Peter Falk admitted that one form of acting gave him an ''anxiety attack''
The year 1972 had its ups and down for the Columbo star.
In February 1972, Peter Falk was riding on a high. His new television series Columbo was garnering acclaim, viewers, and diehard fans. It's first season was wrapping up with an episode directed by Falk himself, "Blueprint for Murder." It was his first time sitting in the director's chair.
By that point in his career, the 44-year-old had two Oscar nominations and an Emmy Award to his name. As an actor, he was at the top of his game. But it might surprise you to learn that his profession still managed to him a new feeling — anxiety.
At the time, Falk was living in New York City for a starring role on Broadway, in Neil Simon's play The Prisoner of Second Avenue. The production gave Falk his first-ever panic attack. It was such a new sensation, he wasn't even sure what was happening.
"I'll tell you how dumb I was," Falk admitted to the Chicago Tribune, "I never knew [anxiety attacks] existed." Which is even stranger when you realize Falk had to act out an anxiety attack a year or so earlier. In the 1970 film Husbands, Falk's character has an anxiety attack. Well, in the script.
"In Husbands I played an anxiety attack, but it was so bad [director] John [Cassavetes] had to throw it out," Falk confessed.
Stage fright was very real for Falk. Literal stage fright, from performing live in a theater. The seemingly simple act of memorizing three lines took Falk hours, as he failed to find sleep. He felt a "tingling in his neck."
"Somebody must have [noticed] I was acting peculiarly because the stage manager suggested I take a valium," Falk said.
Because of this unpleasant experience, Falk swore off theater and Broadway. He said, "never again."
"I think the theater is designed for unrealistic plays, for stylized things," Falk remarked, dismissing the artform to his interviewer. "I like the camera, so I can talk like we're talking now."
True to his word, Falk had no further Broadway credits after that play. That's okay, he had Columbo's rumpled raincoat to keep him comfortable.