‘Columbo’: Peter Falk Was Told He Would Never Make It In Film Due to His Appearance

Few TV show detectives are as iconic as Columbo. The private eye, portrayed by Peter Falk, was well known for his capacity for solving crimes as well as his trademark rumpled trench coat.

But while the talented Falk brought the detective to life, there was a time when the actor thought he may not have a future in Hollywood. There was one thing a person told him was holding him back: his appearance. Let’s look at Falk’s time as Columbo, his career overall, and why some wrongly thought he might never make it as an actor. 

‘Columbo’ was Peter Falk’s defining role

RELATED: ‘Columbo’: This Guest Star Said Peter Falk’s Behavior Made The Show ‘An Unhappy Experience’

According to IMDb, Columbo ran from 1971-2003, with the frequency of episodes declining as the years passed.

The show was movie-length. In it, Falk played an unassuming, humble middle class detective named Lieutenant Columbo. Each episode followed Columbo on one specific case. Unlike most detective dramas, the perpetrator wasn’t hidden from the audience until the end.

The show revealed the person who had committed the crime early on then demonstrated how Columbo caught them through his advanced detection and interrogation skills. Viewers came to love his trademark look featuring his trench coat and a chomped cigar in hand. 

The character became known for his signature catchphrase, where he’d move to exit and then turn around to say, ” Just one more thing…” before asking a crucial question about the case. Columbo often played dumb in order to catch suspects in a lie or a faulty story, knowing exactly how to catch them. He became one of the most well-known TV detectives ever captured on the small screen.

For an actor as prolific as Falk, he had to have been happy to stumbled upon such a long-lasting role that so many viewers loved and identified with. But it wasn’t the only role he played. He had a long career outside of the trench coat. 

Peter Falk had a career outside playing ‘Columbo’

While Falk is primarily known for being Columbo, he also had some other notable roles as well according to his IMDB profile, including: 

  • The In-Laws. In this classic comedy, Falk played across from the hilarious Alan Arkin. 
  • The Princess Bride. While Cary Elwes and Andre the Giant stole the show as two of this movie’s stars, it was Falk who added levity as the narrator, reading the story to his grandson (played by Fred Savage). 
  • Made. In Jon Favreau’s follow up to Swingers, Falk starred as a less stereotypical, soft spoken kind of crime lord. 

Falk’s charm and acting ability has elevated just about every piece of work he’s been in. But there was a time when he didn’t believe he had a long term future in the business due to some disbelieving acting teachers. 

Why Peter Falk was told he would never make it in film due to his appearance

Peter Falk
Peter Falk | McCarthy/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

According to Mental Floss, before he got involved with acting, Falk was a government worker. He also had cancer in his right eye at a very young age, and lost the eye. Because of this, he was often doubted by his acting coaches. Throughout his postsecondary acting education, numerous acting instructors told Falk he wouldn’t have much of a chance to be a success due to his eye. Famously, the late Hollywood big shot Harry Cohn scoffed at one of Falk’s screen tests, stating: 

 “For the same price I can get an actor with two eyes.”

Falk proved them all wrong, however. Not only did he have a solid, decades-long career in the movies, but he was the performer behind one of the great detective characters ever committed to film. Falk’s eye didn’t hold him back – if anything, it added to his distinctive, blue collar look and only made the character stronger.