He was offered the title role in Patton (1970) but refused the role, saying, "I'm not going to glorify war." The role was then given to George C. Scott, who won the Oscar for the role. Steiger calls this refusal his "dumbest career move".
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on April 10, 1997.
He had a daughter with Claire Bloom, and a son with Paula Ellis.
Received the Gift of Life Award after tirelessly speaking out against the social stigma against mental disease, from which he suffered for many years.
His daughter, Anna Steiger, is an opera singer.
He had an operatic voice; however, he had no ear for keeping in the same key, rendering his singing voice almost useless.
He had always said that the favorite of all his films was The Pawnbroker (1964).
Enjoyed playing historical figures.
Is listed as the Centre of the Hollywood Universe by the University of Virginia's Oracle of Kevin Bacon. He can be linked to any other movie actor in the classic Kevin Bacon-game style in an average of 2.651 steps.
Served in the United States Navy in the Pacific Ocean during World War II.
Steiger, who originated the role of Marty in the eponymous television production Repertory Theatre: Marty (1953), said that he turned down the role in the 1955 movie production as the Hill-Hecht-Lancaster Productions contract would have bound him for years. Harold Hecht and Burt Lancaster, on their part, said that they did not want to cast Steiger as they felt the public would not go for the same actor that they had seen for free on television.
He told Robert Osborne during an interview on Turner Classic Movies that when he was in the United States Navy during World War II, he used to sing when it was his turn to stand watch on-board ship. The ship's captain, overhearing him one night, put a stop to his impromptu performances.
After he played Jud Fry in Oklahoma! (1955), producer David O. Selznick wanted to sign him to a long-term contract and possibly star him in the lead of his proposed remake of Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms" opposite David O. Selznick's wife, Jennifer Jones. "But I told him that I must have the right to choose my own mistakes", Steiger told his biographer, Tom Hutchinson. "His face fell - he couldn't believe anyone would refuse him. Neither could my agents!".
Most of the solo shots of Steiger during the famous taxicab scene in On the Waterfront (1954) were done after Marlon Brando had left for the day. Brando had it in his contract that he could finish shooting before the normal quitting time so that he could make his daily session with his psychiatrist. Steiger was deeply hurt and annoyed at Brando's rudeness and lack of courtesy to a fellow actor, as it was customary, in a two-shot, for an actor in close-up to be fed his lines by the other actor or for the other actor to just be there so the first actor would have him him or her to play to. Steiger used his negative emotions to enhance his performance, and though he paid tribute to Brando as a great actor, he personally loathed him thereafter. Director Elia Kazan stood in for Brando in the back of the cab so Steiger would have someone to emote to.
Shortly before his death, Steiger had undergone surgery for a (presumably malignant) gall bladder tumor.
Campaigned vigorously for a role in The Godfather (1972), which began shooting in early 1971, three years after Steiger had reached the top of his craft, receiving the Academy Award for Best Actor his role as Sheriff Bill Gillespie in In the Heat of the Night (1967). Surprisingly, the role Steiger wanted was not the title role of Don Vito Corleone (eventually played by his On the Waterfront (1954) co-star Marlon Brando), but the role of Michael Corleone, the Don's youngest son. Paramount executives found his desire to be bizarre as he was much too old for the role and turned him down without even a screen-test.
Won the role of Viktor Komarovsky in Doctor Zhivago (1965) only after two other actors turned the role down. After a month went by with Marlon Brando failing to respond to director David Lean's written inquiry into whether he wanted to play Komarovsky, Lean offered the role to James Mason, who was a generation older than Brando, because he did not want an actor who would overpower the character Yuri Zhivago (specifically, to show Zhivago up as a lover of Lara, who would be played by the young Julie Christie, which the charismatic Brando might have done, shifting the sympathy of the audience). Mason initially accepted the role, but eventually dropped out and Steiger was given the role.
He was honored with being chosen as one of AFI's 50 stars of the second half of the 20th century.
1976: Fell into a deep depression after undergoing triple heart bypass surgery.
Was not the first choice to play the role of Sheriff Bill Gillespie in the 1967 Best Picture Academy Award-winner In the Heat of the Night (1967), for which Steiger won the Best Actor Oscar. The role was first offered to George C. Scott, who accepted, according to producer Walter Mirisch's memoir "I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History". Scott backed out when his wife Colleen Dewhurst wanted him to direct her in a play on Broadway. Ironically, Steiger later turned down the lead in Patton (1970) that went to Scott, which brought him his own Best Actor Oscar.
Member of Handgun Control Inc.
He studied drama at HB Studio in Greenwich Village, New York City.
His last televised appearance was on Jon Favreau's Dinner for Five (2001), the episode aired April 29, 2002, Steiger passed away in July.
He was the first person to win the best actor BAFTA two years in a row and the Oscar in the second year (For The Pawnbroker (1964) and In the Heat of the Night (1967)). The second one was Colin Firth in A Single Man (2009) and The King's Speech (2010).
Had appeared in two Best Picture Academy Award winners: On the Waterfront (1954) and In the Heat of the Night (1967). He was also in two other Best Picture nominated movies: The Longest Day (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965).
When polled by the AFI Steiger named "The Good Earth" as his favorite film.
His paternal grandfather, Frederick Steiger, was German, and his paternal grandmother, Anna A. Libschick, was Austrian. Rod's maternal grandparents, Frank Driver and Amelia Fesler, were of German origin.
His third wife, Sherry Nelson, was a former ballerina, before becoming Rod's secretary. Her marriage to him was her second.
He had cited Harry Baur as one of his favorite actors who had exerted a major influence on his craft and career.
He served on the destroyer USS Taussig during WWII. He was serving on that ship in the Phillippine Sea on the day of what is known as Typhoon Cobra or Halsey's Typhoon in December 1944.. Three destroyers were sunk by that storm, It became the background for the novel and film "The Caine Mutiny" and for the stage play "The Caine Mutiny Court- Martial".
Steiger's "Chief Bill Gillespie" ("In the Heat of the Night") was exactly what Joni Mitchell wanted for spoken word on her track "Tax Free" on the 1985 album, "Dog Eat Dog." Mitchell hired Steiger to portray a bellowing "hawk-right militant" preacher whose ultra-right condemnations ("Rock and roll music!" "Cast down these dope fiends and their noisy bands! "Pot in their pockets!") are peppered throughout the song as Mitchell sings.
He has appeared in four films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: On the Waterfront (1954), Oklahoma! (1955), The Pawnbroker (1964) and In the Heat of the Night (1967).
On August 15, 2019, he was honored with a day of his film work during the Turner Classic Movies Summer Under the Stars.