Victor Buono, who plays the role of the High Priest Sorak in George Stevens' "The Greatest Story Ever Told," was born on February 3, 1938, in San Diego, California. His maternal grandmother, Myrtle Glied, had been a performer on the Orpheum Circuit, and from the time Victor was scarcely beyond the infant stage she taught him songs and recitations and encouraged him to perform for callers. Despite the glow engendered by the polite applause of such captive audiences, young Buono thought he wanted to become a doctor.
When he was 16, and a student at St. Augustine High School in San Diego, Victor was cast by Father John Aherne as Pappa Barrett in "The Barretts of Wimpole Street." He soon became a fixture in such school offerings as "Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp" and Shakespearean dramas, and soon began appearing on local radio and television stations.
Victor joined the famed Globe Theater Players in San Diego at 18. Craig Noel, the director, showed confidence in the youth by casting him in "Volpone," "Midsummer Night's Dream" and other Globe presentations. Buono gave up the idea of a medical career.
He drew excellent notices in various Shakespearean roles at the Globe and in such modern plays as "The Man Who Came To Dinner," "Witness For The Prosecution" and "Waltz Of The Toreadors."
During the summer of 1959, a talent scout from Warner Brothers saw Buono as "Falstaff" at the Globe and took him to Hollywood for a screen test. Within the next 16 months Victor appeared on 49 television shows, playing featured or guest star stints and menacing just about every Grade "A" private eye in the video realm.
Victor would spend his days in Hollywood doing mostly "heavy" roles for television and his evenings in San Diego doing Shakespeare at the Globe, changing makeup on the airplane enroute.
He made his motion picture debut in "What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?" and his performance in the exalted company of two of filmdom's all-time greats, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, won for him an Academy Award nomination. He went directly into "The Greatest Story Ever Told" within a week after completing his first screen role.
"Any success I may achieve as an actor," said the 300-pound performer., "I owe to three wonderful people: my grandmother, who inoculated me with the desire; Father Aherne at St. Augustine, who was unbelievably patient in developing whatever talent he thought I had; and Craig Noel, at the Globe. In fact, Craig did so much for me, I sometimes feel that I'm a figment of his imagination. My parents, of course, footed the bill with both financial and spiritual encouragement during this period."
Buono's main hobby is Shakespeare. "The more you study him," he said, "the greater he grows." He also directs 16mm movies of his acting friends and screens the results for Little Theater and summer stock groups to showcase talented young players.
Buono also raises dogs, his own special breed which he calls "beghuahuas" -- a cross between beagles and chihuahuas. He maintains an apartment in Hollywood and commutes frequently to San Diego to see family and friends. He is an inveterate cigar smoker. He is six-feet, three-inches tall. He has dark brown hair and blue eyes. The heavy-set and talented actor, who is good-natured about his size, has been described like this:
"Buono looks something like a young Sidney Greenstreet, but there's something reminiscent of Laird Cregar, a little of Peter Ustinov, and a LOT of Buono."