Charlton Heston’s first child was born just as the actor was preparing to star in The Ten Commandments. “The first telegram my mother got when I was born was from [the film’s director], Cecil B. DeMille,” Fraser Heston exclusively tells Closer. “It simply said, ‘Congratulations, he’s got the part.’”

At 3 months old, Fraser played baby Moses, plucked from a basket floating on the Nile. The movie, which marks its 65th anniversary with the 4K Ultra HD Blu- ray release on March 30, was the first time father and son worked together, but it wouldn’t be the last. Charlton “loved to spend time with his family,” Fraser says. “He was a great family man.”

An Oscar winner for his role in Ben-Hur, Charlton led a rich life both on and off screen. He “marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in Washington,” notes Fraser. “His political career spanned the gamut of both liberal and conservative causes,” including the presidency of the NRA. More than anything, though, Charlton’s life and career revolved around the love he had for his wife, Lydia, and their children, Fraser, 66, and Holly, 59. Says Fraser: “I think being with his family was his number one priority on this earth.”

charlton heston family man

Charlton knew from a young age he wanted to act. He grew up a “shy kid from Michigan,” Fraser says. He loved to pretend to be people, and he found a way to get paid to do it.” After marrying Lydia, his college sweetheart, Charlton began to make a name for himself as an actor, landing a starring role in 1952’s The Greatest Show on Earth and then the epic The Ten Commandments. “He took me to movie sets,” Fraser recalls. “He’d show me things like the blood wasn’t real, or the swords were on springs, and all these little tricks of the trade.”

A Protective Dad

Work took Charlton away from home, but “we didn’t have long absences,” Fraser says. The actor also took pains to warn his kids about some of the perils of Hollywood. “Celebrity is a corrosive condition for the soul,” Charlton once said. Fraser notes, “He warned me off being an actor. He said being an actor as a son of a famous actor is a tough road.”

In his downtime, Charlton, a devoted tennis player, shared other interests with his family. “He loved sports cars,” Fraser recalls, and the actor taught his son how to drive his prized 454 Corvette. He was also “a much funnier guy than people think,” Fraser says. “He loved practical jokes. He loved clipping cartoons from the funny papers, as he called them.”

charlton heston ten commandments

Sadly, Charlton died in 2008 at age 84. Today, his son looks back on his dad’s life and legacy with pride. “He was an author. He was proud of his pro bono work for his country and for civil rights,” Fraser tells Closer. “But I think he was most proud of his family. I know he was proud of me, something I am very grateful for.”

– Lisa Chambers, with reporting by Katie Bruno