American director, writer, actor and comedian Albert Brooks began his career performing standup comedy and producing successful comedy albums before eventually branching out to the cinematic industry with the Martin Scorsese landmark “Taxi Driver” (1976). He later received an Academy Award nomination for his scene stealing role in James L. Brooks' “Broadcast News” (1987) and rave reviews for his performances in Steven Soderbergh's “Out of Sight” (1998) and Christine Lahti's “My First Mister” (2001). He is also known for his voice work on the films “Dr. Dolittle” (1998), “Finding Nemo” (2003) and “The Simpsons Movie” (2007) and has voiced different characters on several episodes of the TV series “The Simpsons.” Making his film directing debut with “Real Life” (1979), Brooks began to gain notice as a filmmaker with his third film, “Lost in America” (1985), from which he took home a National Society of Film Critics Award for his writing, an award he shared with frequent partner Monica Johnson. He then earned a Saturn nomination for “Defending Your Life” (1991) and a New York Film Critics Circle Award and a National Society of Film Critics Award for “Mother” (1996). His last two films, “The Muse” (1999) and “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World” (2005), were disappointments at the box office
Brooks has been married to his wife Kimberly Shlain since 1997. Prior to the marriage, he was romantically linked to actress Carrie Fisher, the daughter of Debbie Reynolds, and Julie Hagerty and Kathryn Harrold, Brooks' costars in the films “Lost in America” (1985) and “Modern Romance” (1981), respectively. He also lived with singer/songwriter Linda Ronstadt for two years during the 1970s.
Childhood and Family:
Albert Brooks was born Albert Lawrence Einstein on July 22, 1947, in Beverly Hills, California. The son of Harry Einstein (born in 1904; died in 1958), a variety show, radio and film comedian who was known as Parkyakarkus, and actress/singer Thelma Leeds (born in 1912; died in 2007), young Albert grew up in southern California along side show business royalty and attended the same high school as Joey Bishop's son and Carl Reiner's son (Rob Reiner). He graduated from Beverly Hills High where he acted in plays with classmate Richard Dreyfuss. He then attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh but quit after one year to concentrate on comedy.
Albert married artist Kimberly Shlain on March 13, 1997. Their first child, Jacob Eli, was born on October 1, 1998, and their second child, Claire Elizabeth, was born on March 26, 2000. Albert currently lives in Los Angeles, CA. He is Jewish.
Albert has two brothers. Bob Einstein (born on November 20, 1940) is a writer, producer, actor and comedian and Cliff Einstein is a partner and longtime chief creative officer at the Los Angeles ad agency Dailey & Associates. Albert also had a half brother named Charles Einstein (born in 1926; died in 2007), a writer who wrote for the series “Playhouse 90” and “Lou Grant.”
Albert Brooks got his early job as a sportswriter for the Los Angeles based radio station KMPC in 1962. He, however, did not focus on comedy until after dropping out of college. During this period, he changed his last name from Einstein to Brooks and started a career on the standup circuit. Making his television debut in 1968 when he performed his routine on the syndicated series “The Steve Allen Show,” Brooks went on to become a regular on variety and talk shows during the late 1960s and early 1970s. TV shows he performed in during this time included “Dean Martin Presents the Golddiggers” (1969), “The Dean Martin Show” (1970), “The Everly Brothers Show” (1970), “The Johnny Cash Show” (1971) and “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” (1970-1973). Brooks first wrote for television for the ABC variety show “Turn On” in 1969 and two years later, made his TV directorial debut by helming a segment for the PBS series “The Great American Dream Machine,” which he also adapted from his essay for Esquire magazine titled “Albert Brooks Famous School for Comedians.” In the early 1970s, he took on episodic roles in the TV series “The Odd Couple” (1970, as Rudy), “Love, American Style” (1971, as Christopher Leacock) and “The New Dick Van Dyke Show” (1972, as Dr. Norman).
In 1973, Brooks released his first comedy album, “Comedy Minus One.” He followed it up two years later with “A Star Is Bought” (1975), which brought him a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Recording. Also in 1975, he directed, wrote and produced several film segments for the first season of the NBC sketch comedy series “Saturday Night Live.”
Brooks made his feature film acting debut in “Taxi Driver” (1976), a thriller directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Paul Schrader. In the movie, he portrayed the supporting role of Tom, a campaign worker, opposite Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle and Jodie Foster as Iris. He recalled, “After we finished the movie, Schrader (Paul Schrader) came up to me at the cast party and said, 'I want to thank you. That was the only guy in the script I didn't know.' I said to him, 'That's the guy you didn't know? You knew every pimp and murderer, but the guy who gets up and goes to work every day, him you didn't know?’”
Three years later, Brooks directed his first feature film, “Real Life” (1979), which he also co-wrote with Monica Johnson and Harry Shearer and starred in. Distributed by Paramount Pictures, the comedy spoofed PBS' 1973 reality TV series “An American Family.” After having a small role as Goldie Hawn's husband in Howard Zieff' successful comedy “Private Benjamin” (1980), he directed and starred in “Modern Romance” (1981).
Brooks next appeared in the Steven Spielberg produced science fiction film “Twilight Zone: The Movie” (1983), which also starred Dan Aykroyd, Vic Morrow, Scatman Crothers, Kathleen Quinlan and John Lithgow, provided the voice of Rudyard Greenway in James L Brooks' award winning drama “Terms of Endearment” (1983), based on the novel of the same name by Larry McMurtry, and was reunited with director Zieff for the comedy film “Unfaithfully Yours” (1984), where he supported Dudley Moore, Nastassja Kinski and Armand Assante. He returned to the director's chair for the comedy “Lost in America” (1985). The film earned positive reviews from critics and was a commercial success. In addition to directing, Brooks also starred in the film as David Howard, opposite Julie Hagerty as Linda Howard, and wrote the script with longtime partner Johnson, for which the two shared a National Society of Film Critics for Best Screenplay. Brooks enjoyed further recognition with his portrayal of television reporter Aaron Altman in “Broadcast News” (1987), a well received drama film written, directed and produced by James L. Brooks. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Brooks. Brooks also won an American Comedy for Funniest Supporting Male Performer - Motion Picture or TV and a Boston Society of Film Critics for Best Actor for the role.
In 1991, Brooks wrote, directed and starred as Daniel Miller in “Defending Your Life.” The heart warming comedy received good reviews but was not a box office success. Brooks was nominated for a Saturn in the category of Best Writing. He then costarred with Nick Nolte and Tracey Ullman in James L. Brooks' “I'll Do Anything” and co-wrote and starred in the sport themed “The Scout,” which was directed by Michael Ritchie (both 1994). He next directed and co-wrote “Mother” (1996), which starred Brooks as a writer who decides to move back in with his mother (played by Debbie Reynolds). The movie was well received by critics and grossed $19 million at the box office, becoming the highest grossing Brooks directed film to date. For his efforts, Brooks picked up a New York Film Critics Circle and a National Society of Film Critics for Best Screenplay.
In 1997, Brooks teamed up with James Spader, Kyra Sedgwick, Helen Mirren and Anne Bancroft in Sidney Lumet's “Critical Care,” where he portrayed an aged alcoholic surgeon named Dr. Butz. He then voiced a self-destructive tiger in the Eddie Murphy successful vehicle “Dr. Dolittle” (1998), helmed by Betty Thomas, and earned positive reviews for playing Richard Ripley in Steven Soderbergh's thriller “Out of Sight” (1998), which was adapted from Elmore Leonard's novel of the same name. The latter film starred George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle and Steve Zahn. Brooks closed out the decade by co-writing and directing the romantic comedy “The Muse” (1999), which he starred in with Sharon Stone. The film was a box office bomb.
Entering the new millennium, Brooks starred as a lonesome men's clothing store owner who develops a relationship with an employee (played by Leelee Sobieski) in the independent dark comedy “My First Mister” (2001). Two years later, Brooks offered a notable portrayal of a mild mannered foot doctor, Jerry Peyser, in “The In-Laws” (2003), a remake of the 1979 cult classic that starred Alan Arkin and Peter Falk. The remake was directed by Andrew Fleming and also starred Michael Douglas as CIA undercover agent Steve Tobias, Lindsay Sloane as Melissa Peyser and Ryan Reynolds as Mark Tobias. The same year, he also provided the voice of Marlin in the blockbuster Disney/Pixar animated film “Finding Nemo,” which was directed by Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich. Credited as A. Brooks, Brooks next voiced Tab Spangler/Jacques in a 2005 episode of the popular cartoon series “The Simpsons” called “The Heartbroke Kid.” He had also worked on the show in the episodes “The Call of the Simpsons” (1990, as the voice of Cowboy Bob), “Life on the Fast Lane” (1990, as the voice of Jacques), “Bart's Inner Child” (1993, as the voice of Brad Goodman) and “You Only Move Twice” (1996, as the voice of Hank Scorpio).
Brooks returned to the director's chair for “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World,” which he also wrote and starred in. The film premiered at the 2005 Dubai International Film Festival on December 15, 2005, before receiving a limited theatrical release in the U.S. It received mixed reviews from critics and was a failure at the box office. He was put back in the limelight with the successful animated comedy “The Simpsons Movie” (2007), based on the TV animated series “The Simpsons.” In the movie, he voiced Russ Cargill.
In 2008, Brooks joined the cast of Showtime's series “Weeds” in the recurring role of Lenny Botwin.
ShoWest: Screenwriter of the Year, 1997
National Society of Film Critics (NSFC): Best Screenplay, “Mother,” 1997
New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC): Best Screenplay, “Mother,” 1996
American Comedy: Funniest Supporting Male Performer - Motion Picture or TV, “Broadcast News,” 1988
Boston Society of Film Critics (BSFC): Best Actor, “Broadcast News,” 1988
National Society of Film Critics (NSFC): Best Screenplay, “Lost in America,” 1986