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Charlton Heston BiographyWith features chiseled in stone, who else but Charlton Heston could you picture as Michelangelo, as Ben-Hur, as Moses? Heston's movie career took off with The Greatest Show on Earth and reached light speed with Ben-Hur. Although he has played a pantheon of larger-than-life roles, he usually prefers to talk about the day-to-day daily grind of the movie business, and especially credits the writers and directors he has worked for much of his success. Though aging gracefully, the venerated Heston has lately been more interested in promoting right-wing political issues than acting.
SalaryJulius Caesar (1970): $100,000 + 15% of the gross
The Buccaneer (1958): $250,000
Touch of Evil (1958): 7.5% of the gross
The Greatest Show on Earth (1952): $50,000
Julius Caesar (1950): $50/week
TriviaWent to British Columbia to promote guns, arguing it is man's "God-given right" to own guns. Ranked #28 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list. [October 1997] Father of director Fraser Clarke Heston and Holly Heston Rochell. Co-chairman of the American Air Museum in Britain. Was president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1966-1971. Volunteered his time and effort to the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, and even marched alongside the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on a number of occasions, including the 1963 March on Washington. In the original (uncut) version of King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis (1970), he was narrator. He was considered, along with English actor Ronnie Barker, for the role of Claudius in the British series "I, Claudius" (1976), but the role went to the less famous Derek Jacobi instead. Elected as the president of the National Rifle Association, he was re-elected to an unprecedented 4th 3-year term in 2001. His professional name of Charlton Heston came from a combination of his mother's maiden name (Lila Charlton) and his stepfather's last name (Chester Heston). Said that Planet of the Apes (1968) was the most physically demanding film he had ever done. After their son was born, they decided to adopt their next child so that they could be sure it would be a girl. Heston and his wife felt that one son and one daughter made the perfect family. Three grandsons: John Alexander Clarke "Jack" Heston, Ridley Charlton Rochell, and "Charlie" Rochell. He was voted the 52nd Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly. A frail-looking Heston was presented with a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, at the White House by George W. Bush in July, 2003. Was the original choice to star in Alexander the Great (1956), but declined so he could play Moses in The Ten Commandments (1956). The part eventually went to Richard Burton. First recipient of the American Film Institute's Charlton Heston Award, created in 2003. The second recipient was his close friend Jack Valenti in 2004. While they were starring in a play together in 1960, Laurence Olivier told Heston that he had the potential to become the greatest American actor of the century. When the play received unfavorable notices, Heston said, "I guess you learn to forget bad notices?", to which Olivier replied, "What's more important, laddie, and much harder -- learn to forget good notices." Was chosen to portray Moses in The Ten Commandments (1956) by Cecil B. DeMille because he bore an uncanny resemblance to the statue of Moses carved by Michelangelo. When his TV series "The Colbys" (1985) was canceled, both he and fellow cast members John James and Emma Samms were offered contracts to continue playing their characters on "Dynasty" (1981), the series that "The Colbys" was spun off from. Heston ultimately declined because his salary demands could not be met. James and Samms, on the other hand, accepted contracts. Offered to return his entire paycheck to the producers of Major Dundee (1965) so that director Sam Peckinpah could film some crucial scenes that were cut due to time and budget constraints. The producers took back Heston's paycheck but still refused to let the scenes be filmed. Heston wrote in his autobiography "In The Arena" (1995) that the main problem with Major Dundee (1965) was that everyone had a different idea of what the film was: Heston saw it as a film about life after the Civil War, the producers just wanted a standard cavalry-vs.-Indians film, while Peckinpah, according to Heston, really had his next film, The Wild Bunch (1969), in mind. He and The Big Country (1958) co-star Gregory Peck both played the infamous Nazi war criminal, Dr. Josef Mengele: Heston in My Father, Rua Alguem 5555 (2003) and Peck in The Boys from Brazil (1978). In 1981, Heston was named co-chairman of President Ronald Reagan's Task Force for the Arts and Humanities. He served on the National Council for the Arts and was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild six times. Recipient of Kennedy Center honors in 1997, along with Lauren Bacall, Bob Dylan, Jessye Norman and Edward Villella. In 2000 he surprised the Oxford Union by reading his address on gun laws from a teleprompter. This later sparked rumors he had known of his Alzheimer's long before he announced it to the world in August 2002. He is an opponent of abortion and gave the introduction to an anti-abortion documentary by Bernard Nathanson called Eclipse of Reason (1980) which focuses on late-term abortions. He retired as president of the National Rifle Association in April 2003, citing reasons of ill health. Heston's portrayal of William F. Cody in Pony Express (1953), a western from early in his career, inspired the Bills, a Congolese youth cult that idolized American westerns. Has two films on the American Film Institute's 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time. They are The Ten Commandments (1956) at #79 and Ben-Hur (1959) at #56. Was considered for the role of Jor-El in Superman (1978). The part went to Marlon Brando instead. He was a friend of the author Patrick O'Brian, who in turn envisaged Heston playing his character Captain Jack Aubrey. Was an avid runner, swimmer and tennis player in his youth. Turned down an offer to co-star with Marilyn Monroe in Let's Make Love (1960) in order to be directed in a play by Laurence Olivier, whom he greatly admired. Turned down the lead in The Omen (1976). The role then went to Gregory Peck. Though often portrayed as an ultra-conservative, Heston wrote in his 1995 autobiography "In the Arena" that he was opposed to the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950s, was against the Vietnam War and thought President Richard Nixon was bad for America. Hosted "Saturday Night Live" (1975) in 1993. He defended some of his less successful films in the mid-1960s, arguing that he had already made several million dollars and therefore wanted to concentrate on projects which interested him personally. Participated in the March on Washington for Civil Rights on 28 August 1963, along with Burt Lancaster, Marlon Brando, Sidney Poitier, Bob Dylan and Harry Belafonte. Attended the funeral of Lew Wasserman in June 2002. He was unable to campaign for Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 presidential election when Major Dundee (1965) went over schedule. Heston later admitted in his autobiography "In the Arena" (1995) that it was here that his political beliefs began moving to the Right. In his youth he used an iron bar attached to a wall to do pull ups and chin ups in order to develop his biceps and triceps. Missed the start of his presentation at The 44th Annual Academy Awards (1972) (TV), because of a flat tire on the Santa Monica freeway. Clint Eastwood stood in for him, and before Eastwood finished the speech that Heston was due to give, Heston arrived, to some audience laughter and enjoyment. Somewhat ironically, Heston was a vocal supporter of the Gun Control Act of 1968, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. He was considered for the role of Pike Bishop in Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969). The role went to William Holden instead. Reports at the time suggested that Heston badly wanted to play Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons (1966). The part went to Paul Scofield instead. Tried to revive the play "Mister Roberts" in the early 1990s, but was unsuccessful. Owned more than 400 modern and antique guns. As president of the NRA, he would usually tell his audience in speeches that he had "marched for civil rights long before it became fashionable to do so". In reality he only attended two events, the first in 1961 and the second the March on Washington in August 1963. Due to his busy film career at the time, he was unable to appear more frequently to back the Civil Rights cause. He was one of several prominent people to serve on the advisory board of U.S. English, a group that seeks to make English the official language of the United States. Other members include Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and golfer Arnold Palmer. He played three roles after they had been turned down by Burt Lancaster. In 1958 the producers of Ben-Hur (1959) offered Lancaster $1 million to play the title role in their epic, but he turned it down because, as an atheist, he did not want to help promote Christianity. Lancaster also said he disagreed with the "violent morals" of the story. Three years later, in 1961 Lancaster announced his intention to produce a biopic of Michelangelo, in which he would play the title role and show the truth about the painter's homosexuality. However, he was forced to shelve this project due to the five-month filming schedule on Luchino Visconti's masterpiece Il gattopardo (1963). Heston starred as Michelangelo in The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965) and even in his autobiography thirty years later was still denying that the painter had been gay, despite all evidence to the contrary. Lancaster also turned down the role of General Gordon in Khartoum (1966). Turned down Rock Hudson's role as the captain of a nuclear submarine in Ice Station Zebra (1968) because he didn't think there was much characterization in the script. Although he had supported Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey in the 1968 presidential election, in 1972 he openly supported Republican Richard Nixon. Campaigned for fifty Republican candidates in the 1996 presidential election. Broke his nose in high school playing football. He later commented that this was ultimately to his advantage as an actor because it gave him "the profile of an Eagle.". Had a fondness for drawing and sketching, and often sketched the cast and crew of his films whenever he had the chance to do so. His sketches were later published in the book Charlton Heston's Hollywood: 50 Years In American Film. When he met ToshirÃ´ Mifune around 1960, he was extremely taken with the Japanese star and claimed that if Mifune spoke English "he could be the greatest star in the world". The two actors exchanged Christmas cards since their meeting until Mifune's death. When Heston asked director James Cameron why he wanted him to play Spencer Trilby in True Lies (1994), Cameron replied "I need someone who can plausibly intimidate Arnold Schwarzenegger.". One of his biggest regrets was that he never got to play the lead role in Becket. Stated in his autobiography 'In The Arena' that while he felt Anthony Mann was a good director, he also felt that Mann's lack of experience in directing large scale historical films such as their 1961 epic El Cid (1961) hurt the overall product and also stated that El Cid may have benefited from being directed by William Wyler, who directed Heston in The Big Country (1958) and Ben-Hur (1959), or someone like Wyler.
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