I just wanted to keep working," says Everybody Loves Raymond star Peter Boyle about his long and successful acting career. Not a sentiment normally echoed by a veteran Hollywood mainstay, but this humble dignity is to be expected from a man who trained to become a Christian brother. Boyle's alma mater, LaSalle University, recently honored this Philadelphia native for his lifelong achievements in acting and his dedication to serving the community, and, born and raised at 51st and Hazel, Boyle hails from an artistic family, as his parents met at art school in Philly. But what Boyle misses most about his home town is the food, of course. "I would put up authentic hoagie shops on every block [here], because out west, every place claims to be real Philadelphia hoagies and they just stink."
An easily recognizable curmudgeon -- thanks to his phenomenally successful run as Frank Barone on Raymond -- Boyle has appeared in 79 films but became famous with roles in Joe, Young Frankenstein, and Taxi Driver. Working with director Mel Brooks on Young Frankenstein was of the "utmost pleasure and enjoyment," Boyle proclaims. "I went [to the set] even when I didn't have to work." He revealed the close relationship that he maintains with Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks to this day. Boyle joked that he would even consider throwing the monster cap on once more in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein musical coming to Broadway next year.
Peter's urge to perform comes from his father, an actor, so Boyle's eventual career decision was easy for his family to accept. Boyle says he developed his passion for the craft through high school productions; "I had to put food in my mouth so I moved to LA and became an actor." The rest is history. Over the course of his 39-year career, Boyle has appeared in nearly every cinematic genre. "Drama is simple because dark roles are easy to play," Boyle observes. "Comedy, on the other hand, is by far more difficult."
On a more personal level, though, Boyle has always been an advocate of non-violence. He refused a role in The French Connection in 1971 because he felt the role glamorized violence. Additionally, he led anti-Vietnam demonstrations in 1974 with Jane Fonda.
Boyle complements his comedic flair with a stellar singing voice, as he proved on a memorable episode of Saturday Night Live in 1975. The circumstances surround his wedding also provides a fascinating anecdote for music fans. His wife, Loraine, worked in the '70s for Rolling Stone magazine, where she was close friends with Yoko Ono. Yoko introduced Boyle to John Lennon and they became extremely close friends; Boyle was to marry Loraine in a small, discreet ceremony, but did not have a best man so he asked Lennon, who replied by asking, "is it a lot of work, what do I have to do?" After the priest assured him that there would be no work involved, Lennon accepted Boyle's request and he became the best man. The two remained close until Lennon's untimely murder in 1980.
Future career plans for Boyle remain unclear. However, his pragmatic approach to acting should most definitely land him significant roles in the years to come. At the age of 70, he shows few signs of slowing down, and he expresses interest in appearing in either television or movies. Boyle always has emphasized a "constant level of passion" for all of his roles, and this attitude more than anything else has enabled him to maintain such remarkable longevity in Hollywood.