Actor and director Austin Pendleton didn't like the script of the 1970 film ''M*A*S*H,'' so he decided to turn down the role of Cpl. Walter O'Reilly, the cherub-faced company clerk of the 4077th known as ''Radar.''
That decision, ''really a brilliant move,'' Pendleton said with an air of sarcasm, probably snuffed a future long-running role on the highly popular television series of the same name and changed the pathway of his career - Gary Burghoff, who got the role, continued it through several years on television.
But that's OK by Pendleton, who was filming ''Catch-22'' when approached for the movie role in ''M*A*S*H.''
''I never did want a big television series, and conveniently enough, I never was offered one,'' Pendleton said.
Pendleton, casual in a button-down shirt and often sitting low in his chair, shared his stories from his humble beginnings in Warren, where his love affair with the theater and acting began, to his television and movie roles as a guest of the Tribune Chronicle on Thursday at Packard Music Hall.
Pendleton's appearance was the last of the ''It All Started Here,'' speaker series sponsored by the Tribune Chronicle in honor of the 200th anniversary of newspaper being published in Warren.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
‘‘It All Started Here’’ guest speaker Austin Pendleton tells his stories with emotion Thursday evening at Packard Music Hall in Warren. The Warren native has worked in film, stage and television for more than 40 years in the business.
Other speakers were national radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, Super Bowl champion Paul Warfield, opera singer Gary Lehman and CEO Michael Capellas.
Sometimes animated, Pendleton brought the crowd along on his story, which started in the living room of his family home in Leavittsburg. It was where rehearsals were held and the first two plays, too, of the community theater his mother, actress Frances Manchester Pendleton, helped form.
It was called Trumbull New Theatre, or TNT.
''They had a sense of showmanship even then,'' Pendleton said.
Pendleton, who was supposed to be fast asleep in bed, sneaked down to watch the practices.
''For me, the die was cast right then,'' Pendleton said.
And perhaps the biggest laugh he's ever gotten on stage came in a student play at Turner Middle School when Pendleton was in the eighth grade. It was about George Washington and his family and cutting down the cherry tree; Pendleton played Washington's brother.
''I said, 'I cannot tell a lie, George did it','' Pendleton said.
Also, he loathes reality television.
''I hate reality TV, but I hate it for corrupt reasons because I'm an actor,'' he said.
Instead of a lecture, Pendleton did a question-and-answer session with Tribune Chronicle Publisher Charles Jarvis and Entertainment Editor Andy Gray, plus he took some questions submitted by members of the crowd.
One, what's his favorite medium?
There are certain advantages to television and film, Pendleton said, three of them being they pay the most money; when done shooting your scene, you're done; and it's there forever.
''I could tell you how heart-stopping I was in certain plays and you would have to take my word for it,'' Pendleton said.
But he said he heart is in the theater.
''I guess you fall in love with the medium that saved your emotional life,'' Pendleton said. ''For me, it was the theater.''
Pendleton has acted on the big screen with stars like Barbra Streisand in ''What's Up Doc?'' and Russell Crowe in a ''A Beautiful Mind.'' Also, Pendleton was a member of the original Broadway cast of ''Fiddler on the Roof'' and he earned a Tony nomination for directing Elizabeth Taylor and Maureen Stapleton in ''The Little Foxes'' in 1981.
In addition, Pendleton has multiple television credits to his name. They include the unstable murderer William Giles in "Oz" and medical examiner Dr. George Griscom in "Homicide: Life on the Street.''