Borgnine Happy Films Immoralized on Disc20 Oct, 2008 By: Craig Modderno
With his new book Ernie earning excellent reviews, and three films forthcoming, Ernest Borgnine is experiencing a career revival. Part of that is because some of his classic films such as Marty (which won him a best actor Oscar), From Here to Eternity, The Poseidon Adventure, The Wild Bunch and his Golden Globe nominated performance in Hallmark’s A Grandpa for Christmas are now available on DVD.
When the robust, barrel-chested 92-year-old thespian, who looks as if he could physically ride with The Wild Bunch again on the silver screen, is asked why he still enjoys making movies, the affable Borgnine replies with a hearty laugh: “They pick you up to take you to work, feed you whenever you want and pay you enough money that you can survive a couple of divorces like I have!”
- HM: I don’t think anyone’s been nominated for a Golden Globe award at age 92. What intrigued you about A Grandpa for Christmas?
- Borgnine: When I read the script I found it hit pretty close to home. I remember going to pick up my kids, who were living with my fourth wife, whom I had separated from, and my little, young daughter said, “Daddy, we don’t ever want to see you anymore!”
I just left the house and didn’t see them for years. Back in 1972 I was giving their mom $2,000 a month for the support of my two kids, and one day I got a call saying the kids were starving, and despite a court order my ex-wife was taking them out of the county.
So I could relate to a man who was cut off from his family despite loving them, and that loneliness was more pronounced during the holiday season.
What’s special about this movie, and why I believe it will play around the world, is people will feel a connection in the scenes where we put up a tree, visit someone in the hospital or feel loneliness at the loss or separation of family. The gamut of emotions one can experience are more visible on a worldwide basis during Christmas than at any other time during the year.
- HM: How has DVD affected your career?
- Borgnine: It’s exposed my body of work to several new generations, but I’m still most recognized for my role in the TV show “McHale’s Navy.” Sometimes I have people tell me they liked me in a movie that they saw on DVD that I don’t even remember making. I must admit I’m a huge fan of The Wild Bunch, so seeing the special edition of the DVD have the Academy Award-nominated documentary An Album in Montage on it makes me happy that the movie is finally getting the attention it deserves.
- HM: What can you say about The Wild Bunch that is not generally known?
- Borgnine: The critics and the studios hated it. The director’s cut, which I’m happy to say is now on DVD, was pulled from theaters in its first week because of the response to the violence. But before it was pulled, William Holden, my co-star and good friend, took me to a showing in Hollywood, and the audience loved it. They got that Sam (Peckinpah, the director) had a unique vision about the morals of the Old West and the war we were fighting in Vietnam. Watch the film today, and remember that with all its action and minus today’s special effects, nobody got hurt on the film.
- HM: With more than 100 TV and films to your credit, what’s your philosophy in approaching your roles?
- Borgnine: I always try to bring as much as I can to a director even if it’s something crazy off the top of my head. Then it’s up to the director to smooth out the parts.