Charles Bronson Poster


Jump to: Overview (5)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (2)  | Trade Mark (4)  | Trivia (69)  | Personal Quotes (22)  | Salary (14)

Overview (5)

Born in Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania, USA
Died in Los Angeles, California, USA  (lung cancer, COPD, congestive cardiomyopathy and respiratory failure)
Birth NameCharles Dennis Buchinsky
Nicknames Il Brutto
Le Sacre Monstre
Height 5' 8½" (1.74 m)

Mini Bio (1)

The archetypal screen tough guy with weatherbeaten features--one film critic described his rugged looks as "a Clark Gable who had been left out in the sun too long"--Charles Bronson was born Charles Buchinsky, one of 15 children of struggling parents in Pennsylvania. His mother, Mary (Valinsky), was born in Pennsylvania, to Lithuanian parents, and his father, Walter Buchinsky, was a Lithuanian immigrant coal miner.

He completed high school and joined his father in the mines (an experience that resulted in a lifetime fear of being in enclosed spaces) and then served in WW II. After his return from the war, Bronson used the GI Bill to study art (a passion he had for the rest of his life), then enrolled at the Pasadena Playhouse in California. One of his teachers was impressed with the young man and recommended him to director Henry Hathaway, resulting in Bronson making his film debut in You're in the Navy Now (1951).

He appeared on screen often early in his career, though usually uncredited. However, he made an impact on audiences as the evil assistant to Vincent Price in the 3-D thriller House of Wax (1953). His sinewy yet muscular physique got him cast in action-type roles, often without a shirt to highlight his manly frame. He received positive notices from critics for his performances in Vera Cruz (1954), Target Zero (1955) and Run of the Arrow (1957). Indie director Roger Corman cast him as the lead in his well-received low-budget gangster flick Machine-Gun Kelly (1958), then Bronson scored the lead in his own TV series, Man with a Camera (1958). The 1960s proved to be the era in which Bronson made his reputation as a man of few words but much action.

Director John Sturges cast him as half Irish/half Mexican gunslinger Bernardo O'Reilly in the smash hit western The Magnificent Seven (1960), and hired him again as tunnel rat Danny Velinski for the WWII POW big-budget epic The Great Escape (1963). Several more strong roles followed, then once again he was back in military uniform, alongside Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine in the testosterone-filled The Dirty Dozen (1967).

European audiences had taken a shine to his minimalist acting style, and he headed to the Continent to star in several action-oriented films, including Guns for San Sebastian (1968) (aka "Guns for San Sebastian"), the cult western Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) (aka "Once Upon a Time in The West"), Rider on the Rain (1970) (aka "Rider On The Rain") and, in one of the quirkier examples of international casting, alongside Japansese screen legend Toshirô Mifune in the western Red Sun (1971) (aka "Red Sun").

American audiences were by now keen to see Bronson back on US soil, and he returned triumphantly in the early 1970s to take the lead in more hard-edged crime and western dramas, including The Valachi Papers (1972) and the revenge western Chato's Land (1972). After nearly 25 years as a working actor, he became an 'overnight" sensation. Bronson then hooked up with British director Michael Winner to star in several highly successful urban crime thrillers, including The Mechanic (1972) and The Stone Killer (1973). He then scored a solid hit as a Colorado melon farmer-done-wrong in Richard Fleischer's Mr. Majestyk (1974). However, the film that proved to be a breakthrough for both Bronson and Winner came in 1974 with the release of the controversial Death Wish (1974) (written with Henry Fonda in mind, who turned it down because he was disgusted by the script).

The US was at the time in the midst of rising street crime, and audiences flocked to see a story about a mild-mannered architect who seeks revenge for the murder of his wife and rape of his daughter by gunning down hoods, rapists and killers on the streets of New York City. So popular was the film that it spawned four sequels over the next 20 years.

Action fans could not get enough of tough guy Bronson, and he appeared in what many fans--and critics--consider his best role: Depression-era street fighter Chaney alongside James Coburn in Hard Times (1975). That was followed by the somewhat slow-paced western Breakheart Pass (1975) (with wife Jill Ireland), the light-hearted romp (a flop) From Noon Till Three (1976) and as Soviet agent Grigori Borsov in director Don Siegel's Cold War thriller Telefon (1977).

Bronson remained busy throughout the 1980s, with most of his films taking a more violent tone, and he was pitched as an avenging angel eradicating evildoers in films like the 10 to Midnight (1983), The Evil That Men Do (1984), Assassination (1987) and Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects (1989). Bronson jolted many critics with his forceful work as murdered United Mine Workers leader Jock Yablonski in the TV movie Act of Vengeance (1986), gave a very interesting performance in the Sean Penn-directed The Indian Runner (1991) and surprised everyone with his appearance as compassionate newspaper editor Francis Church in the family film Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus (1991).

Bronson's final film roles were as police commissioner Paul Fein in a well-received trio of crime/drama TV movies Family of Cops (1995), Breach of Faith: A Family of Cops II (1997) and Family of Cops III: Under Suspicion (1999). Unfortunately, ill health began to take its toll; he suffered from Alzheimer's disease for the last few years of his life, and finally passed away from pneumonia at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in August 2003.

Bronson was a true icon of international cinema; critics had few good things to say about his films, but he remained a fan favorite in both the US and abroad for 50 years, a claim few other film legends can make.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: firehouse44@hotmail.com (qv's & corrections by A. Nonymous)

Family (2)

Spouse Kim Weeks (22 December 1998 - 30 August 2003)  (his death)
Jill Ireland (5 October 1968 - 18 May 1990)  (her death)  (1 child)
Harriet Tendler (30 September 1949 - 1967)  (divorced)  (2 children)
Parents Buchinsky (Valinsky), Mary
Buchinsky, Walter

Trade Mark (4)

Frequently played violent characters
Distinctive, gravelly voice
Rough facial features
Long thin moustache

Trivia (69)

Shared a room with Jack Klugman in a New York boarding house in the 1940s.
He had two children with his first wife, Tony and Suzanne. He then married Jill Ireland, who had two sons with her first husband, David McCallum. One adopted son (Jason) died of an accidental drug overdose in 1989. He and Ireland had a daughter named Zuleika.
Perhaps the biggest late bloomer in Hollywood history, he did not get the marquee treatment he deserved until his late 40s. He was already 53 when Death Wish (1974) premiered.
The name Bronson is said to be taken from the "Bronson Gate" at Paramount Studios, at the north end of Bronson Avenue.
The voice of the sarcastic store clerk on The Simpsons (1989) is based on him.
Changed his stage name in the early 1950s in the midst of the McCarthy "Red Scare" at the suggestion of his agent, who was fearful that his last name (Buchinsky) would damage his career.
In 1949 he moved to California, where he signed up for acting lessons at the Pasadena Playhouse
In 1954 on the Mexican set of Vera Cruz (1954), he and fellow cast member Ernest Borgnine--who were playing American gunfighters involved in the Mexican fight against the French--had some spare time on their hands and decided to go to a nearby town for cigarettes. They saddled up in costume, sidearms and all, and began riding to town. On the way they were spotted by a truck full of Mexican "federales"--national police--who mistook them for bandits and held them at gunpoint until their identities could be verified.
Was drafted into the army in 1943 and assigned to the Air Corps. At first he was a truck driver, but was later trained as a bomber tail gunner and assigned to a B-29. He flew 25 missions and received, among other decorations, a Purple Heart for wounds incurred in battle.
"I am not a Casper Milquetoast," he told "The Washington Post" in 1985, recalling the time he was visiting Rome and felt someone stick a gun in his side. "A guy in broken English asked me for money. I said, 'You give ME money.' He turned around and walked away.".
John Huston once summed him up as "a grenade with the pin pulled".
Was by all accounts a very quiet and introspective collaborator, often sitting in a corner for much of a shoot and listening to a director's instructions and not saying a word until cameras were rolling. Don Siegel, who directed him in Telefon (1977), and Tom Gries, who directed him in Breakheart Pass (1975), both commented on how surprised they were to discover how thoroughly and completely prepared Bronson was when he came to work, as it didn't seem to fit his "laid-back", taciturn image.
He grew privately frustrated by the declining quality and range of roles over his career, being pigeonholed as a violent vigilante after the commercial success of Death Wish (1974). His own favorite of his "vigilante" movies was Once Upon a Time in the West (1968).
He was considered for Jeff Bridges' role in Blown Away (1994).
His father died when he was 10, and at 16 he followed his brothers into the mines to support the family. He was paid $1 per ton of coal and volunteered for perilous jobs because the pay was better.
Called West Windsor, VT, his home for more than three decades (Bronson Farm), and was buried in nearby Brownsville Cemetery, near the foot of Mt. Ascutney.
Appeared with Steve McQueen and James Coburn in two films, both of which were directed by John Sturges: The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Great Escape (1963).
With Bronson's death on August 30, 2003, Robert Vaughn became the last surviving actor to have played one of the title characters in The Magnificent Seven (1960). Vaughn died on November 11, 2016 at the age of 83.
Was introduced to his second wife, Jill Ireland, by her then-husband David McCallum during the filming of The Great Escape (1963).
Spoke fluent Russian, Lithuanian and Greek.
Owned homes in Europe, including Lithuania and Greece.
He was considered for the lead role in Conan the Barbarian (1982).
Sergio Leone once called him "the greatest actor I ever worked with". Leone had wanted Bronson for all three of what became known as the "Man with No Name" trilogy, but Bronson turned him down each time. He turned down the lead role in A Fistful of Dollars (1964) after describing it as the "worst script I have ever seen"; he turned down the role of Col. Douglas Mortimer in For a Few Dollars More (1965) as he wasn't interested; and he turned the role of Angel Eyes in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) because he was in England filming The Dirty Dozen (1967). Leone eventually cast him as Harmonicac in Once Upon a Time in the West (1968).
The term "Charles Bronson" is frequently uttered in Reservoir Dogs (1992) in reference to a "tough guy".
He was very active in raising funds for the John Wayne Cancer Institute.
Capable of essaying a variety of types, from Russian to American Indian, from homicidal villain to tight-lipped hero, Bronson suddenly became a star at the age of 53. Following the success of Death Wish (1974) he repeated, with little variation, his role as a vengeful urban vigilante.
In the latter part of his career, he worked predominantly with The Guns of Navarone (1961) director J. Lee Thompson. They made nine films together in just over a decade between 1977 and 1989: 10 to Midnight (1983), Cabo Blanco (1980), Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987), The Evil That Men Do (1984), Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects (1989), Messenger of Death (1988), Murphy's Law (1986), St. Ives (1976) and The White Buffalo (1977).
His parents were from Lithuania, where his father was a coal miner, and he grew up in a western Pennsylvania coal-mining town. Like all the men in his family he worked in the mines, but hated it and used a variety of means to escape it (including the military and, eventually, acting). His expertise with tunneling and working underground turned out to be quite helpful when making The Great Escape (1963) in the role of "Tunnel King" Velinski. However, even though the "tunnel" he was working in was a cutaway set, he could only stay in it for a few minutes at a time before he had to get up and leave. As a boy working in the mines, he was caught in a cave-in and almost died before he was finally rescued. Ever since that time he had had a deathly fear of enclosed spaces.
Made six films with director Michael Winner: Chato's Land (1972), The Mechanic (1972), The Stone Killer (1973), Death Wish (1974), Death Wish II (1982) and Death Wish 3 (1985).
In the 1990s a lady whom he'd never met left him her estate worth well over a million dollars. She was a big fan of his. Her family sued and he ended up settling with them out of court.
Retired from acting after undergoing hip replacement surgery in August 1998.
Japanese manga artist Buronson, famed for his "Fist of the Northstar" manga, took the name in honor of Bronson (his real name is Yoshiyuki Okamura) and sports a similar mustache.
He and wife Jill Ireland adopted Katrina Holden Bronson after her mother Hilary Holden died in 1983.
Growing up without much money for newer clothes, as a boy he often wore his older sister's hand-me-downs.
He was considered for the role of Snake Plissken in Escape from New York (1981), but director John Carpenter felt Bronson was too old and too tough, and cast Kurt Russell instead.
Tested and read for Christopher Reeve's role in Superman (1978).
He was considered for Gene Hackman's roles in The French Connection (1971), Bite the Bullet (1975) and A Bridge Too Far (1977).
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume 7, 2003-2005, pages 48-50. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2007.
Tennessee Williams wanted him to play the general in his play "The Red Devil Battery Sign" in 1975, but he wasn't interested.
Bill Murray said he based his character in Lost in Translation (2003) on Bronson.
Stepfather of Valentine McCallum.
Left an estate worth $48 million, including an $8-million house in Malibu as well as a $4.8-million beach house and a ranch in Vermont.
Awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Wednesday, December 10, 1980. Bronson and wife Jill Ireland attended the ceremony.
He was seriously considered for the role of Gen. Stanislaw Sosabowski in A Bridge Too Far (1977), which was directed by his The Great Escape (1963) co-star Richard Attenborough. However, Gene Hackman was eventually cast.
Was one of the first big stars to notice the emerging "new media" that was arriving--video and laserdisc--and had a clause put in all his contracts that sales from these new formats should be included in his royalties.
Once told Roger Ebert that getting drafted into World War II was one of the best things that happened to him. For the first time in his life he was well fed and well dressed, and it afforded him the opportunity to improve his English.
Robert Mitchum did not get along with Bronson when they filmed Villa Rides (1968). He later said he could not understand why Bronson was famous.
Although born in Pennsylvania, Bronson grew up speaking Russian and Lithuanian as his first language (his father was an immigrant, and his mother was the daughter of immigrants). He did not become truly fluent in English until he served in the military during World War II.
Was a successful artist and painter. He once had an "anonymous" showing of his artwork at a gallery in California (under his birth name of Buchinsky), and every piece of art sold within two weeks.
Was once considered to star in a film to be directed by Sam Peckinpah (in the latter part of his career) but he refused. His reason was "I ain't working with no drunk".
A heavy smoker for most of his life, he suffered from severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in later years.
When he first signed with his long time agent Paul Kohner, he told Kohner that if he made him a star, he'd buy him a Rolls-Royce. True to his word, when Bronson made it big he delivered a brand-new Rolls-Royce to the Kohner house.
According to director Michael Winner, Bronson had a considerable amount of plastic surgery in the 1980s.
In 1943 he enlisted in the US Army Air Force and served in the 760th Flexible Gunnery Training Squadron. In 1945 he was a gunner on a Boeing B-29 Superfortress with the Guam-based 61st Bombardment Squadron of the 39th Bombardment Group, which conducted combat missions against the Japanese home islands. He flew 25 missions and received a Purple Heart for wounds received in battle.
He rarely granted interviews, or commented on his own films. However, he plainly stated his unhappiness with Death Wish 3 (1985) at least a few times, and was especially angered when he discovered that Michael Winner filmed extremely gory shots with extras (as nameless thugs) when he was off-set.
He was considered for the role of John McClane in Die Hard (1988) but was under contract with The Cannon Group, which refused to loan him out.
He was originally considered for Lee Marvin's role in The Delta Force (1986). This turned out to be Marvin's final role.
He turned down the role of the titular character's father in Billy Madison (1995).
He turned down the role of Pasquinel in Centennial (1978).
He was originally offered the role of Woodrow Call in Lonesome Dove (1989), but turned it down.
He was considered for Gregory Peck's roles in Cape Fear (1962) and The Omen (1976).
His personal handgun was a Wildey .475 Magnum hand cannon. He suggested its use in Death Wish 3 (1985).
He was considered for Ernest Borgnine's role in The Wild Bunch (1969).
Billy Crystal claimed that Bronson was offered the role of Curly in City Slickers (1991), only to be rudely rebuffed because the character dies. Jack Palance went on to win an Oscar for the role.
He was considered for James Coburn's role in Firepower (1979). Rumor had it that Bronson turned the film down because the producers had refused to write in a role for his wife, Jill Ireland.
He learned to speak English when he was a teenager; before that, he spoke Lithuanian and Russian.
He was considered to replace John Wayne in Rooster Cogburn (1975). He was also considered for Wayne's role in The Shootist (1976).
He was considered for the lead role in The Driver (1978), as Walter Hill had previously worked with him on Hard Times (1975). However, Bronson wasn't happy with how Hill had edited Jill Ireland's performance in the film and that was the end of that.
In two different movies he played a character who could read lips: The Mechanic (1972) & The Evil That Men Do (1984).

Personal Quotes (22)

I guess I look like a rock quarry that someone has dynamited.
Acting is the easiest thing I've done, I guess that's why I'm stuck with it.
Someday I'd like a part where I can lean my elbow against a mantlepiece and have a cocktail.
I don't look like someone who leans on a mantelpiece with a cocktail in my hand, you know. I look like the kind of guy who has a bottle of beer in my hand.
[in 1971] Maybe I'm too masculine. Casting directors cast in their own, or an idealized image. Maybe I don't look like anybody's ideal.
I am not a fan of myself.
Nobody stays on top forever. Nobody!
[in 1977, on Robert Aldrich] A very good director. Beyond that, he has one fault: he is inflexible. He's horrified if you give him ideas; he only appreciates his own. He wants to use his own brain for everything. That's his greatest fault. If he wasn't so inflexible he would be very great. He refuses to give in. Well, it's impossible for one man to know everything.
I don't have friends, I have thousands of acquaintances. No friends. I figured I had a wife and children. They took up all the personal time I had. My children are my friends. My wife was my friend. We were opposite but I figured it made for a better relationship that way. One of the difficult parts of being a public person married to someone who was seriously ill is that people asked, "So, how's your wife?", I found it difficult. They were strangers.
[on wife Jill Ireland's terminal illness] When you love someone you feel their pain. It's why some husbands go through morning sickness when their wives are pregnant. But to ever talk about it is difficult. I wouldn't tell Jill how I felt. I behaved in such a way that was opposite to how I felt. I must have seemed strong to her. I didn't want to bring her down. It was like keeping the stiff upper lip, of being British about it. Of course, she understood that. The fear really hits you. That's what you feel first. And then it's the anger and frustration. Part of the problem is how little we understand about the ultimate betrayal of the body when it rebels against itself. You always worry about charlatans. We found that specialists did not know as much as we thought. So, you think maybe there are other answers. There are not but if you believe something will help you it probably will: it will help, not cure. What kind of man would I have been if I had not been there to help her? I felt along with her--not the physical pain, of course, but all her mental anguish. You can't be detached. She needed to have someone who understood what was happening in her mind. That was what I was for.
[explaining his enduring popularity] Audiences like to see the bad guys get their comeuppance.
Stripping naked is not entertainment. It's for voyeurs and I'm damned sure I'm not going to feed their imaginations and let them get their licks by seeing me totally nude.
[on why he was cast in You're in the Navy Now (1951)] I got the job because I could belch on cue.
When I was a kid I was always drawing things. I'd get butcher paper or grocery bags and draw on them. And at school I was the one who got to draw on the windows with soap. Turkeys for Thanksgiving, that kind of thing. It seemed I just knew how to draw. I could draw anything in one continuous line without lifting the crayon from the paper. I had a show of my stuff in Beverly Hills and it sold out in two weeks--and it wasn't because my name was Charles Bronson, because I signed them Buchinsky.
I never talk about the philosophy of a picture. [Director Michael Winner] is an intelligent man, and I like him. But I don't ever talk to him about the philosophy of a picture. It has never come up. And I wouldn't talk about it to you. I don't expound. I don't like to overtalk a thing. Because I'm entertained more by my own thoughts than by the thoughts of others. I don't mind answering questions. But in an exchange of conversation, I wind up being a pair of ears.
[on why he got into acting] It seemed like an easy way to make money. A friend took me to a play, and I thought I might as well try it myself. I had nothing to lose. I hung around New York and did a little stock-company stuff. I wasn't really sure at that time if l even wanted to be an actor. I got no encouragement. I was living in my own mind, generating my own adrenaline. Nobody took any notice of me. I was in plays I don't even remember. Nobody remembers. I was in something by Molière--I don't even know what it was called. I have no interest in the stage anymore. From an audience point of view, it's old-fashioned. The position I've been in for the last eight years, I have to think that way. I can't think of theater acting for one segment of the population in just one city. That's an inefficient way of reaching people.
I had a very bad experience on the plane in from California yesterday. There was a man on the plane, sitting across from me, and they were showing an old Greer Garson movie. He said, "Hey, why aren't you in that?" The picture was made before I even became an actor. I said, "Why aren't you?" I think I made him understand how stupid his question was. When I'm in public, I even try to hide. I keep as quiet as possible so that I'm not noticed. Not that I hide behind doorways or anything ridiculous like that, but I hide by not making waves. I also try to make myself seem as unapproachable as possible.
I supply a presence. There are never any long dialogue scenes to establish a character. He has to be completely established at the beginning of the movie, and ready to work. Now on this picture, Mr. Majestyk (1974), there's something I haven't done for a while--acting. It has that, too, besides the action.
One of the ironies is that I made my breakthrough in movies shot in Europe that the Japanese thought were American movies and that the Americans thought were foreign.
[on his character in Death Wish (1974)] He's an average guy, an average New Yorker. In wartime, he would be a conscientious objector. His whole approach to life is gentle, and he has raised his daughter that way. Now he has second thoughts, and he becomes a killer.
We don't make movies for critics, since they don't pay to see them anyhow.
I am only a product, like a cake of soap, to be sold as well as possible.

Salary (14)

Machine-Gun Kelly (1958) $5,000
Man with a Camera (1958) $2,000 /week
The Magnificent Seven (1960) $50,000
The Stone Killer (1973) $1,000,000
Valdez il mezzosangue (1973) $1,000,000
Death Wish (1974) $1,000,000
Hard Times (1975) $1,000,000
St. Ives (1976) $1,000,000
Caboblanco (1980) $1,000,000
Death Wish II (1982) $1,500,000
10 to Midnight (1983) $2,000,000
Death Wish 3 (1985) $1,500,000
Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987) $4,000,000
Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994) $5,000,000 -$6,000,000

See also

Other Works |  Publicity Listings |  Official Sites

View agent, publicist, legal and company contact details on IMDbPro Pro Name Page Link

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed