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Actor Ben Gazzara starred in the Broadway debut of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and in films such as 1998's The Big Lebowski.
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Like all three of those actors before him, Gazzara moved on from the Dramatic Workshop to the Actor's Studio to study method acting under Lee Strasberg. And it was at the Actor's Studio that Gazzara's career finally took off. In 1953, at the age of 23,
Gazzara made his highly acclaimed Broadway debut as a psychopathic sadist in the play End As a Man. He followed that performance with leading roles in the Broadway debuts of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1956) and Michael V. Gazzo's A Hatful of Rain (1956), for which Gazzara earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor.
In addition to stage acting, Gazzara soon ventured into film and television. He made his big-screen debut in the 1955 film I'll Cry Tomorrow, and gained wide acclaim for his role opposite Jimmy Stewart in Anatomy of a Murder (1959), widely considered one of the greatest trial movies of all time. During the 1960s, Gazzara was best known for his television roles as a cop on the ABC series Arrest & Trial (1963-1964) and as the terminally ill Paul Bryan on the NBC show Run for Your Life (1965-1968). Although Run for Your Life earned Gazzara three Golden Globe and two Emmy Award nominations, Gazzara was never quite happy with the quality of the show, which he now admits he "did for the money."
Gazzara returned to feature films in 1970 with the movie Husbands. Since then, Gazzara has continued to appear frequently in Hollywood pictures, racking up more than 40 film credits in a career spanning five decades. Some of his most notable performances include High Velocity (1973), Opening Night (1977), Saint Jack (1979) and The Big Lebowski (1998).
Gazzara has been married three times. He married actress Louise Erickson in 1951, and the pair stuck together for six years before divorcing in 1957. In 1961, he married Janice Rule, with whom he had a daughter, actress Elizabeth Gazzara, before divorcing in 1982. Later in 1982, Gazzara married Elke Stuckmann, who remains his wife today. Gazzara also had a high-profile affair with actress Audrey Hepburn, whom he met while filming Bloodline in 1979.
Despite his lengthy and impressive acting resume, Gazzara's only professional regret is that he turned down too many projects. "I turned down a lot of movies because I was so idealistic," he says. "I was so pure. I didn't really take advantage of the opportunities." Approaching 80 years old and still appearing regularly in films and on television, Gazzara says he has finally learned his lesson. "These days," he says, "I turn nothing down."
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