In an interview with MovieHole, Academy Award winning actor George Charkiris of West Side Story fame sat down to talk about his big break as an actor and his work restoring silver jewelry.
When asked about his first big break in film, Charkiris said, "I was too naïve to know how hard it was to get in and I got lucky in different ways; I took dance at 19 which was late, I didn’t know that so it didn’t matter, and then my first big break was “West Side Story” because that opened up everything. I was working as a chorus dancer in Los Angeles in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and “White Christmas,” but musicals became to be rare. I had a place to stay in November 1958 in Los Angeles when they were auditioning replacements for the London “West Side Story,” and I was hired to play Riff in that."
I played Riff in London for a year and a half, loved it, and then I started hearing stories about a movie. I did get to test for the movie, it was a test at a London studio, then they asked me to do a test as Riff and Bernardo and I was happy to do that. We did our test and then weeks went by, we didn’t hear anything and thought that’s that, then about six weeks later Jerome Robbins (choreographer) asked me to fly to L.A. to do another test. So the theater company let me go and I met Robert Wise (director) and I did a test which was directed by Jerry Robbins, then I went back to London as Riff. Weeks went by and finally after a couple of months, I got a telegram saying I had the role of Bernardo in the film. It was tremendous (after the film opened) because no matter what you are doing, you hope you’ll get another job, every opportunity was helping toward another job, so just continuing to work after “West Side Story” was great.
When asked about his upcoming projects, Charkiris said, "I worked one day on “Not to Forget,” it’s a film about Alzheimer’s, and because of the subject matter I wanted to be there — that was a year and a half ago, I think it’s coming out soon. My interests changed and in recent years I have created a line of restoring silver jewelry, that’s been more of a focus for me. It’s a very gratifying thing to do. I think everyone has another creative outlet like Tony Bennett and Tony Curtis both painting."
Information originally sourced from MovieHole.