Born Charles Buchinski, on November 3, 1921 in Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania.
Though the only one of 15 children to finish high school, Bronson worked
in the coal mines alongside his brothers to support the family. Born to
Lithuanian immigrant parents, he served during World War II as a
tailgunner, then used his G.I. Bill to study art in Philadelphia and,
intrigued by acting, enrolled at California's Pasadena Playhouse. An
instructor there introduced him to director Henry Hathaway, which
resulted in his debut film role in You're in the Navy Now.
small and large roles earned him a reputation for rugged, tough-guy
characters, making the most of his unconventional features. Bronson was
once quoted as saying, "I guess I look like a rock quarry that
someone has dynamited."
wasn't until 1960 and the role of Bernardo, one of the The
Magnificent Seven, that Bronson's career took off. Subsquent roles
in The Great Escape in 1963,
where he played claustrophobic tunnel-digger Danny Velinski, and The Dirty Dozen in 1967 solidified his status.
spent the next few years in Europe, where he became a box-office draw
with such films as Alain Delon's Adieu
l'ami and Sergio Leone's classic Once
Upon a Time in the West, both in 1968.
return the United States where true stardom evaded him until 1974, when
Michael Winner directed him in Death
Wish, a revenge fantasy about an architect who turns vigilante when
his wife and daughter are raped. The movie was both controversial and
extremely popular (and spawned four inferior sequels in 1982, 1985, 1987
and 1994). It also established Bronson as a celebrity in his own country
and set the tough, cold, violent persona that made him a film icon. Some
exceptions include Hard Times in 1975, where he played a 1930s streetfighter and the
1976 offbeat black comedy From
Noon Till Three. However, Bronson was drawn to action-thrillers like
Breakout in 1975 and Love
and Bullets in 1979, as well as the super-gory Ten
to Midnight in 1983, The Evil
That Men Do in 1984 and Kinjite:
Forbidden Subjects in 1989.
TV work included such movies as Raid
on Entebbe in 1977, Act of
Vengeance in 1986, The Sea
Wolf in 1993, and Sean Penn's The
Indian Runner in 1991.
has two children with his first wife, Harriet Tendler. He married
actress and producer Jill Ireland in 1958, who had two sons with her
first husband, David McCallum. One adopted son (Jason) died in 1989. He
and Ireland had a daughter named Zuleika. Ireland died in 1990. Bronson
married his third wife, Kim Weeks, in December, 1998.