"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's way of life." - Rod Steiger
Actors don't play themselves. Often enough, they play an image that has been created for them and successfully developed over the years. One could undeniably see such images in actors like John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, and Sylvester Stallone. Steiger, however, fits NO stereotype, NO one persona. Instead the personas of Rod Steiger, renowned for such unpredictable creations as the gay military officer in The Sergeant (1968), as the flamboyant lady-killer in No Way to Treat a Lady (1968), as a eunuch in The Loved One (1965) and even as a musical ranch hand in Oklahoma! (1955), run the gamut of the human experience.
Born on April 14, 1925, Rod Steiger is a fighter who has been waging the same battle ever since leaving school to join the Pacific Fleet during World War II. He was given the nickname "Rodney the Rock" by his classmates due to his strength. During his youth, he was no stranger to pain, often finding himself ridiculed by those same classmates due to regular absences to pick up his inebriated mother from the neighborhood saloon. Since then, Steiger's goal has always been that of respect—respect for himself and his profession of acting. When he burst onto the screen, he was cited as the only actor to emerge with the ability to fill the shoes of such earlier revered giants as Paul Muni and Emil Jannings, a mantle he has long since taken as his own.
His first big splash in Hollywood and the world came with his depiction of Charley Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954), for which he received an Oscar nomination. Since then, he has collaborated with such legends as Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando, James Mason, Samuel Fuller, Sidney Lumet, Sergio Leone, Orson Welles, Martin Scorsese, Norman Jewison, Sidney Lumet and Claire Bloom to whom he was married for about ten years. Some of his other achievements include roles in The Longest Day (1962), Lucky Luciano (1974), and Mars Attacks! (1996) which have proven his phenomenal capacity to adapt each role to his own brand of style and vivacity. In 1967, he walked away with a Best Actor Academy Award for his depiction of a sheriff in the South in In the Heat of the Night, an award for which he was nominated in 1965, when he starred in Sidney Lumet's The Pawnbroker and, surprisingly, did not win.
Interspersed among his broad career, Steiger has brilliantly portrayed several world leaders in such classics roles as the title character in The Life of Pope John XXIII, Napolean in Walterloo and Mussolini in Lion of the Desert. On April 10, 1997, Rod Steiger secured his star on Hollywood Boulevard. Unlike many Oscar winners who use their ensuing prestige to earn big bucks in anonymous mega productions, Rod Steiger has always focused on roles that challenge not just himself, but also the audience. Often selecting experimental roles, Steiger's work unquestionably has proven him to be one of the most remarkable and adaptable thespians in the history of cinema, and the emotions that he stirs in all of us continue to affect our hearts. Please take note that No Way to Treat a Lady is the screening at which Mr. Steiger will received his award, and The Pawnbroker will be another of his films screening during the festival. - Mike Rabehl