Throughout his career, Charles Bronson exuded a strong-guy vibe and palpable grit that made him stand out even in scenes that did not require him to say more than just a few words. His unconventionally good looks and tough-guy image not only made him the ideal choice to play Paul Kersey in Death Wish but also made him the perfect candidate to portray the foreigner in foreign film territories, where he enjoyed immense success. However, like any other actor, Bronson had his quirks. In this video, we tell you about that one thing that scared the daylights out of Bronson as well as some more interesting facts about the actor’s life and career. So, hit the play button and enjoy.
Charles Bronson Wasn’t His Real Name
Charles Bronson was born Charles Dennis Buchinsky and used this name for most of his life. In fact, in most of the early assignments taken by the actor, films’ credits mentioned him as Charles Dennis Buchinsky.
Charles decided to change his name to Bronson after his friend McQueen suggested that Bronson is a far better screen name. Back in the day, McCarthyism was widely prevalent in Hollywood and Charles understood that his last name sounded Lithuanian. Getting work with a name that made him sound like a communist was proving to be difficult. Therefore, Charles was already toying with the idea of changing his last name when one fine day, he and his friend Steve McQueen were enjoying a ride and McQueen saw a street sign called Bronson. McQueen thought the name was perfect for Charles, and that is how Charles Dennis Buchinsky came to be known as Charles Bronston.
Here’s an interesting fact: Charles wasn’t the only person in his family to change his name. His father Valteris P. Bucinskis had also changed his name to Walter Buchinsky to sound more American.
Charles Bronson Lived in Fear of One Silly Thing
In movies, Bronson often portrayed the tough guy. However, in reality, Bronson was like any other human being, incredibly scared of certain things that may have seemed harmless to most others. Throughout his life, Charles Bronson lived in fear of one silly thing: germs. Bronson never shook hands with his fans because he saw them all as potential germ carriers. Most fans assumed this to be a sign of a starry attitude. In truth, it was just one of Bronson’s irrational fears. Other than germs, Bronson was also incredibly scared of fire. The story goes that while shooting for Death Wish in 1974, Bronson refused to take any rooms above the second floor in the hotel where the team was staying. Reason? He was scared that in case of a fire accident, he and his family would have no way out of the building.
He Started Smoking at the Age of Nine
During the 50s, all leading actors smoked. Therefore, it is not very surprising that Bronson was also a smoker. However, what’s appalling is the fact that Bronson started smoking at the age of nine. While no one knows what made Bronson start smoking at such an early age, many believe it could have something to do with the fact that he grew up in abject poverty, and perhaps life was far too difficult for him as a child. Bronson was the 11th of his parent’s 15 children. The family struggled to make ends meet so much so that Bronson had to sometimes wear his sister’s clothes to school. At the age of 10, Bronson quit school and began working with his father in a coal mine. The job required putting in hours of hard work and working in sub-human conditions. It was perhaps to keep himself sane in such challenging times that Bronson began to indulge in tobacco use. Unfortunately, this early habit became Bronson’s bane as he died of metastatic lung cancer.
He Learned English on His Own
Bronson’s parents were from Southern Lithuania and therefore, the family conversed in Lithuanian and not English. However, most of the children who went to the school to which Bronson went did not speak English either. So, the language wasn’t an issue for Bronson during his school days. However, Bronson learned English on his own, which resulted in a very thick accent, and it was during his years in the air force that Bronson’s accent became a problem. His strong accent often made other comrades think he was from another country, even when he was born and brought up in the U.S.
Meanwhile, let us tell you that Charles Bronson was a smart kid and was also the first of the Buchinsky siblings to graduate high school. Other than Lithuanian and English, he was also fluent in Russian and Greek.
Are you enjoying this video on Charles Bronson? You will be surprised to know that it wasn’t the American film industry but Europe that first realized Bronson’s true potential as an actor and gave him roles worthy of his time and caliber. Bronson enjoyed great popularity and fame in Europe before American gave him his due. We will tell you more about this in a while. So, do not go anywhere. Meanwhile, if you are enjoying this video, do not forget to like and subscribe to our channel.
He served in the United States Air Force Army During World War II
Bronson worked in the coal mines for almost 12 years. At the age of 22, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces and was a member of the 760th Gunnery Training squadron during World War II. In 1945, he was promoted to the rank of a Boeing B-29 Superfortress aerial gunner and as a member of the Guam-based 61st Bombardment Squadron, Bronson carried out 25 missions against the Japanese. Bronson received many wounds during the battle and for these wounds, he received a Purple Heart.
He Lived with Jack Klugman During His Struggle Days
If Charles Bronson will most prominently be remembered for Death Wish, Jack Klugman will always be remembered for playing Oscar Madison in Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. However, not many people know that Bronson and Klugman shared an apartment when both were struggling actors. After World War II ended, Bronson shifted to New York City in search of work and shared an apartment with Jack Klugman. Bronson moved out first after he married his first wife Harried Tendler. In an interview given much, much later, Klugman remembered Bronson as a good roommate and an excellent ironer.
Bronson Wasn’t the Director’s First Choice for Death Wish
Bronson’s most famous role came when he was 52. Director Michael Winner offered him the role of Paul Kersey, a New York architect who becomes a crime-fighting avenger after losing his wife, in Death Wish. The film was based on Brian Garfield’s novel of the same name and was a massive hit, raking in $22 million at the box office and spawning four sequels, all of which starred Bronson. Today, it may be hard to imagine Death Wish without Charles Bronson. However, you will be surprised to know that Bronson wasn’t the first choice for the role. Michael Winner’s original choice for the role was Henry Fonda. However, after Henry Fonda called the script repulsive, Winners decided to approach Bronson. Bronson loved the script and almost immediately agreed to do the film. The rest is history.
His Early Childhood Scarred Him for Life
Bronson was known for his monosyllabic tone and many believe that this tone, as well as the stoic and toughness that he projected on the screen, was a direct result of years of deprivation during his childhood days. In 1973, a newspaper did a profile of Bronson and reported that Bronson was such an introverted and reserved person that he found it hard to watch his movies or give interviews. In 1974, film critic Roger Ebert did a profile of Bronson and observed that the actor was in real life quite similar to the characters he portrayed on screen. During the interview, Bronson revealed to Ebert that he did not enjoy talking much and preferred being entertained by his thoughts than that of the others. Some critics believed that Bronson was not only scarred by his early childhood memories but was also hurt by the fact that the United States took forever to recognize his true potential. His struggles made Bronson reserved and reticent.
He Lived a Lavish and Full Life
Bronson met his future wife Jill Ireland in 1962. Jill was then married to actor David McCallum and the story goes that after meeting Jill, Bronson told McCallum that he would eventually marry his wife. Bronson married Jill on October 5, 1968, and the two remain married until Jill died in 1990.
Jill and Bronson lived in a lavish Bel Air mansion in Los Angeles with their seven children. Bronson often accepted projects on the condition that Jill would star as his on-screen leading lady. The couple, therefore, did a total of 15 films together. Bronson was a family man and took his wife and children everywhere he went. Other than the mansion in Los Angeles, Bronson also kept a farmhouse called the Zuleika Farm, named after Bronson’s and Jill’s only daughter together, in West Windsor, Vermont. Between the late 80s and mid-90s, Bronson spent a lot of time in Snowmass, Colorado.
He Was a Major Movie Star in Europe
The United States took a while to realize Bronson’s true caliber and it was in Europe that the actor first tasted success as a major movie star. Bronson did his first European film Adieu l’ami in 1968. At the time, though Bronson had become famous in the U.S., he was still mostly doing supporting roles. The actor was initially hesitant about accepting the project. However, after the producer of Adieu l’ami told Bronson that while in the American film industry, everything was about looks, in Europe, everything was about character, Bronson decided to accept the project. Adieu l’ami was a massive hit and led to another massive hit, Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West. Sergio loved working with Bronson and called him one of the greatest actors he had had the pleasure of working with. In 1970, Bronson did Rider on the Rain, which won a Golden Globe.
Here’s another interesting fact about Charles Bronson: in 1964, Sergio Leone had offered Bronson Clint Eastwood’s role in A Fistful of Dollars. Bronson declined and the film changed Clint Eastwood’s life.
Charles Bronson had an alpha-male vibe to him, which made him so popular. However, this vibe, as well as his strong and reserved personality, were a result of his real-life experiences. We hope you enjoyed listening to these facts about Charles Bronson. Is there anything you would want us to add to this video? If yes, please leave a comment.
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