Francine Brokaw interviews the respected veteran actor.
In the new original Hallmark Channel movie A Grandpa for Christmas, Ernest Borgnine stars along with twelve-year-old Juliette Goglia in a heartwarming family story.
Although it is a holiday film, Mr. Borgnine revealed he doesn't do anything special at his house for the holidays. "I don't have Christmas in my house anymore. We go to the hotel where they've got big Christmas trees and everything else, and have their own food, and that's it. But I don't do Christmas anymore because, you know, people you put up a Christmas tree, right, and you work like the devil. First comes the tree, and then you put all those ornaments and everything else, and in comes the people, 'Oh, isn't that pretty. All right, what else do you got?' That's it. That's Christmas. And you say wait a minute, I've just tortured myself putting up this thing. Is that what your answer was? I mean, is that what you want to hear?"
The energetic actor turned 90 years old last January. "I vowed that I'm going to live to 2013, after that I don't give a damn," he says with his usual smile on his face. This man is charming and happy, and although he is playing a grandfather on the show, he could easily step into the part of Santa Claus in any holiday film.
"I had a ball," he declares about working on this Hallmark Channel original film. "With this little girl (Juliette Goglia) you can't help but have a good time. I mean to tell you. I felt like going home and getting my Oscar and giving it to her. She's a good girl, I'll tell you. She is good."
In a bit of irony, Borgnine starred with Tim Conway in the hit series McHale's Navy from 1962-1966. Today they are both voicing characters in the hit series SpongeBob SquarePants. "The very first time I ever saw Tim Conway was when we were shooting the scene, and he came in as the ensign, he's hanging on this rope on this boat and it's come in, and suddenly the boat stopped and he kept going right into the drink, and that was my first time that I ever saw Tim. Well, you know, believe it or not, over the years we always kept in touch, and believe it or not we now play in 'Sponge Bob.' I play Mermaid Man and he plays Barnacle Boy. Top that one," he says while a little amazed at the coincidence.
Having been acting for many decades, and winning an Academy Award for his talent, Ernest Borgnine credits his mother with getting him started in the business. "I came back after 10 years in the Navy, and one day, I was just hanging around the house, doing nothing. [My mother], 'Well, are you going to get a job or what?' And so, okay, I went out, looking for work. And I saw all of these young, old men walking into these factories in New Haven, Connecticut. I said, 'That's not for me. I want do something else. I don't know what.'" He smiles and continues, "But one day I went home, and I said, 'Mom, for two cents, I'll go back in the service and do my other 10 years and get a pension. At least I'll have something.' And out of the clear, blue sky she said, 'Have you ever thought of becoming an actor? You always like to make a damn fool of yourself in front of people. Why don't you give it a try?' And I looked up, and I saw that golden light, and I said, 'Mom, that's what I'm going to be.' I didn't know where to start, what to do, or anything else. And 10 years later, Grace Kelly handed me an [Academy] award." The moral is - listen to your mother!
Ernest Borgnine won his award for the leading role in the 1955 film Marty and he gets a thrill out of people's reactions to the statue. "I get the greatest kick in the world when people come to my home," he says. "They spot it up there up over the television set. It's about the only good place there is along with my mother and dad's picture and my sister. I keep it up there. And I hand it to them. I hand it to some. ... They get more of a kick out of it than I do, believe me." However this classy gentleman claims, "But I can't ever forget the moment that I received that. I was proud. It did me -- I don't know. It hit me. Boy, all I could do was thank my mother and father, and I think I forgot most of the people that helped me along. But I couldn't think of anybody but my mother and father at that moment, and I thank them, and that was it. And I've been living happily ever since."
Borgnine is married to wife Tova, who has her own line of beauty products. When asked how he manages to stay so energetic and vital at the age of ninety, he quickly replies, "Think young. Think young. That's the best way. If you start to get that feeling that, oh, my God -- I have pains and -- aches and pains in the morning, believe me. But you get up out of bed, and you say 'You are still alive,' you know. Hey, you look at yourself in the mirror. It's the same puss, but you are still there. And you say, 'Hey, man, I'm living. Let's go.' And I play everything from "jumbles," you know, to keep your mind busy, to reading, to torturing my agent with 'How about this, or how about that? When do we go to work doing this and that?' And, believe me, it all happens. That's what keeps you young. If you think old, you will get old, believe me."
Borgnine's costar in the movie, young Juliette Goglia reveals about him, "He's the oldest man I've ever met, but he's seriously one of the most energetic people" When asked what she expected older people to be like she says, "I guess I thought that they would be grumpy or something because they've been around for so long, but he's not like that at all. He's not like that at all. He's just so much fun to be around."
A Grandpa for Christmas premiers November 24 on Hallmark Channel.