Name:
Alan Arkin
Birth Date:
1934/3/26
Birth Place:
New York City, New York, USA
Height:
5' 9
Nationality:
American
Famous for:
His role in “ Little Miss Sunshine” (2006)
Profession:
Actor, Author, Director, Musician
Education:
Franklin High School, Los Angeles, California
BIOGRAPHY
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Little Miss Sunshine

Background:

“Everybody's career has ups and downs. I like to take chances. I don't like to stand still and I don't give a damn what the market is interested in. I want to try things. Success has nothing to do with box office as far as I'm concerned. Success has to do with achieving your goals, your internal goals, and growing as a person. It would have been nice to have been connected with a couple more box office hits, but in the long run, I don't think it makes you happier.” Alan Arkin

Alan Arkin won an Academy Award at age 73 thanks to his brilliant supporting turn as a drug-befuddled, foul-mouthed grandfather in the hit comedy “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006), a role that also brought him a BAFTA Film Award, an Independent Spirit Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award and a Phoenix Film Critics Society Award, not to mention a string of additional nominations. A struggling theater actor who found success in the early 1960s as a member of the renowned Second City comedy troupe, the Brooklyn native made an auspicious big screen debut in Norman Jewison's “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming” (1966), for which he won a Golden Globe Award and his first Oscar nomination, and picked up his next Oscar nomination two years later in Robert Ellis Miller's “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” (1968). Other film highlights include Mike Nichols' “Catch-22” (1970), “Hearts of the West” (1975, won a New York Film Critics Circle Award), “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution” (1976), “The In-Laws” (1979), Ted Kotcheff's “Joshua Then and Now” (1985, won A Genie Award), Tim Burton's “Edward Scissorhands” (1990), “Glengarry Glen Ross” (1992), “Night Mother” (1996), “Grosse Pointe Blank” (1997), “The Slums of Beverly Hills” (1998), “Jakob the Liar” (1999), “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing” (2001), “Firewall” (2006), “Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause” (2006), “Rendition” (2007), “Get Smart” (2008) and “Marley & Me” (2008). On the small screen, Arkin has received Emmy nominations for his work in the made-for-TV films “Escape from Sobibor” (1987) and “The Pentagon Papers” (2003) and the series “ABC Stage 67” (1966) and “Chicago Hope” (1997). Also an accomplished stage actor, he netted a Tony award for “Enter Laughing” (1963).

Apart from acting, Arkin has directed a variety of projects, including the features “Little Murders” (1971) and “Fire Sale” (1977) and the 1972 Broadway play “The Sunshine Boys.” He wrote the autobiography “Halfway Through the Door” and two children's books, “Tony's Hard Work Day” (1972) and “The Lemming Condition” (1976).


Red Scare

Childhood and Family:

Alan Wolf Arkin was born on March 26, 1934, in Brooklyn, New York, to school teachers Beatrice Arkin and David I Arkin, who was also a writer and painter. The family relocated to Los Angeles when he was 11 years old. His father was offered a position as a set designer, but upon the family's arrival, the studio went on strike. Alan’s father then started teaching in the L.A. school system. However, he was forced to leave his job after he refused to answer questions regarding his political ties. Alan's parents were accused of being Communists during the 1950s Red Scare.

After graduating from Franklin High School in 1951, Alan wanted to pursue his childhood dream of becoming an actor. However, he had difficulties finding work and decided to study theater. A scholarship pupil at various drama academies, he trained at L.A. State College of Applied Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles, California, for a year before transferring to Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont, in 1953. Two years later, in 1955, Alan dropped out to pursue a career in music.

Alan was married to wife Jeremy Yaffe from 1955 to 1960. They have two sons: Adam Arkin (born on August 19, 1956) and Matthew Arkin (born in 1959). He remarried on June 16, 1964, to actress-screenwriter Barbara Dana (born in 1940). The marriage ended in divorce in the mid-1990s after producing a child, Anthony Dana Arkin (born in 1967). Currently, Alan is the husband of Suzanne Newlander, a psychotherapist whom he married in 1996. The couple lives in New Mexico as of 2007.


The Russians Are Coming

Career:

“There was music in our house all the time. My mother played the piano and my uncle was a pretty well-known composer. There were people coming over to our house all the time. They played guitars, piano and sang. Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Paul Robeson were all at the house. I met all these people. Music was part of our everyday life.” Alan Arkin

A drop out of Bennington College, Alan Arkin began his music career by joining the folk singing group The Tarriers, where he played guitar and was the lead singer. In 1956, he co-composed a hit song for the group named “The Banana Boat Song,” which became better known as Harry Belafonte's popular version. The song rose to number four on the Billboard chart. After making his feature acting debut in the 1957 musical feature “Calypso Heat Wave,” he left the group to continue his acting career.

Arkin made his off-Broadway debut a year later in “Heloise,” playing a singer, but again struggled to find work. He joined his next group, The Babysitters, that same year and went on to perform with the children's folk group for the next ten years. During this period, the group, whose members also included his first wife Jeremy Yaffe (later replaced by second wife Barbara Dana), recorded four albums of children folk songs.

In 1959, Arkin joined the improvisational group The Compass Players at the Crystal Palace in St. Louis, Missouri. Soon, he was spotted by theater director and teacher Paul Sills, who invited him to become a member of the Chicago-based improvisation group The Second City. He joined the troupe in 1960, a decision that proved to be a significant turning point in his life.

In 1961, Arkin made his Broadway debut in the musical “From the Second City,” for which he wrote lyrics and sketches. He left The Second City the following year when he landed the starring role of David Kolowitz in the Broadway comedy “Enter Laughing” (1963). Costarring with soon-to-be-wife Barbara Dana, he won a Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Play and a Theatre World Award for his performance in the show. He went on to star on Broadway in Murray Schisgal's hit “Luv” (1964), which was helmed by Mike Nichols. Arkin's good acting caught the attention of film director Norman Jewison, who later cast the then-nameless actor in his comedy film “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming” (1966), based on the Nathaniel Benchley novel “The Off-Islanders.” Working alongside Carl Reiner and Eva Marie Saint, he delivered a hilarious turn as a Russian officer named Rozanov and was handed a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actor – Musical/Comedy for his work in the film. The role also brought him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role, a BAFTA Film nomination for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles and a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer – Male. The success subsequently put Arkin on the map.

Still in 1966, Arkin returned to the stage in the off-Broadway hit “Eh?” but this time he served as the director. He then wrote and acted in the short movie “The Last Mohican” (1966) and made his short film directorial debut with “T.G.I.F” (1967), which he also wrote. Back in front of the film cameras, Arkin teamed up with Audrey Hepburn for the Terence Young directed “Wait Until Dark” (1967), where he showcased his dramatic ability as killer Harry Roat. On making the film, he stated, “It was the only heavy I'd ever played up until then and I had a miserable time. I was crazy about Audrey Hepburn. I was just in awe of her. She was an extraordinary person in every way and I just hated terrorizing her. It just wasn't fun for me.

Arkin fared better playing sensitive deaf-mute loner John Singer in director Robert Ellis Miller's “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” (1968), which was adapted from a novel by Carson McCullers. The performance won him a second Best Actor Oscar nomination and a Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award, a New York Film Critics Circle Award and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actor- Drama. He scored his next success in Arthur Hiller's “Popi” (1969), in which his portrayal of a Puerto Rican single parent with two boys won him a second Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award and a Golden Globe nomination in the category of Best Motion Picture Actor – Drama. Arkin gained additional victory on stage as the director of the off-Broadway revival of Jules Feiffer's “Little Murders” (1969), for which he took home a Drama Desk Award.

1970 saw Arkin receive the role of Captain John Yossarianin in the Mike Nichols big screen version of Joseph Heller's antiwar novel “Catch-22.” Although the film later rose to cult status, its initial lukewarm response did hurt Arkin's career. He stepped down to second rate rolls and appeared in “Deadhead Miles” (1972), the Neil Simon-scripted “Last of the Red Hot Lovers” (1972) and Richard Rush's “Freebie and the Bean” (1974, opposite James Caan). He won a New York Film Critics Circle for his supporting role in “Hearts of the West,” a 1975 Western movie directed by Howard Zieff and starring Jeff Bridges and Andy Griffith.

Meanwhile, as a director, Arkin debuted on the cinematic industry with “Little Murders” (1971), in which he also appeared as Lt. Practice, and made his Broadway directorial debut with the original version of Neil Simon's “The Sunshine Boys” (1972), which proved to have a successful run with more than 500 performances. In 1975, he co-helmed George Furth's TV movie adaptation of his play “Twigs” (CBS), which was nominated for an Emmy award, and directed several episodes of the short-lived series “Fay” (NBC), starring Lee Grant.

In 1976, Arkin offered a memorable turn as Dr. Sigmund Freud in director Herbert Ross' “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution,” opposite Nicol Williamson as Sherlock Holmes, Vanessa Redgrave as Lola Deveraux, and Laurence Olivier as Professor James Moriarty. After starring in and directing the 1977 comedy film “Fire Sale,” scripted by Robert Klane, he turned to television with starring roles in the NBC television movie “The Other Side of Hell” (1978) and the CBS Cold War drama “The Defection of Simas Kudirka” (1978) before returning to the large screen with his costarring role, opposite Peter Falk, in “The In-Laws” (1979), for which he was reunited with director Arthur Hiller. Arkin also served as executive producer on the film. Arkin then delivered an amusing starring turn as a professor named Simon Mendelssohn in “Simon” (1980), a comedy directed and scripted by Marshall Brickman, and teamed up with Carol Burnett for “Chu Chu and the Philly Flash” (1981), which was scripted by Arkin's then-wife Barbara Dana. He next starred as Jeffrey Martley in the independent film “Improper Channels” (1981, won a Genie for Best Performance by a Foreign Actor) and provided the voice of Schmendrick the Magician in the cartoon film “The Last Unicorn” (1982). After a short return to television, during which time he had the remarkable recurring role of Jerry Singleton in “St. Elsewhere” (1983), he gave an intense performance as Reuben Shapiro, the colorful father of James Woods, in the Ted Kotcheff comedy “Joshua Then and Now” (1985), for which he nabbed a Genie for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role.

Two years later, in 1987, Arkin was nominated for Emmy and Golden Globe awards for his starring turn as Leon Feldhendler in the fascinating historical drama “Escape from Sobibor” (1987, CBS). Also that year, he starred in the short-lived ABC series “Harry,” which he also co-executive produced, and directed “The Visit,” the fifth episode of PBS’ first original comedy show “Trying Times,” a duty he reprised for a 1989 episode titled “The Boss.” The following year, Arkin co-wrote with wife Barbara Dana (from her novel) and played the role of Archie Corelli in the PBS special “Necessary Parties.”

During the 1990s, Arkin split his time between film and television work. He received a Saturn nomination for his portrayal of Bill in the dark satire “Edward Scissorhands” (1990), which was directed by Tim Burton and starred Johnny Depp, teamed up with Bill Campbell, Jennifer Connelly and Timothy Dalton for the action film “The Rocketeer” (1991) and was cast alongside Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris and Kevin Spacey in the movie adaptation of David Mamet's “Glengarry Glen Ross” (1992), in which he jointly won the Best Actor Award at the Valladolid International Film Festival. He next played a former baseball player in the TNT film “Cooperstown” (1993), appeared as Ernie Lazarro in the James Melkonian comedy feature “The Jerky Boys” (1995) and portrayed Tully, a clown who falls for a married woman, in the Showtime miniseries “Picture Windows” (also 1995). After having the notable role of George Kraft in the big screen version of Kurt Vonnegut's “Night Mother” (1996), Arkin was nominated for an Emmy Award for his guest role as Zoltan Karpathein in the “Chicago Hope” episode “The Son Also Rises” (1997). Also that year, he had memorable supporting roles in the comedy “Grosse Pointe Blank” and the sci-fi thriller “Gattaca.” He then appeared in the Academy Award nominated foreign film “Four Days in September,” in which he played Charles Burke Elbrick, the American ambassador to Brazil. Arkin continued to give unforgettable performances in the indie hit “The Slums of Beverly Hills” (1998), where he played the father of Natasha Lyonne, the TMC television movie “Blood Money” (1999), and the Peter Kassovitz-directed “Jakob the Liar” (1999), for which he costarred with Robin Williams. The actor revisited the stage in 1998 in the off-Broadway play “Power Plays,” which also starred his son, Anthony.

From 2001 to 2002, Arkin starred as Joe Rifkind in the A&E drama “100 Centre Street,” opposite Manny Perez, Joseph, Lyle Taylor and Joel de la Fuente. He supported Matthew McConaughey and David Connolly in the Venice Film Festival-premiered “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing” (2001), where he picked up a Boston Society of Film Critics and a Chlotrudis for Best Supporting Actor and shared a Florida Film Critics Circle for Best Ensemble Cast. He returned to television to play the supporting role of Harry Rowen in the FX miniseries “The Pentagon Papers” (2003), starring James Spader, and received an Emmy nomination for his performance.

After finishing such projects as HBO's film “And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself” (2003), the Toronto Film Festival-screened “Noel” (2004), opposite Susan Sarandon, Paul Walker and Penélope Cruz, and the Harrison Ford/Virginia Madsen crime vehicle “Firewall” (2006), where he had the important role of Arlin Forester, the two-time Oscar nominee eventually took home the prestigious statue thanks to his scene-stealing portrayal of the foul-spoken grandfather in the independent comedy “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006), jointly directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Arkin also won a BAFTA Film Award, an Independent Spirit Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award and a Phoenix Film Critics Society Award, as well as Broadcast Film Critics Association, Gotham, Online Film Critics Society, Prism, Satellite and SAG nominations.

Arkin went on to act in “Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause” (2006, as Bud Newman), Murray Robinson's drama “The Novice” (2006, starred as Father Benkhe), and “Raising Flagg” (2006), an indie comedy from director Neal Miller. He finely portrayed Senator Hawkins in the drama “Rendition” (2007), opposite Meryl Streep and Reese Witherspoon, supported Amy Adams and Emily Blunt in the comedy “Sunshine Cleaning” (2008), costarred with Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway and Dwayne Johnson in the film version of “Get Smart” (2008), and shared the screen with Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Eric Dane and Kathleen Turner in David Frankel's comedy “Marley & Me” (2008, as Arnie Klein).

Recently portraying Herb in the based-on-novel “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee,” which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival on February 9, 2009, Arkin will costar with Andy Garcia and Julianna Margulies in the upcoming comedy “City Island” (2009), directed and written by Raymond De Felitta.


Awards:

  • Oscar: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, “Little Miss Sunshine,” 2007

  • BAFTA Film: Best Actor in a Supporting Role, “Little Miss Sunshine,” 2007

  • Independent Spirit: Best Supporting Male, “Little Miss Sunshine,” 2007

  • Screen Actors Guild: Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, “Little Miss Sunshine,” 2007

  • Vancouver Film Critics Circle: Best Supporting Actor, “Little Miss Sunshine,” 2007

  • Phoenix Film Critics Society: Best Ensemble Cast, “Little Miss Sunshine,” 2006

  • Chlotrudis: Best Supporting Actor, “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing,” 2003

  • Florida Film Critics Circle: Best Ensemble Cast, “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing,” 2003

  • Boston Society of Film Critics: Best Supporting Actor, “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing,” 2002

  • Valladolid International Film Festival: Best Actor, “Glengarry Glen Ross,” 1992

  • Genie: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, “Joshua Then and Now,” 1986

  • Genie: Best Performance by a Foreign Actor, “Improper Channels,” 1982

  • New York Film Critics Circle: Best Supporting Actor, “Hearts of the West,” 1975

  • Kansas City Film Critics Circle: Best Actor, “Popi,” 1970

  • Kansas City Film Critics Circle: Best Actor, “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,” 1969

  • New York Film Critics Circle: Best Actor, “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,” 1968

  • Golden Globe: Best Motion Picture Actor – Musical/Comedy, “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming,” 1967

  • Golden Laurel: Male New Face, 1967

  • Tony: Best Featured Actor in a Play, “Enter Laughing,” 1963

  • Theatre World: “Enter Laughing,” 1963

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