Eldred Gregory Peck (April 5, 1916 Ė June 12, 2003) was an American actor who was one of the most popular film stars from the 1940s to the 1960s. A tall, dark, clean-cut, all-American with a stirring voice and a sincere squint, he mostly made a career of playing incorruptible pillars of virtue and wisdom. Best known for his Oscar-winning turn as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (voted by the American Film Institute as the greatest hero in the history of American film, a week before Peck died), he played similarly admirable characters in films such as The Yearling, Gentleman's Agreement, Twelve O'Clock High, and The Big Country. The Gregory Peck Law goes like this:
The frequency with which a character threatens Gregory Peck and his family is inversely proportional with their chances of surviving the movie.
He also liked to occasionally play way against type, with roles such as bigoted rapist Lewt McCanles in Duel in the Sun, or Josef Mengele in The Boys from Brazil. In real life, he had a reputation as a gentleman and was a classical Nice Guy — which is a key reason he enjoyed playing Atticus Finch so much. In fact, Harper Lee (who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird) said he reminded her of her father (on whom she'd based Atticus Finch). So much so that she gave Peck her father's pocketwatch, and he wore it in the film.
He was also known as one of the most vocal and outspoken liberals in Hollywood, opposing nuclear weapons, the Hollywood blacklist, and the Vietnam War (while still speaking proudly of his son Stephen who was serving in the Marine Corps during that time), marching for civil rights and later speaking out in support of gun control and LGBTQ rights well into his eighties.
Peck was married twice and had a total of five children (three from his first marriage, two from his second). He died of cardiorespiratory arrest and bronchial pneumonia in 2003.
Fun fact: His name is Cockney Rhyming Slang for "neck". Depending on age, this may be the way that British youngsters are introduced to Gregory Peck.
List of his works with pages on this wiki:
- Days of Glory (1944) — film debut
- Spellbound (1945)
- The Yearling (1946)
- Duel in the Sun (1946)
- Gentleman's Agreement (1947)
- The Paradine Case (1947)
- Twelve O'Clock High (1949)
- The Gunfighter (1950)
- Horatio Hornblower, R.N. (1951)
- Only the Valiant (1951)
- Roman Holiday (1953)
- The Million Pound Note (1954)
- Moby-Dick (1956)
- Designing Woman (1957)
- The Big Country (1958)
- The Bravados (1958)
- Pork Chop Hill (1959)
- On the Beach (1959)
- The Guns of Navarone (1961)
- How the West Was Won (1962)
- To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
- Cape Fear (both versions, 1962/91)
- Mirage (1965)
- Arabesque (1966)
- Mackenna's Gold (1969)
- Marooned (1969)
- Billy Two Hats (1974)
- The Omen (1976)
- The Boys from Brazil (1978)
- The Sea Wolves (1980)
- The Scarlet and the Black (1983)
- Amazing Grace and Chuck (1987)
- Other People's Money (1991)
Tropes in Gregory Peck's work:
- Large and in Charge: He stood at an imposing 6'3" and was regularly cast as leaders and admirable figures.
- Nice Guy: His usual roles were almost always noble, charming, righteous men fighting injustice where they saw it. By all accounts, he was very much the same in real life.
- Old Shame: He expressed distaste for his performance in Moby-Dick, feeling he was miscast as Ahab (on one occasion, he commented that director John Huston should have played the role himself). He supposedly persuaded Steven Spielberg to scrap a scene in Jaws where Quint watches the movie because Peck didn't want people to see his performance.
- Shout-Out: He got an extended one in Bob Dylan's 1986 song "Brownsville Girl" (which Dylan co-wrote with Sam Shepard). The narrator starts out remembering a Peck movie he once saw (not named, but, based on the description, obviously The Gunfighter), before unwinding a long "Shaggy Dog" Story, with a few more references to Peck sprinkled around.Well, Iím standiní in line in the rain to see a movie starring Gregory Peck
Yeah, but you know itís not the one that I had in mind
Heís got a new one out now, I donít even know what itís about
But Iíll see him in anything so Iíll stand in line
- Tall, Dark, and Handsome: He stood at an imposing 6'3" with dark hair and brooding good looks.
- What Could Have Been:
- Lyndon Johnson once told Peck that had he sought re-election in 1968, it would have offered Peck the post of U.S. ambassador to Ireland. Peck, being of Irish ancestry, later said that he likely would have taken the job. Johnson gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Peck to make up for not being able to give the offer.
- Peck was also seriously considered for the role of Professor Henry Jones Sr., AKA: Indy's father, in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, had Sean Connery turned down the role. Harrison Ford even cited Peck as one of his favorite actors. Incidentally, Peck actually was old enough to be Ford's father, being 26 years older than Ford as opposed to Connery, who is only 12 years older than Ford.
- Was offered a role in Pocahontas, during its preproduction period as a river spirit. He turned down the role when the producers explained the plot to him and the character he would play, making the argument that Pocahontas already had several male mentor figures and they really needed to hear a female one. Taking his advice, the crew drafted the concept that would become Grandmother Willow. He often said in interviews how the one regret in his career was that he was never in a Disney movie.note
- His family confirmed that just before he died, he was going to come out of retirement to play Grandpa Joe in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. While he told the creators he was only considering it, that was just to ensure they wouldn't make him take a pay cut.