The Legendary Elegance Of Richard Chamberlain
When at the beginning of his interview with "El Nuevo Herald" actor Richard Chamberlain is told he is a TV and cinema legend, he quickly reacts with a "wow" and makes the same gesture as a rider when he stops his horse.
"I have had a miraculously long career and have been extremely lucky but I do not consider myself a legend" says the actor who adds with a smile: "I just get up in the morning , brush my teeth and get on with life".
Nonetheless his career is really impressive and legendary. He is an actor who could have been the quintessence of the pretty boy, the gentleman, the classic heartthrob and the superstar but who is much more than a face on the big and small screen, because his image meant talent from the very day he became an icon in the sixties thanks to the TV series Dr. Kildare (1961-1966).
He was born March 31, 1934 in Beverly Hills, California, where the rich and famous have their mansions right in the heart of Los Angeles. As many thespians he realized he wanted to become an actor when he played in various school plays and his professional debut took place in 1959 in one of Alfred Hitchcock's TV shows.
"When I was young, I hated school, except art classes" he remembers. "I hated to lose my freedom. I was brought up in Los Angeles where the film industry is omnipresent and I loved going to the movies. I decided to become an actor because I felt it was like a "game". He laughs again when he remembers what he used to tell himself then: "I don't want to grow old, I want to be an actor".
To achieve his goal, he had to overcome two personal hurdles that school plays and later Pomona College eliminated: "I was extremely shy and lacked self-esteem".
The applause of fellow students succeeded not only in beating the shyness that had inhibited him but also in making him abandon the art classes he loved so much. Because he was drafted he had to interrupt his acting classes for two years. His destiny clearly wasn't a career in the military, it was to become a famous actor.
"I desperately needed fame", he says without hesitation. "I needed the attention, the applause, this kind of things. I had to fill a huge void", but adds "of course I wanted to be a movie star, but I also wanted to be a serious actor".
Interestingly, although he achieved with success the unavoidable crossover to the cinema in films like Petulia (1968) with Julie Christie, The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969) with Katharine Hepburn and The Music Lovers (1970) with Glenda Jackson, he always went back to the small screen where he created some of his most memorable characters: a European adventurer in 17th century Japan in Shogun (1980), adapted from James Clavell's epic novel and his unforgettable and controversial personification of the handsome priest in The Thorn Birds (1983), the miniseries adapted from Colleen McCullough's' bestseller. Let us not forget also his much acclaimed work on Broadway.
At the end of last year one of his most recent films, the award winning Irish production Strength and Honor, was screened at the International Film Festival in Fort Lauderdale. Recently he also did a guest appearance in Desperate Housewives.
His abundant filmography includes The Three Musketeers (1973) and its sequel The Four Musketeers (1974), in which he interpreted the role of Aramis, The Towering Inferno (1974) with Paul Newman and Steve McQueen and The Last Wave (1977) directed by an Australian, Peter Weir. All these films are now a classic in their genre.
"I am grateful for two things in my life: having been hired to play Dr. Kildare, it was my break through, and my spiritual studies with several teachers, they allowed me to find peace with myself and strike a friendship with life".
Retiring does not seem to be in his plans for the future. He reveals that he has a very exciting project for 2009 but he can't talk about it yet.
"I live in Hawaii" he says "and not having to work is pleasurable, but when the phone rings with a job offer I still get a thrill".
(This article as been professionally translated from Spanish into English and is © 2009 MC. This translation may not be reproduced partly or fully without the prior permission of MC.)
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