Charles Bronson/

I look like the kind of guy who has a bottle of beer in my hand

Charles Bronson was a legendary Hollywood tough guy. He was both one of The Magnificent Seven and one of The Dirty Dozen. He is perhaps best known for his role in Michael Winner’s Death Wish films and its equally uncompromising sequels.

With an unconventional appearance, Bronson enjoyed a slow climb to stardom. He was born Charles Buchinski, the son of eastern European immigrants in a mining town in Pennsylvania. He would grow up to work in the mines himself, after experiencing a tough childhood. Forced to wear his sisters’ hand-me-downs, Charles claimed he was even once made to go to school wearing a dress.

He might have stayed in the mines had it not been for the war. A job painting scenery led to acting roles and a slow climb to success through numerous B-movie appearances and then eventually bigger roles in better films such as The Great Escape.

Bronson married three times, including the British actress, Jill Ireland, who died in 1990. He owned more than more than 30 high-performance motorbikes which he kept on a large farm in Vermont.

“I guess I look like a rock quarry that someone has dynamited,” Bronson once said. But his craggy, rugged features spoke of a real life lived before he came to Hollywood.