With his barrel chest, hearty laugh, and trademark gap-toothed grin, Ernest Borgnine has played the heavy, the hero, the schlub, and the sidekick.
He started in movies ("The Whistle at Eaton Falls” ) in 1951. Frank Sinatra hit him with a bar stool (” From Here to Eternity” ) in 1953. He won the best-actor Oscar, for Marty, in 1956 — his lowly Bronx butcher beating out fellow nominees James Cagney, James Dean, Sinatra, and Spencer Tracy. (Whoa!) He’s in “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Wild Bunch,” “The Poseidon Adventure” and the original “Escape From New York.”
And, of course, there’s “McHale’s Navy.”
And now, at a mere 93, Borgnine gets to steal a couple of scenes from Bruce Willis in “RED.” In the explosive action romp, Borgnine plays the CIA’s crusty records keeper, deep in the vaults at Langley. He’s the institutional memory, even if the documents have all been redacted.
“I’m an old-timer, and they needed an old-timer,” says Borgnine, on the phone from his Beverly Hills home the other day. “RED” opened in theaters on Friday. “They were very happy and I was very happy. Turned out to be one heck of a good picture.”
Borgnine spends “a week here and a month there” in Malvern, Pa. His wife, Tova, is the famous QVC perfumer, and after bunking at a Sheraton near the TV merchandising behemoth for many years, the couple decided to buy some real estate. Their home looks out on a golf course, says Borgnine. “It’s lovely.”
As for “RED,” Borgnine’s been cheerfully promoting the film, even if he’s only in it for a couple of minutes. And he’s started lobbying for a sequel. “This time they better give ME a gun,” he cracks.
And he wants a scene with Helen Mirren: “She can shoot me any time.”
© 2010, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!