Rod Steiger was an American actor.
was born Rodney Stephen Steiger to Lutheran parents in Westhampton,
New York. He was of French, Scottish, and German descent (the
origin of his surname). He never knew his father, and was raised
by his alcoholic mother before running away from home at age sixteen
to join the United States Navy during World War II, where he saw
combat on destroyers in the Pacific. After the war, he returned
to New Jersey and joined a drama group before studying drama full-time
under Lee Strasberg and Elia Kazan at The Actor's Studio.
appeared in over 100 motion pictures. He won the Academy Award
for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Sheriff
Bill Gillespie in In the Heat of the Night (1967) opposite Sidney
Poitier. He was nominated for the Academy Award for his roles
in On the Waterfront (1954) and The Pawnbroker (1965).
of his favorite roles was as the slobbish aristocrat Komarovsky
in Doctor Zhivago (1965). Steiger, the only American in the cast
of that film, was initially apprehensive about working with such
great British actors as Ralph Richardson and Alec Guinness, and
was afraid that he would stick out. However, his fears proved
unfounded, as he won much acclaim for his role in this film. He
also befriended fellow actor Tom Courtenay on this film; the two
remained friends until Steiger's death.
had five wives, the late actress Sally Gracie (married 1952-divorced
1958), actress Claire Bloom (married 1959-divorced 1969), Sherry
Nelson (married 1973-divorced 1979), Paula Ellis (married 1986-divorced
1997) and actress Joan Benedict (married 2000-his death 2002).
He had a daughter, opera singer Anna Steiger (born in 1960), from
his marriage to Bloom, and a son by his marriage to Ellis.
was offered the title role in Patton but turned it down because
he did not want to glorify war. The role was then given to George
C. Scott, who won the Oscar. Steiger called this refusal his "dumbest
career move." He also turned down The Godfather.
undergoing triple heart bypass surgery in 1976, Steiger fell into
a serious depression for eight years; few of his later performances
received critical acclaim, and he was frequently accused of overacting.
died in Los Angeles of pneumonia and complications from surgery
for a (presumably malignant) gall bladder tumor at the age of
77. He is interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood
Hills, in Los Angeles, California.
Steiger has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080 Hollywood
Boulevard in Hollywood, California.