Shared a room with Jack Klugman in a New York boarding house in the 1940s.
He had two children with his first wife, Tony and Suzanne. He then married Jill Ireland, who had two sons with her first husband, David McCallum. One adopted son (Jason) died of an accidental drug overdose in 1989. He and Ireland had a daughter named Zuleika.
Perhaps the biggest late bloomer in Hollywood history, he did not get the marquee treatment he deserved until his late 40s. He was already 53 when Death Wish (1974) premiered.
The name Bronson is said to be taken from the "Bronson Gate" at Paramount Studios, at the north end of Bronson Avenue.
The voice of the sarcastic store clerk on The Simpsons (1989) is based on him.
Changed his stage name in the early 1950s in the midst of the McCarthy "Red Scare" at the suggestion of his agent, who was fearful that his last name (Buchinsky) would damage his career.
In 1949 he moved to California, where he signed up for acting lessons at the Pasadena Playhouse
In 1954 on the Mexican set of Vera Cruz (1954), he and fellow cast member Ernest Borgnine--who were playing American gunfighters involved in the Mexican fight against the French--had some spare time on their hands and decided to go to a nearby town for cigarettes. They saddled up in costume, sidearms and all, and began riding to town. On the way they were spotted by a truck full of Mexican "federales"--national police--who mistook them for bandits and held them at gunpoint until their identities could be verified.
Was drafted into the army in 1943 and assigned to the Air Corps. At first he was a truck driver, but was later trained as a bomber tail gunner and assigned to a B-29. He flew 25 missions and received, among other decorations, a Purple Heart for wounds incurred in battle.
"I am not a Casper Milquetoast," he told "The Washington Post" in 1985, recalling the time he was visiting Rome and felt someone stick a gun in his side. "A guy in broken English asked me for money. I said, 'You give ME money.' He turned around and walked away.".
John Huston once summed him up as "a grenade with the pin pulled".
Was by all accounts a very quiet and introspective collaborator, often sitting in a corner for much of a shoot and listening to a director's instructions and not saying a word until cameras were rolling. Don Siegel, who directed him in Telefon (1977), and Tom Gries, who directed him in Breakheart Pass (1975), both commented on how surprised they were to discover how thoroughly and completely prepared Bronson was when he came to work, as it didn't seem to fit his "laid-back", taciturn image.
He grew privately frustrated by the declining quality and range of roles over his career, being pigeonholed as a violent vigilante after the commercial success of Death Wish (1974). His own favorite of his "vigilante" movies was Once Upon a Time in the West (1968).
He was considered for Jeff Bridges' role in Blown Away (1994).
His father died when he was 10, and at 16 he followed his brothers into the mines to support the family. He was paid $1 per ton of coal and volunteered for perilous jobs because the pay was better.
Called West Windsor, VT, his home for more than three decades (Bronson Farm), and was buried in nearby Brownsville Cemetery, near the foot of Mt. Ascutney.
Appeared with Steve McQueen and James Coburn in two films, both of which were directed by John Sturges: The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Great Escape (1963).
With Bronson's death on August 30, 2003, Robert Vaughn became the last surviving actor to have played one of the title characters in The Magnificent Seven (1960). Vaughn died on November 11, 2016 at the age of 83.
Was introduced to his second wife, Jill Ireland, by her then-husband David McCallum during the filming of The Great Escape (1963).
Spoke fluent Russian, Lithuanian and Greek.
Owned homes in Europe, including Lithuania and Greece.
He was considered for the lead role in Conan the Barbarian (1982).
Sergio Leone once called him "the greatest actor I ever worked with". Leone had wanted Bronson for all three of what became known as the "Man with No Name" trilogy, but Bronson turned him down each time. He turned down the lead role in A Fistful of Dollars (1964) after describing it as the "worst script I have ever seen"; he turned down the role of Col. Douglas Mortimer in For a Few Dollars More (1965) as he wasn't interested; and he turned the role of Angel Eyes in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) because he was in England filming The Dirty Dozen (1967). Leone eventually cast him as Harmonicac in Once Upon a Time in the West (1968).
The term "Charles Bronson" is frequently uttered in Reservoir Dogs (1992) in reference to a "tough guy".
He was very active in raising funds for the John Wayne Cancer Institute.
Capable of essaying a variety of types, from Russian to American Indian, from homicidal villain to tight-lipped hero, Bronson suddenly became a star at the age of 53. Following the success of Death Wish (1974) he repeated, with little variation, his role as a vengeful urban vigilante.
In the latter part of his career, he worked predominantly with The Guns of Navarone (1961) director J. Lee Thompson. They made nine films together in just over a decade between 1977 and 1989: 10 to Midnight (1983), Cabo Blanco (1980), Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987), The Evil That Men Do (1984), Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects (1989), Messenger of Death (1988), Murphy's Law (1986), St. Ives (1976) and The White Buffalo (1977).
His parents were from Lithuania, where his father was a coal miner, and he grew up in a western Pennsylvania coal-mining town. Like all the men in his family he worked in the mines, but hated it and used a variety of means to escape it (including the military and, eventually, acting). His expertise with tunneling and working underground turned out to be quite helpful when making The Great Escape (1963) in the role of "Tunnel King" Velinski. However, even though the "tunnel" he was working in was a cutaway set, he could only stay in it for a few minutes at a time before he had to get up and leave. As a boy working in the mines, he was caught in a cave-in and almost died before he was finally rescued. Ever since that time he had had a deathly fear of enclosed spaces.
Made six films with director Michael Winner: Chato's Land (1972), The Mechanic (1972), The Stone Killer (1973), Death Wish (1974), Death Wish II (1982) and Death Wish 3 (1985).
In the 1990s a lady whom he'd never met left him her estate worth well over a million dollars. She was a big fan of his. Her family sued and he ended up settling with them out of court.
Retired from acting after undergoing hip replacement surgery in August 1998.
Japanese manga artist Buronson, famed for his "Fist of the Northstar" manga, took the name in honor of Bronson (his real name is Yoshiyuki Okamura) and sports a similar mustache.
He and wife Jill Ireland adopted Katrina Holden Bronson after her mother Hilary Holden died in 1983.
Growing up without much money for newer clothes, as a boy he often wore his older sister's hand-me-downs.
He was considered for the role of Snake Plissken in Escape from New York (1981), but director John Carpenter felt Bronson was too old and too tough, and cast Kurt Russell instead.
Tested and read for Christopher Reeve's role in Superman (1978).
He was considered for Gene Hackman's roles in The French Connection (1971), Bite the Bullet (1975) and A Bridge Too Far (1977).
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume 7, 2003-2005, pages 48-50. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2007.
Tennessee Williams wanted him to play the general in his play "The Red Devil Battery Sign" in 1975, but he wasn't interested.
Bill Murray said he based his character in Lost in Translation (2003) on Bronson.
Stepfather of Valentine McCallum.
Left an estate worth $48 million, including an $8-million house in Malibu as well as a $4.8-million beach house and a ranch in Vermont.
Awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Wednesday, December 10, 1980. Bronson and wife Jill Ireland attended the ceremony.
He was seriously considered for the role of Gen. Stanislaw Sosabowski in A Bridge Too Far (1977), which was directed by his The Great Escape (1963) co-star Richard Attenborough. However, Gene Hackman was eventually cast.
Was one of the first big stars to notice the emerging "new media" that was arriving--video and laserdisc--and had a clause put in all his contracts that sales from these new formats should be included in his royalties.
Once told Roger Ebert that getting drafted into World War II was one of the best things that happened to him. For the first time in his life he was well fed and well dressed, and it afforded him the opportunity to improve his English.
Robert Mitchum did not get along with Bronson when they filmed Villa Rides (1968). He later said he could not understand why Bronson was famous.
Although born in Pennsylvania, Bronson grew up speaking Russian and Lithuanian as his first language (his father was an immigrant, and his mother was the daughter of immigrants). He did not become truly fluent in English until he served in the military during World War II.
Was a successful artist and painter. He once had an "anonymous" showing of his artwork at a gallery in California (under his birth name of Buchinsky), and every piece of art sold within two weeks.
Was once considered to star in a film to be directed by Sam Peckinpah (in the latter part of his career) but he refused. His reason was "I ain't working with no drunk".
A heavy smoker for most of his life, he suffered from severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in later years.
When he first signed with his long time agent Paul Kohner, he told Kohner that if he made him a star, he'd buy him a Rolls-Royce. True to his word, when Bronson made it big he delivered a brand-new Rolls-Royce to the Kohner house.
According to director Michael Winner, Bronson had a considerable amount of plastic surgery in the 1980s.
In 1943 he enlisted in the US Army Air Force and served in the 760th Flexible Gunnery Training Squadron. In 1945 he was a gunner on a Boeing B-29 Superfortress with the Guam-based 61st Bombardment Squadron of the 39th Bombardment Group, which conducted combat missions against the Japanese home islands. He flew 25 missions and received a Purple Heart for wounds received in battle.
He rarely granted interviews, or commented on his own films. However, he plainly stated his unhappiness with Death Wish 3 (1985) at least a few times, and was especially angered when he discovered that Michael Winner filmed extremely gory shots with extras (as nameless thugs) when he was off-set.
He was considered for the role of John McClane in Die Hard (1988) but was under contract with The Cannon Group, which refused to loan him out.
He was originally considered for Lee Marvin's role in The Delta Force (1986). This turned out to be Marvin's final role.
He turned down the role of the titular character's father in Billy Madison (1995).
He turned down the role of Pasquinel in Centennial (1978).
He was originally offered the role of Woodrow Call in Lonesome Dove (1989), but turned it down.
He was considered for Gregory Peck's roles in Cape Fear (1962) and The Omen (1976).
His personal handgun was a Wildey .475 Magnum hand cannon. He suggested its use in Death Wish 3 (1985).
He was considered for Ernest Borgnine's role in The Wild Bunch (1969).
Billy Crystal claimed that Bronson was offered the role of Curly in City Slickers (1991), only to be rudely rebuffed because the character dies. Jack Palance went on to win an Oscar for the role.
He was considered for James Coburn's role in Firepower (1979). Rumor had it that Bronson turned the film down because the producers had refused to write in a role for his wife, Jill Ireland.
He learned to speak English when he was a teenager; before that, he spoke Lithuanian and Russian.
He was considered to replace John Wayne in Rooster Cogburn (1975). He was also considered for Wayne's role in The Shootist (1976).
He was considered for the lead role in The Driver (1978), as Walter Hill had previously worked with him on Hard Times (1975). However, Bronson wasn't happy with how Hill had edited Jill Ireland's performance in the film and that was the end of that.
In two different movies he played a character who could read lips: The Mechanic (1972) & The Evil That Men Do (1984).