THE VETERAN ACTOR STARS IN “ANOTHER HARVEST MOON,” OPENING JUNE 24
Ernest Borgnine has longevity.
At the age of 94 he can look back on an acting career that includes a best actor Oscar (for playing the titular lovesick butcher in 1955‘s “Marty”) and roles in landmark movies like:
“The Wild Bunch,” “Bad Day at Black Rock,” “From Here to Eternity,” “Johnny Guitar,” “The Vikings,” “The Flight of the Phoenix,” “Escape from New York,” “The Dirty Dozen,” “Ice Station Zebra” and “The Poseidon Adventure.”
And those are just a few of the more than 100 films in which he has appeared.
So when he gets recognized on the street (and it happens all the time), what movie do strangers always mention?
“It’s not a movie,” Borgnine said in a recent telephone interview.
“It’s the TV series. ‘McHale’s Navy.’ Everybody knows that show.
“Coming up behind that are ‘The Wild Bunch,’ “The Poseideon Adventure’ and ‘From Here to Eternity.’ But, you know, people are always reminding me of movies I’d forgotten I made.”
And he’s not done yet. Borgnine has the leading role in “Another Harvest Moon” (opening Friday, June 24, at the Glenwood Arts in Overland Park). He plays Frank, a once-vital man now sidelined by a stroke and living in a retirement community.
“…Moon” doesn’t paint a rosy picture of Frank’s so-called Golden Years. A good chunk of the movie is devoted to his efforts to lay his hands on his old WWII service pistol. Frank wants it close at hand in case he decides to end it all.
“I was intrigued by what can happen to people as they get older. The movie puts you in Frank’s position. You realize, ‘My God, this could be me. What am I gonna do?’
“Some people tough it out. And a lot of people make up their minds just not to put up with it. They stop taking their medicine or something.”
Part of the attraction of the role, Borgnine said, were the other names attached to the project: Piper Laurie, Anne Meara, Doris Roberts, Richard Schiff, Cybill Shepherd.
“I heard that Doris was going to be in it, and Anne Meara, and I thought, ‘This sounds as interesting as the dickens. And the more I looked into it, the better it got.”
That said, Borgnine said he has no illusions about the difficulty in selling such a project to the public.
“How many people are going to see a picture that has to do with death? But that’s just one way of looking at it. It’s also about how you live your life.
“So it’s a hard sell, yes. But it’s also about a bit of life that’s really taking place every day.”
Borgnine shows every indication that he’ll work until he must be carried off a movie set feet first.
“I don’t see any reason to quit just because I’m 94. Especially when I feel 16.”
As for his acting style, Borgnine said it’s really no big deal.
“I visited a drama school and everybody wanted to know all about my method. What method? I use my heart and my head. That’s about it.
“Students ask, ‘What should I do?’
“I tell them to study every living thing you see. Read newspapers. Read books. Read people.”
Currently Borgnine is angling to reprise his role as Frank, the CIA records keeper, in a sequel to last year’s “Red.”
“I just have one demand,” he said. “I said that if the girls can have guns, this time around I want one, too.”
| Robert W. Butler