His childhood home has “changed a lot.”
But what he’ll always treasure are the hard lessons and work ethic he learned while growing up in Rome that have helped him become the successful actor, director and producer he is today.
Peter-Henry Schroeder was born in Syracuse, but his mother, Marie Angotti-Schroeder, moved her children to Rome when they were quite young.
“Years ago I worked at Rome Cable, Rome Manufacturing...I was working to help my mom and support the family,” Schroeder recalled. “I learned work ethic and productivity during my years there, and I think those skills learned back then have helped me be a better director today.”
After graduating from St. Aloysius Academy, Schroeder was drafted into the U.S. Army during the peak of the Korean War. He would serve his country two years and during that time, would be bitten by the acting bug. “I wasn’t even 20-years-old and I was off on this ship going to Korea,” he remembered. “I was actually assigned to a show called Broadway Rhythm, which was a military USO (United Service Organizations) show” performing with “Eddie Fisher and Marilyn Monroe. I went to Guam, Okinawa, Japan...I went right up to the DMZ (demilitarized zone) — where” North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un “and President Trump met up — I was at that spot.”
After his service, Schroeder went to New York City and started to study acting with Lee Strasberg and wife Paula. An actress in her own right, Paula Strasberg became a renowned acting teacher and was known to be Marilyn Monroe’s acting coach.
“I studied privately at Carnegie Hall — Monday, Wednesday and Friday — at 2:30 p.m. Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight were in my unit,” Schroeder said. “Then I got married and raised two children — Peter and Valerie. I worked two jobs” while acting, “one at a travel agency during the day and at night, I would take a cab down to Cooper Square to the Five Spot Cafe where John Coltrane, Shadow Wilson and Sonny Rollins” performed.
“Then an agent came down from L.A. — my manager set up an interview and brought me out to the West Coast in Hollywood, and I stayed there and did some screen tests...I ended up raising my children in Hollywood and they graduated from Hollywood High School,” he added.
Schroeder would do some work in television and films. To his credit he worked on the television series Enterprise (Star Trek) during the early 2000s, and he also played a role in Ben Affleck’s “Argo,” which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2013.
He has also taught acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Pasadena, Calif., and then started his own acting workshop.
For the most part, the actors he has taught and trained “are not famous, but they’re solid actors,” Schroeder said.
As for working with Ben Affleck on Argo, “It was very nice” working with the actor/director, he said. “He’s a detailed and disciplined actor and artist, and he did a great job with that film. I found it refreshing to work with him. He tells you what he wants and you have to deliver. I think it was a great experience.”
Having won an Academy Award, “I’m very proud to have that credit on my acting resume,” Schroeder added.
In 2016, Schroeder also starred in “Sammy Gate,” a satire about famous singer Sammy Davis Jr. causing the Watergate scandal, along with President Nixon.
“I played the role of a major mob boss in Florida — Santo Trafficante,” Schroeder laughed, joking that he should have garnered some inspiration from East Rome. “I’ll never forget shooting in that location. It was in Pomona, Calif., in some warehouse where they built all the interior rooms featured in the movie. To think actors get to be on lavish sets and locations” all the time — “yeah, right.”
As a director/producer, Schroeder has a couple projects tending, including a movie trailer filmed right here off Route 20 in Waterville, Oneida County, where he found the “perfect period house.” The trailer was for a motion picture screenplay, “Soldier’s Joy,” by Texas resident Rick Schilling. The trailer was filmed to help promote the picture so he and his studio, PHS Productions, can raise enough money for production, Schroeder said.
Soldier’s Joy “is a Civil War film that tells the story of the thousands of lives that were lost and the untold number of wounded during this fratricidal, contentious and horrifically cruel war,” the director described. “Based in 1865 when the North and South were at war, a young man goes into the service, and it’s the story of what he goes through and how his morality changes as he fights this contentious and cruel war.”
He continued, “It has so many parallels to Vietnam, Korea and other modern wars. I’ve only shot the trailer for a motion picture, and with the trailer, we’ll see if we can raise more money to shoot the whole film. I used a cast of all local actors, and my sister, Maria Curley (co-founder of Present Company Productions — an Oneida-based theater company — who has directed and produced biannual dinner theater productions for 34 consecutive years at what is now Theodore’s Restaurant in Canastota), served as casting consultant. We just wrapped that up, and now I’ll move back on to L.A.”
Schroeder said he’s also working on a project detailing the life of Ruth Ellis, a model and nightclub hostess, who was the last woman to be hanged in the United Kingdom.
Ellis “killed her boyfriend, race car driver David Blakely. She put six bullets in his chest for cheating on her,” the director explained. “She was the only woman in Great Britain hung, and then they outlawed hanging” as a capital punishment. “I really want to get that project done.”
Schroeder has directed several West Coast projects and recently accepted an invitation to serve on the Nominating Committee for the SAG/AFTRA Awards for 2019.