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Rod Steiger Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (5) | Trade Mark (2) | Trivia (28) | Personal Quotes (14) | Salary (3)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 14 April 1925Westhampton, New York, USA
Date of Death 9 July 2002Los Angeles, California, USA  (pneumonia and kidney failure)
Birth NameRodney Stephan Steiger
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Rodney Stephen Steiger was born in Westhampton, New York, to Augusta Amelia (Driver) and Frederick Jacob Steiger, both vaudevillians. He was of German and Austrian ancestry. After his parents' divorce, Steiger was raised by his mother in Newark, New Jersey. He dropped out of Westside High school at age 16 and joined the Navy. He saw action in the Pacific on a destroyer. Steiger returned to New Jersey after the war and worked for the VA. He was part of an amateur acting group, and then joined the Actors' Studio using his GI Bill benefits.

Steiger received his first film roles in the early 1950s. His first major one was in Teresa (1951), but his first lead role was in the TV version of The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse: Marty (1953). The movie version, however, had Ernest Borgnine in the lead and won him an Academy Award. Steiger's breakthrough role came in 1954, with the classic On the Waterfront (1954). Since then he has been a presence on the screen as everything from a popular leading man to a little-known character actor. Steiger made a name for himself in many different types of roles, from a crooked promoter in The Harder They Fall (1956) to the title character in Al Capone (1959). He was one of dozens of stars in the epic World War II film The Longest Day (1962). In 1964, he received his second Oscar nomination for The Pawnbroker (1964). The next couple of years he was at the height of his powers. In 1965, he starred in the dark comedy The Loved One (1965), and in David Lean's epic Doctor Zhivago (1965). In 1966, he starred in the BBC Play of the Month (1965) episode "Death of a Salesman" as Willy Loman in the TV version of his stage play "Death of a Salesman," but in 1967, he landed what many consider his greatest role: Sheriff Bill Gillespie in In the Heat of the Night (1967), opposite Sidney Poitier. Steiger deservedly took home the Best Actor Oscar for his work in that film.

He took another controversial role as a man with many tattoos in The Illustrated Man (1969) and as a serial killer in the classic No Way to Treat a Lady (1968). After that, he seemed to have withdrawn from high-profile movies and became more selective in the roles he chose. He turned down the lead in Patton (1970) and also in The Godfather (1972). Among his more notable roles in the 1970s are Happy Birthday, Wanda June (1971), Lolly-Madonna XXX (1973), as Benito Mussolini in The Last 4 Days (1974), Portrait of a Hitman (1979), Jesus of Nazareth (1977), F.I.S.T. (1978) and The Amityville Horror (1979). He starred in the critically acclaimed The Chosen (1981) with Robby Benson and Maximilian Schell, perhaps the highlight of his 1980s movie career. Steiger increasingly moved away from the big Hollywood pictures, instead taking roles in foreign productions and independent movies. As the 1980s ended, Steiger landed a role as the buttoned-up New York City Chief of Police in The January Man (1989).

Steiger was seriously affected by depression for 8 years. As he returned to the screen in the late 1990s he began creating some of his most memorable roles. He was the doctor in the independently-made movie Shiloh (1996), about an abused dog. He was the crazed, kill-'em-all army general in Mars Attacks! (1996) who always called his enemies peace-mongers. He took a small part as a Supreme Court judge in The Hurricane (1999) and as a preacher in the badly produced film End of Days (1999). He was still active in films moving into the new millennium.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Scott Adams (msa0510@mail.ecu.edu) and kenn_honeyman

Spouse (5)

Joan Benedict Steiger (10 October 2000 - 9 July 2002) (his death)
Paula Ellis (3 February 1986 - 1997) (divorced) (1 child)
Sherry Donatt (21 April 1973 - 22 January 1980) (divorced)
Claire Bloom (19 September 1959 - 10 June 1969) (divorced) (1 child)
Sally Gracie (26 October 1952 - 26 January 1959) (divorced)

Trade Mark (2)

His chunky frame and serious-looking face
Full-bodied, somewhat bombastic acting style

Trivia (28)

He was offered the title role in Patton (1970) but refused the role, saying, "I'm not going to glorify war." The role was then given to George C. Scott, who won the Oscar for the role. Steiger calls this refusal his "dumbest career move".
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on April 10, 1997.
He had a daughter with Claire Bloom, and a son with Paula Ellis.
Received the Gift of Life Award after tirelessly speaking out against the social stigma against mental disease, from which he suffered for many years.
His daughter, Anna Steiger, is an opera singer.
He had an operatic voice; however, he had no ear for keeping in the same key, rendering his singing voice almost useless.
He had always said that the favorite of all his films was The Pawnbroker (1964).
Enjoyed playing historical figures.
Is listed as the Centre of the Hollywood Universe by the University of Virginia's Oracle of Kevin Bacon. He can be linked to any other movie actor in the classic Kevin Bacon-game style in an average of 2.651 steps.
Served in the United States Navy in the Pacific Ocean during World War II.
Steiger, who originated the role of Marty in the eponymous television production The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse: Marty (1953), said that he turned down the role in the 1955 movie production as the Hill-Hecht-Lancaster Productions contract would have bound him for years. Harold Hecht and Burt Lancaster, on their part, said that they did not want to cast Steiger as they felt the public would not go for the same actor that they had seen for free on television.
He told Robert Osborne during an interview on Turner Classic Movies that when he was in the United States Navy during World War II, he used to sing when it was his turn to stand watch on-board ship. The ship's captain, overhearing him one night, put a stop to his impromptu performances.
After he played Jud Fry in Oklahoma! (1955), producer David O. Selznick wanted to sign him to a long-term contract and possibly star him in the lead of his proposed remake of Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms" opposite David O. Selznick's wife, Jennifer Jones. "But I told him that I must have the right to choose my own mistakes", Steiger told his biographer, Tom Hutchinson. "His face fell - he couldn't believe anyone would refuse him. Neither could my agents!".
Most of the solo shots of Steiger during the famous taxicab scene in On the Waterfront (1954) were done after Marlon Brando had left for the day. Brando had it in his contract that he could finish shooting before the normal quitting time so that he could make his daily session with his psychiatrist. Steiger was deeply hurt and annoyed at Brando's rudeness and lack of courtesy to a fellow actor, as it was customary, in a two-shot, for an actor in close-up to be fed his lines by the other actor or for the other actor to just be there so the first actor would have him him or her to play to. Steiger used his negative emotions to enhance his performance, and though he paid tribute to Brando as a great actor, he personally loathed him thereafter. Director Elia Kazan stood in for Brando in the back of the cab so Steiger would have someone to emote to.
Shortly before his death, Steiger had undergone surgery for a (presumably malignant) gall bladder tumor.
Campaigned vigorously for a role in The Godfather (1972), which began shooting in early 1971, three years after Steiger had reached the top of his craft, receiving the Academy Award for Best Actor his role as Sheriff Bill Gillespie in In the Heat of the Night (1967). Surprisingly, the role Steiger wanted was not the title role of Don Vito Corleone (eventually played by his On the Waterfront (1954) co-star Marlon Brando), but the role of Michael Corleone, the Don's youngest son. Paramount executives found his desire to be bizarre as he was much too old for the role and turned him down without even a screen-test.
Won the role of Viktor Komarovsky in Doctor Zhivago (1965) only after two other actors turned the role down. After a month went by with Marlon Brando failing to respond to director David Lean's written inquiry into whether he wanted to play Komarovsky, Lean offered the role to James Mason, who was a generation older than Brando, because he did not want an actor who would overpower the character Yuri Zhivago (specifically, to show Zhivago up as a lover of Lara, who would be played by the young Julie Christie, which the charismatic Brando might have done, shifting the sympathy of the audience). Mason initially accepted the role, but eventually dropped out and Steiger was given the role.
He was honored with being chosen as one of AFI's 50 stars of the second half of the 20th century.
1976: Fell into a deep depression after undergoing triple heart bypass surgery.
Was not the first choice to play the role of Sheriff Bill Gillespie in the 1967 Best Picture Academy Award-winner In the Heat of the Night (1967), for which Steiger won the Best Actor Oscar. The role was first offered to George C. Scott, who accepted, according to producer Walter Mirisch's memoir "I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History". Scott backed out when his wife Colleen Dewhurst wanted him to direct her in a play on Broadway. Ironically, Steiger later turned down the lead in Patton (1970) that went to Scott, which brought him his own Best Actor Oscar.
Member of Handgun Control Inc.
He studied drama at HB Studio in Greenwich Village, New York City.
His last televised appearance was on Jon Favreau's Dinner for Five (2001), the episode aired April 29, 2002, Steiger passed away in July.
He was the first person to win the best actor BAFTA two years in a row and the Oscar in the second year (For The Pawnbroker (1964) and In the Heat of the Night (1967)). The second one was Colin Firth in A Single Man (2009) and The King's Speech (2010).
Had appeared in two Best Picture Academy Award winners: On the Waterfront (1954) and In the Heat of the Night (1967).
When polled by the AFI Steiger named "The Good Earth" as his favorite film.
His paternal grandfather, Frederick Steiger, was German, and his paternal grandmother, Anna A. Libschick, was Austrian. Rod's maternal grandparents, Frank Driver and Amelia Fesler, were of German origin.
His third wife, Sherry Nelson, was a former ballerina, before becoming Rod's secretary. Her marriage to him was her second.

Personal Quotes (14)

[on success] Successful people have control over the time in their life. A shoemaker who owns his own shop gets up one morning and says, "I'm not opening." That's a successful guy.
[on Hollywood] A community of lonely people searching for even the most basic kind of stimulation in their otherwise mundane lives.
Method acting is anything that gets you involved personally in the part, so that you can communicate in human terms with an audience. Despite all the obstacles, the American actor has changed the acting world.
My career has been 65% virgin and 35% whore. I've refused roles many times because I'd have to lose my integrity, my dreams of doing something worthwhile with regard to character. That's the virgin part of me.
I tell young actors today to join the Merchant Marines for a year, and I tell young women to volunteer in a hospital emergency ward if they can. You get to see different people, cultures, dress - it's a marvelous education for an actor.
[on acting] It sounds pompous but it's the nearest thing I can do to being God. I'm trying to create human beings and so does He.
The first thing that you should do when you win an Oscar is thank God. The second thing you should do is forget it.
You get the Oscar and you get better scripts, better actors and better directors to work for and of course your salary goes up until you make your first mistake and then you have to start from the beginning again.
When old actors come up to me and say, "I don't know if I should do this role. It might be bad for my image", I say, "That's tough that you only have one image. My heart bleeds for you!". We are supposed to create raw people, explore life and communicate at the highest level; be it pain, joy or what have you. That's what I believe. I guess you could say it does become a philosophy, a way of life.
I'm ambivalent about Patton (1970). I'm kind of a half-assed pacifist and I must tell you, you know, your philosophy is as strong as your feelings on a particular day. If you're feeling good and you've accomplished something, you can back your philosophies to the hilt. And I don't know what happened, but I decided I'm not going to glorify this thing. I wasn't going to glorify war...

I was a schmuck, because if I did Patton half as good as Mr. Scott [George C. Scott], I might have walked into The Godfather (1972). So that was a big mistake.
When you lose your curiosity, you're dead. I don't care if you live to be 117. You're dead.
[on Marlon Brando] He was in a unique position. He could have done anything. But he didn't choose to.
[on winning the Best Actor Oscar for In the Heat of the Night (1967)] I wanted to win it. It's important. It gives you greater latitude in the business and that means bigger and better parts. And I need that. I'm only 42. Paul Newman is 43, [Marlon Brando] is 43, but I look like their father.
I like watching Charles Chaplin, Harry Baur, Spencer Tracy, Paul Muni. I like to watch any good actor. When I'm depressed, I'll look around for a bad film, like the old films with chariot races and pulling down the temples and that. I find them very relaxing, like reading a comic book.

Salary (3)

The Pawnbroker (1964) $25,000
In the Heat of the Night (1967) $150,000
Waterloo (1970) $1,000,000

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