“I’ve learned that life is very tricky business: each person needs to find what they want to do in life and not be dissuaded when people question them,” Eli Wallach once told Harcourt Books. “People would say to me, ‘Why do you want to be an actor?’ And I’d say, ‘Because I like to act and tell stories.’ ” And Eli Wallach meant what he said. With over 160 TV and film credits to his name, and not to mention stage work as well, the actor passed away today at the age of 98, having left behind a body of work that included countless classics from a man who loved being in front of the camera.
But it was the stage that beckoned first for Wallach, where in New York he quickly made a name for himself as one of the brightest talents on Broadway. And soon enough, Hollywood came knocking and he made his feature debut in Elia Kazan‘s “Baby Doll.” And Wallach soon made a name for himself in a variety of villain and scoundrel roles in fare ranging from “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” “The Lineup,” to the original “Batman” TV series (playing Mr. Freeze), all the way up to “The Godfather Part III.”
And while anyone taking on the number of projects he did was bound to have bumps and low points along the way, it speaks to Wallach’s reputation inside Hollywood and with audiences, that even late in his career, filmmakers were lining up to work with him including Martin Scorsese (“Shutter Island”), longtime friend and collaborator Clint Eastwood (“Mystic River“) and Oliver Stone (“Wall Street: Money Never Sleep“), which would mark the actor’s final big screen appearance.
Never nominated, the Academy still bestowed on Wallach an honorary Oscar in 2011 for his lifetime achievement of work. You can watch Eastwood and Robert De Niro speak about Wallach, before hearing his acceptance speech below. After that are a couple of profiles and an array of clips via a handy roundup from The Guardian. And while Wallach will be missed, he’s left a lot for us to rediscover or discover for the first time.