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Larry King Shares Memories of Gregory Peck, David Brinkley

Aired June 12, 2003 - 14:13   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: As we've been telling you today, talking about, unfortunately, two losses to the American public today. ABC News anchorman David Brinkley. And just moments ago, we learned about actor Gregory Peck.
We want to hear more about Gregory Peck and the person that he was from our own Larry King, who is joining us now on the phone.

Good afternoon to you, Larry.

LARRY KING, CNN HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Hey, Heidi. How are you?

COLLINS: I'm all right. Now, you knew Gregory. In fact, you just saw him a couple of weeks ago. Is that right?

KING: I knew him very well, back to -- back to my days in Miami.

The first time I interviewed him I think was -- had to be 1965 when he was -- I think he was the No. 1 box office star in America. And they had this convention in Miami where they honor the No. 1 box office star, and he was there, and got to know him pretty well.

And then I knew him through association with Audrey Hepburn and with the United Nations and with UNESCO and interviewed him a few times.

He hadn't done "LARRY KING LIVE." I think he did us once back in the late '80s for a brief period of time.

Every time I'd see him, he said, don't worry. I'll be coming.

But he kept on working. He was an extraordinary -- I remember Peter Ustinov saying once, that after Gregory Peck had made a speech and then Ustinov had to get up and speak, he said, following Gregory Peck is like following Lincoln.

COLLINS: Wow. Yes, they do describe him as being Lincolnesque. And, Larry, we are looking at clips here from many different movies that he did.

What was so special about Gregory Peck? It seems like people who worked with him really had the utmost respect.

KING: Respect is one. He also had an extraordinary persona. Certain people come into a room and change the room. Peck was one of those people. He was a -- he was so imposing a figure.

And another thing that people overlook when they talk about great stars was his voice. Peck had an incredible speaking voice. When you heard Gregory Peck's voice, you knew it. And a lot of stars today don't have that.

I don't know what it was, but you go back to those stars -- you knew Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart. I didn't have to tell you who Bogart was if you heard his voice.

Well, Peck had a kind of resounding voice. And when he did "To Kill A Mockingbird," which was his favorite film, and he does those scenes defending that young man falsely accused, and argues that to the jury, that was one of the most convincing portrayals ever.

He also was a great MacArthur. He played Douglas MacArthur, and he was -- he was just very special, as was David Brinkley. Very -- these are unique people. They pass away, as we all will. They -- you're not going to replace Gregory Peck.

COLLINS: I would imagine not. I was just going to ask you, with all of the interviews that you have done, Larry, and your phone (ph) that you have on Hollywood these days, anyone that you see that can aspire to be someone like the actor that Gregory Peck was?

KING: No, I don't. And, you know, and that's a good question, Heidi. Because I don't see anyone quite in Peck's league.

I mean, there's some extraordinary actors today -- Jack Nicholson and DeNiro and Pacino. These are extraordinary figures, and they would have been major stars in the '40s or '50s or anywhere.

But there's no one quite -- you know, Peck was one of those guys that you -- he was unique.

Another great picture he did was "Gentlemen's Agreement," about anti-Semitism. And it was a brave picture to do, in which he played a reporter who was not Jewish, who had to pretend he was Jewish to do a story on anti-Semitism. And there's a scene in there where he tries to check in to a hotel. And he never realized what anti-Semitism was like.

And to watch Peck play it, you realized what a great actor he was. He made you feel for him. And that was hard to do, because he had such an imposing face and voice, that to make you believe he was the character he was playing was difficult for him, because he was so imposing. Yet he pulled it off.

COLLINS: He did, indeed. In fact, you bring up a point that I think a lot of people would remember about him, and that would be, he was an activist. There were many causes that were close to his heart. I believe the American Cancer Society being one of them, the American Film Institute.

What do you know about him in that regard?

KING: Yes. He was very involved in all things. He was very involved politically.

There were strong rumors at one time -- you're not going to believe this -- that he would run against Ronald Reagan, governor of California. And there was a large group of Democrats -- he was an outspoken Democrat -- who wanted to get him to get into that race after -- when Reagan was running for re-election as governor.

And Peck declined. But he was an activist. Gregory, when you asked him what he thought, he told you.

But he commanded the respect of all those people who knew him. You could be on the political opposite side of Gregory Peck. You would never hold that against him.

COLLINS: How about the family, Larry, that he leaves behind? Do you know the family?

KING: Very well. His son must be, oh, well in his 50s now.

And his wife I've met on many, many occasions. She was a great woman. They were very devoted to each other. She was his kind of rock.

And his son was quite a guy. His son dabbled in a lot of things, in films. It was awfully hard to be the son of Gregory Peck.

COLLINS: Certainly a very proud one, I am sure.

All right. Larry King, we certainly appreciate your insight on this loss today that we are feeling from actor Gregory Peck. We are learning that he died overnight. That word coming to us out of Associated Press in Los Angeles today.

Once again, Larry King live on the phone with us. Thanks so much, Larry.



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