Best Known For
Chuck Norris has starred in such action films as Return of the Dragon and Missing in Action. He also had a hit TV series called Walker, Texas Ranger.
Chuck Norris - Early Life (2:01)
Chuck Norris discusses how he stated training in martial arts.
Learn how Carlos Norris became Chuck Norris.
Learn about Chuck Norris' early life growing up in Oklahoma.
Chuck Norris discusses meeting Bruce Lee and working with him in their early films.
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Born on March 10, 1940, Chuck Norris started studying martial arts in Korea in the 1950s. He was serving in the U.S. Air Force at the time. When he returned home, Norris soon opened his karate studio. He switched to movies in the 1970s, appearing with Bruce Lee in Return of the Dragon. Norris became a popular action-film star in the 1980s, and starred in his own television series in the 1990s.
"Kids need heroes. Call it square if you want, but I'm a flag waver, so I push a lot of Americanism in my movies."
The oldest of three boys, Chuck Norris once described himself as "the shy kid who never excelled at anything in school." His father was an alcoholic who all but disappeared from Norris' life after his parents divorced. At the age of 10, Norris moved with his mother and brothers to California. There, he attended North Torrance High School.
Norris married his high school sweetheart, Dianne Holechek, in 1958 -- the same year he joined the U.S. Air Force. While stationed at the Osan Air Base in South Korea, he began studying martial arts. He left the service in 1962, and started working as a karate instructor.
In the 1960s, Norris opened more than 30 karate studios. He taught several celebrities, including Priscilla Presley and actor Steve McQueen. McQueen encouraged his teacher to try acting. In addition to being an instructor, Norris also was a fierce competitor. He participated in numerous martial arts tournaments, and he won many of the events he competed in.
Norris earned his first World Middleweight Karate Championship title in 1968. Proving to be one of the greatest fighters in martial arts, he defended this title five more times. He decided to retire after his 1974 victory.
While he had made one brief film appearance previously, Norris made more of an impact on movie-goers in 1973's Return of the Dragon. One of the highlights of the film was a fight scene between Norris and martial arts action star Bruce Lee, staged in the famed Roman Colosseum. In 1977, Norris had his first starring role in the action film Breaker! Breaker!.
Critics may have considered Norris a stiff and wooden actor, but movie audiences loved to watch him mete out swift justice to bad guys in such films as Good Guys Wear Black and Forced Vengeance. In Missing in Action (1984), Norris played a former prisoner of war who returns to Vietnam to free other soldiers still being held. He did this film and its sequels as a tribute to his younger brother, Wieland, who died in combat in Vietnam.
Norris received warmer reviews for his cop movie, Code of Silence (1985), and teamed up with the legendary tough guy Lee Marvin for the military action film The Delta Force (1986). Norris' box-office appeal, however, was beginning to fade by the early 1990s. No longer making hit movies, he made the switch to the small screen with Walker, Texas Ranger. Norris played Cordell Walker, an honorable crime fighter, for eight years. The show had a strong following, and was still faring well in the ratings when it went off the air in 2001. Since then, Norris has taken on few acting roles.
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