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Remembering Gregory Peck

Aired June 12, 2003 - 20:28   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well as you no doubt have heard, Gregory Peck is dead. The Academy-award winning actor died today at his home in Los Angeles. He was 87-years-old. Peck's wife Veronique was at his side. A family spokesman said -- and I quote -- "He looked at her, smiled, closed his eyes and he was gone. It was very peaceful."
CNN's Dan Lothian looks back now at Gregory Peck's life and his career.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was more than six feet tall, lean and larger than life.

GREGORY PECK, ACTOR: Everyone's about to see that I can't walk on water.

LOTHIAN: A towering figure in Hollywood's golden era. Oscar- winning actor Gregory Peck often tackled morally courageous roles on his lifelong walk to fame.

PECK: She did something that in our society is unspeakable. She kissed a black man.

LOTHIAN: The pinnacle of that journey came with Peck's portrayal of smalltown Southern lawyer Atticus Finch, fighting bigotry in "To Kill a Mockingbird."

PECK: And in our courts all men are created equal.

LOTHIAN: It was the actor's favorite role.

PECK: I am very frank to say that I'll always be grateful for having at least one like that along the way. It was a godsend.

LOTHIAN: Hollywood thought so too. The five-time Oscar nominee won the Best Actor award for his 1962 Atticus Finch role.

Born in California, Peck once considered becoming a priest. But he answered the call of a college theater director, and as they say, the rest is history.

PECK: And I probably would be very happy if I were to become a priest. LOTHIAN: He did reconsider the priesthood, at least on the big screen, in his first lead role, in "The Keys of the Kingdom."

The actor's commanding presence also made him a perfect fit for his portrayal of Joseph Mengalla in "The Boys From Brazil" and a sea captain in "Moby Dick."

Amazingly, his success came without an exclusive contract with a major studio, a standard practice at the time.

PECK: I had that stubborn streak. The Irish, in me I guess. But I never wanted to be owned by anybody.

LOTHIAN: Peck's passion, talent, and independence, today praised by those who knew him well.

LOUIS JOURDAN, ACTOR: I mourn and loved him. I admired him immensely.

LOTHIAN: Peck might have smiled knowing flowers were placed by his star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. After all, as a young boy watching a location shoot, the actors, he once said, seemed so strange.

PECK: Now if anybody had said to this little kid, freckle-faced kid, "One day you're going to grow up and be one of those strange people," I'd have run. I'd have just run a mile.

LOTHIAN: He never ran. Instead, he put together a collection of more than 50 films that live on.

Gregory Peck was 87.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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