Charlton Heston (born October 4,1924) is an American actor and activist. He was born in Evanston, Illinois as John Charles Carter. His father was a mill worker. Heston was the only child. The family settled in a rural area of Michigan, where Heston spent much time reading and acting for himself.
Before he was 10 his parents divorced. Some years later his mother married Chester Heston. The new family moved to a suburb of Chicago, where Heston attended high school. He enrolled in the school's drama program, where he performed with such outstanding results that he earned a scholarship to Northwestern University in Evanston for drama in 1942. There he played in Peer Gynt, a 16mm amateur production of a fellow student. Several years later the same team produced Heston's second film, Julius Caesar, in which he played Marc Antony.
In 1944, he left college and enlisted in the Army for three years. When he returned from service in WWII, Heston and his wife went to New York, where they worked as models. Seeking a way to make it in theater, they decided to manage a playhouse in Asheville, North Carolina. In 1947, they went back to New York where Heston was offered a role in the Broadway play Anthony and Cleopatra, for which he earned acclaim. He also had success in television, where he acted in several productions.
Heston then felt the time had come to move to Hollywood. In 1950, he earned recognition for his appearance in his first professional movie, Dark City. His breakthrough came in 1952 with his role of a circus director in The Greatest Show On Earth. He became however a megastar by portraying Moses in The Ten Commandments. He has played leading roles in a number of fictional and historical epics, such as Ben-Hur, El Cid, 55 Days in Peking, and '\'Khartoum, during his long career. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his 1959 performance in the title role of Ben-Hur. Heston has played also in various science fiction films, some of which, like Planet of the Apes'', have become classics. Heston continues acting, increasingly in TV films.
Heston has fought for his artistic choices. In 1958 he maneuvered Universal International into allowing Orson Welles to direct him in Touch of Evil, and in 1965 he fought the studio in support of Sam Peckinpah, when an attempt was made to interfere with his direction of Major Dundee. Heston was also president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1966 to 1971.
Although he accompagnied Martin Luther King Jr during the civil rights march performed in Washington, D.C in 1963, politically, Heston is a conservative, and has clashed at various times in his life with the same Martin Luther King Jr, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton. He is an honorary life member of the National Rifle Association (NRA) which is the largest and oldest civil rights oraganization in the United States, and was its president and spokesman from 1998 until 2003. In 2001, he sought an unprecedented fourth term as president, in which he declared, while holding an American Revolutionary War era musket over his head: "I have only five words for you - From my cold, dead hands." He serves on the National Advisory Board of Accuracy in Media.
Heston is married to Lydia Marie Clarke since 1944. They met when both were drama students at university. The couple has a son and a daughter. In 2002, Heston publicly announced that he had Alzheimer's disease. In July 2003, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Heston has written several autobiographies, including The Actor's Life, To Be A Man, and In The Arena.