Portales-raised Cox, a 1963 graduate of ENMU, regaled audience members at the college with tales of both Thursday afternoon, prior to his evening concert.
Cox, who made early waves in "Deliverance," fielded questions on several of his roles and was praised by students for his musical prowess in "Dueling Banjos." He said he was used to playing the good guy until 1987's "Robocop," where he played Dick Jones. He was asked if playing another villain, Vilos Cohaagen in "Total Recall," was his favorite part.
"It's like trying to pick a favorite child," Cox said. "I loved all of them."
Cox said during his time at ENMU, he was in every play produced. He said classes can only teach so much, and encouraged aspiring actors to do whatever is offered to them.
"The way you learn to act is by doing it," Cox said. "That's the only way."
Cox gave numerous tips, including being prepared for rejection, following a script verbatim and always remembering that, "less is more."
He also enjoys the raw emotion a good actor can deliver. His favorite actors that display that emotion best are Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall.
"It's the most subliminal acting you've ever seen in your life," Cox said about Hackman.
ENMU sophomore Stephanie Gallegos said Cox's words were inspiring to her as a performer.
"It was so cool how a famous person came back to Eastern," Gallegos said. "He grew up here and graduated here. What will stick with me was when he said with his acting, he had to define his opposites in his character."
Though Cox is praised for his acting, it's third behind his family and his music. He said his guitar and folk music helped him cope with the 2006 death of his wife Mary.
"Mary was the most intelligent human being I've ever known," Cox said. "And she thought I was the cat's meow. To be validated by her was the biggest gift in the world."
Cox stressed that the biggest mistake people make in the movie business, is making the business their life.
"The movie business has never been my life; my life is Mary and the boys," Cox said.
Jerrid Williams, a public relations major at ENMU, said Cox was fantastic with the audience but one message particularly hit home for him.
"He said, 'There's something about coming back to where you grew up,' and I feel the same," said Williams, a Grants native.