Jack Warden was one of the most colorful characters ever to be part of Hollywood. Born in 1920 in New Jersey, he spent his childhood in Louisville, Kentucky. He was expelled from high school and soon became the professional boxer under the name of Johnny Costello. He fought in 13 fights but wasn’t satisfied with the money he earned, so he changed several careers. He worked as a nightclub bouncer, tugboat deckhand, and lifeguard, before signing up with the United States Navy. He spent his three-year tour in China, as a member of Yangtze River Patrol.
Fed up with the Navy, in 1941 he joined Merchant Marine. As war broke out, merchant vessels started sailing in convoys, Jack Warden soon grew tired of that. He joined the army in 1942 and found himself in 101st Airborne division. He spent the next two years training for the invasion of Europe, reaching the rank of staff sergeant in 501st Parachute Regiment. Just as the D-day was about to kick off, he landed on a tree during one of many practice jumps and broke his leg. The injury left him recuperating for eight months, many of which he spent reading.
Jack Warden decided he wanted to be an actor after he read a plat written by Clifford Odets. By the time his leg healed, the war was over, and he was discharged. Using the G.I. Bill, he moved to New York to study acting. He performed in theater for Dallas Alley Theatre and had his television debut in 1948. Three years later he appeared in his first movie, albeit uncredited.
After several roles, Jack Warden had a breakthrough with 12 Angry Men, where he played one of the jurors. He was nominated for Oscars twice, for his parts in Shampoo and Heaven Can Wait. Jack Warden filmed The Replacements, his last movie, in 2000, with Gene Hackman and Keanu Reeves. He died in 2006 from kidney failure.