Ernest Borgnine dismissive of modern movies

Wed Jan 19, 2011 8:24pm EST
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By Simi Horwitz

LOS ANGELES (Back Stage) - Ernest Borgnine doesn't want to be called "Mr. Borgnine," preferring "Ernest" or even "Ernie."

Speaking in his signature gravelly voice, the 94-year-old Oscar winner is matter-of-fact about his achievements, still delighted and slightly awed that he has been able to make his living doing what he loves most: acting. He remains enthralled with movies, but is no admirer of much of what is produced today and is dismissive about acting methods.

"I learned to act by just sitting on a park bench and watching people go by," he says. "I follow what the author has written and take it from there. I don't have a method. You work with your head and your heart and then you create a character."

Whatever his method -- or perhaps more precisely, non-method -- it has worked for him. For more than six decades, Borgnine has rolled up more than 200 movie and TV credits, playing a range of memorable characters -- including the brutal Sgt. "Fatso" Judson in "From Here to Eternity," the jolly and fatuous Lt. Cmdr. Quinton McHale on the popular TV series "McHale's Navy," and his Oscar-winning portrayal of the sensitive and lonely butcher in "Marty."

Currently he is the inimitable voice of aging superhero Mermaid Man on the animated series "SpongeBob SquarePants." And, at the Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony on January 30, the union will honor Borgnine with a lifetime achievement award.


Brought up in New Haven, Conn., the son of Italian immigrants, Borgnine says he had no major ambitions. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, doing two tours of duty -- the second during World War II -- rising to the rank of gunner's mate first class. When he was discharged, he was at loose ends, describing his state of mind as "disgusted and disgruntled."

As he recalls, his mother, who he surmised may have wanted to act, said, "'Ernie, did you ever think of becoming an actor?' She always loved motion pictures, she hooked me on them, and, after we'd come home from some of the pictures, we'd play the parts, like cops and robbers. But she came from quasi-royalty -- her father was Count Boselli, financial adviser to Italian King Victor Emmanuel -- and in their world people who went into theater were looked down on."   Continued...

<p>Actor Ernest Borgnine (R) and his wife Tova Borgnine arrive at the 2009 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, September 12, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>