Well-reputed for his "extreme" cinematic personifications in multiple genres, the American character player Peter Boyle doubtless made his onscreen personas doubly intense by pulling directly from his own personal journey to the top -- a wild, unlikely, and occasionally tortuous trek that found Boyle aggressively defining and redefining himself, and struggling constantly with a number of inner demons.
Born October 18, 1935, in the hamlet of Northtown, PA, Boyle graduated from La Salle College and joined the Christian Brothers monastic order, under the name "Brother Francis." He prayed endlessly and earnestly until he developed callouses on his knees, but could never quite adjust to the monastic life, which he later declared "unnatural," with its impositions of fasting and celibacy. Dissatisfied, Boyle dropped out and headed for the Navy, but his brief enlistment ended in a nervous breakdown. With no other options in sight that piqued his interest, Boyle opted to pack his bags and head for New York City, where he worked toward making it as an actor. It made perfect sense that Boyle -- with his distinctively stocky frame, bald pate, oversized ears, and bulbous nose -- would fit the bill as a character actor -- more ideally, in fact, than any of his contemporaries on the American screen. He trained under the best of the best -- the legendary dramatic coach Uta Hagen -- while working at any and every odd job he could find. Boyle soon joined a touring production of Neil Simon's Odd Couple (as Oscar Madison) and moved to Chicago, where he signed on with the sketch comedy troupe The Second City -- then in its infancy.