In the 1968 film “Villa Rides,” Charles Bronson delivered a memorable performance as the notorious Mexican revolutionary Rodolfo Fierro, the right-hand man of Pancho Villa, played by Yul Brynner. Although Bronson’s role was not the lead, his portrayal of Fierro was both menacing and captivating and stood out in a film featuring Hollywood heavyweights Robert Mitchum and Brynner.
His ability to bring depth and nuance to characters set him apart – the portrayal of Rodolfo Fierro in “Villa Rides” was a stellar example. Bronson’s commanding screen presence made him a popular choice for gritty and action-packed roles in the years to come, establishing his legacy as an icon of the genre.
Charles Bronson's unhappy experiences on the sets of "The Dirty Dozen" continued unabated. Among them was a prank that seemingly mocked his height compared to his taller co-stars, Jim Brown and Donald Sutherland. The joke seemed harmless enough to others but was especially hard on Bronson, who, rumor says, suffered a crippling Napoleon complex.
He was known for being overly aggressive or dominant to compensate for his height. Even after the film's completion, Bronson couldn't bring himself to watch the entire thing. He left halfway through since the scenes reminded him of the humiliation he experienced on set, which makes perfect sense.
He Marries a Second Time
Bronson's second marriage was to English actress Jill Ireland, whom he wed on October 5, 1968, and stayed with until she passed in 1990. The two first met in 1962 while Ireland was still married to Scottish actor David McCallum. Interestingly, Bronson had shared the screen with McCallum in "The Great Escape," brazenly declaring that he would marry his wife one day!
Bronson followed through. Years later, the Bronsons made their home in a lavish Bel Air mansion in Los Angeles and had seven children. These included two from Bronson's previous marriage, three from Ireland's previous marriage (one of whom was adopted), and two of their own, Zuleika and Katrina, with the latter also being adopted.
Partners and Soulmates
Jill Ireland frequently shared the screen with Charles Bronson as his leading lady. It's amazing to think that the couple would end up co-starring in a whopping 15 films together. Bronson and Ireland often took their entire brood when filming on location to spend family time on the road.
In addition to their LA residence, they enjoyed visiting a charming colonial farmhouse set on 260 acres in West Windsor, Vermont, where Ireland raised horses and provided their daughter Zuleika with expert training to excel at horse shows. The family often spent their winter holidays at Snowmass, Colorado, during the 1980s and early 1990s.
What Might Have Been
We know that Charles Bronson re-defined the Western, but did you know that he was also offered not one but two iconic roles in the classic film, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly?” That's right, Bronson was approached to play the roles of Tuco and Angel Eyes.
But unfortunately, he had to turn them down as he was already committed to filming “The Dirty Dozen” in England at the time. Fate had other plans for Bronson, and he would go on to work with director Sergio Leone in another Western classic, “Once Upon a Time in the West,” which was released in 1968.