Alan Wolf Arkin (born March 26, 1934) is an American actor, director and screenwriter. With a film career spanning seven decades, Arkin is known for his performances in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966); Wait Until Dark (1967); The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968); Popi (1969); Catch-22 (1970); The In-Laws (1979); Edward Scissorhands (1990); The Rocketeer (1991); Glengarry Glen Ross (1992); Thirteen Conversations About One Thing (2001); Little Miss Sunshine (2006); Get Smart (2008); Sunshine Cleaning (2008); and Argo (2012).
Arkin at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival
Alan Wolf Arkin
March 26, 1934
|Children||3, including Adam and Matthew|
He has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor twice, for his performances in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Little Miss Sunshine and received critical praise and a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his performance in Argo.
Arkin was born in Brooklyn, New York City, on March 26, 1934, the son of David I. Arkin, a painter and writer, and his wife, Beatrice (née Wortis), a teacher. He was raised in a Jewish family with "no emphasis on religion". His grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, Russia, and Germany. His parents moved to Los Angeles when Alan was 11, but an 8-month Hollywood strike cost his father his job as a set designer. During the 1950s Red Scare, Arkin's parents were accused of being Communists, and his father was fired when he refused to answer questions about his political ideology. David Arkin challenged the dismissal, but he was vindicated only after his death.
Arkin, who had been taking acting lessons since age 10, became a scholarship student at various drama academies, including one run by the Stanislavsky student Benjamin Zemach, who taught Arkin a psychological approach to acting. Arkin attended Los Angeles City College from 1951 to 1953. He also attended Bennington College. With two friends, he formed the folk music group The Tarriers, in which Arkin sang and played guitar. The band members co-composed the group's 1956 hit "The Banana Boat Song", a reworking, with some new lyrics, of a traditional, Jamaican calypso folk song of the same name, combined with another titled "Hill and Gully Rider". It reached #4 on the Billboard magazine chart the same year as Harry Belafonte's better-known hit version. The group appeared in the 1957 Calypso-exploitation film Calypso Heat Wave, singing "Banana Boat Song" and "Choucoune".
From 1958 to 1968, Arkin performed and recorded with the children's folk group, The Baby Sitters. He also performed the role of Dr. Pangloss in a concert staging of Leonard Bernstein's operetta Candide, alongside Madeline Kahn's Cunegonde. Arkin was an early member of the Second City comedy troupe in the 1960s.
Arkin is one of only six actors to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his first screen appearance (for The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming in 1966). Two years later, he was again nominated, for The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.
In 1968, he appeared in the title role of Inspector Clouseau after Peter Sellers dissociated himself from the role, but the film was not well received by Sellers' fans. Arkin and his second wife Barbara Dana appeared together on the 1970–1971 season of Sesame Street as a comical couple named Larry and Phyllis who resolve their conflicts when they remember how to pronounce the word "cooperate."
Arkin and Dana later appeared together again in 1987 on the ABC sitcom Harry, which was canceled after four low-rated episodes.
His best known films include Wait Until Dark as the erudite killer stalking Audrey Hepburn; The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming as the leader of the landing party from the stranded Soviet submarine, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Catch-22, as Yossarian, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, Little Murders, The In-Laws, Glengarry Glen Ross, and Little Miss Sunshine, for which he won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar; and Argo. His portrayal of Dr. Oatman, a psychiatrist treating John Cusack's hit man character in Grosse Point Blank was also well received.
His role in Little Miss Sunshine, as Grandfather Edwin, who was foul-mouthed and had a taste for snorting heroin, won him the BAFTA Film Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. On receiving his Academy Award on February 25, 2007, Arkin said, "More than anything, I'm deeply moved by the open-hearted appreciation our small film has received, which in these fragmented times speaks so openly of the possibility of innocence, growth, and connection". At 72 years old, Arkin was the sixth oldest winner of the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
In 1969, Arkin's directorial debut was the Oscar-nominated 12-minute children's film titled People Soup, starring his sons Adam and Matthew Arkin. Based on a story of the same name he published in Galaxy Science Fiction in 1958, People Soup is a fantasy about two boys who experiment with various kitchen ingredients until they concoct a magical soup which transforms them into different animals and objects.
His most acclaimed directorial effort is Little Murders, released in 1971. Written by cartoonist Jules Feiffer, it is a black comedy film starring Elliott Gould and Marcia Rodd about a girl, Patsy (Rodd), who brings home her boyfriend, Alfred (Gould), to meet her severely dysfunctional family amidst a series of random shootings, garbage strikes and electrical outages ravaging the neighborhood. The film opened to a lukewarm review by Roger Greenspan, and a more positive one by Vincent Canby in the New York Times. Roger Ebert's review in the Chicago Sun Times was more enthusiastic, saying, "One of the reasons it works and is indeed a definitive reflection of America's darker moods, is that it breaks audiences down into isolated individuals, vulnerable and uncertain."
Arkin also directed Fire Sale (1977), Samuel Beckett Is Coming Soon (1993) and Arigo (2000).
Arkin is the author of many books, including Tony's Hard Work Day (illustrated by James Stevenson, 1972), The Lemming Condition (illustrated by Joan Sandin, 1976), Halfway Through the Door: An Actor's Journey Toward Self (1979), and The Clearing (1986 continuation of Lemming). He has released two memoirs, An Improvised Life (2011) and Out of My Mind (2018).
Arkin has been married three times, with two ending in divorce. He and Jeremy Yaffe (m. 1955–1961) have two sons: Adam Arkin, born August 19, 1956, and Matthew Arkin, born March 21, 1960. He was married to actress-screenwriter Barbara Dana from 1964 to 1994: she appeared with him in segments of the TV Show Sesame Street in the 1970s. They lived in Chappaqua, New York. In 1967, they had son Anthony (Tony) Dana Arkin. In 1996, Arkin married psychotherapist Suzanne Newlander, whose surname he adopted for his character Norman Newlander in The Kominsky Method. They live in Carlsbad, California.
|1978||The Other Side of Hell||Frank Dole||TV movie|
|The Defection of Simas Kudirka||Simas Kudirka||TV movie|
|1985||The Fourth Wise Man||Orontes||TV movie|
|1986||A Deadly Business||Harold Kaufman||TV movie|
|1987||Escape from Sobibor||Leon Feldhendler||Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film|
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
|1988||Necessary Parties||Archie Corelli||TV movie|
|1993||Cooperstown||Harry Willette||TV movie|
Nominated—Cable ACE Award for Best Actor in a Movie or Miniseries
|Taking the Heat||Tommy Canard||TV movie|
|1994||Doomsday Gun||Col. Yossi||TV movie|
|1999||Blood Money||Willy "The Hammer" Canzaro||TV movie|
|2001||Varian's War||Bill Freier||TV movie|
|2003||The Pentagon Papers||Harry Rowen||TV movie|
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
|And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself||Sam Drebben||TV movie|
|2004||Noel||Artie Venzuela||TV movie|
|1964||East Side/West Side||Ted Miller||episode: "The Beatnik and the Politician"|
|1966||ABC Stage 67||Barney Kempinski||Episode: "The Love Song of Barney Kempinski"|
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Drama
|1970–1971||Sesame Street||Larry||4 episodes, with then-wife Barbara Dana as Larry's wife Phyllis|
|1979||Carol Burnett & Company||Himself||Episode: "Episode #1.2"|
|1980||The Muppet Show||Himself||Episode: Season 4, episode 20|
|1983||St. Elsewhere||Jerry Singleton||Episode: "Ties That Bind"|
episode: "Lust En Veritas"
|1985||Faerie Tale Theatre||Bo||Episode: The Emperor's New Clothes|
|1987||Harry||Harry Porschak||7 episodes|
|1997||Chicago Hope||Zoltan Karpathein||Episode: The Son Also Rises|
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
|2001–2002||100 Centre Street||Joe Rifkind||10 episodes|
|2005||Will & Grace||Marty Adler||Episode: "It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World"|
|2015–2016||BoJack Horseman||J. D. Salinger (voice)||4 episodes|
|2017||Get Shorty||Eugene||Episode: "The Yips"|
|2018–2019||The Kominsky Method||Norman Newlander||16 episodes|
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (2019, 2020)
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (2019, 2020)
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series (2019, 2020)
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series (2019, 2020)
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- Galaxy Magazine (November 1958). November 1958.
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- Canby, Vincent (February 21, 1971). "What's So Funny? Murders". The New York Times. New York. p. D1.
Little Murders succeeds, at times triumphantly, and it does everything more or less backwards.
- "Roger Ebert's review". Chicago Sun-Times. January 1, 1971. Retrieved March 28, 2013.
- "Out Of My Mind". www.goodreads.com.
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- Alan Arkin on IMDb
- Alan Arkin at AllMovie
- Alan Arkin at the Internet Broadway Database
- Alan Arkin at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Works by Alan Arkin at Project Gutenberg
- Q&A with Arkin at Time.com
- Folkera Tarriers article
- Stephen Capen Interview on Worldguide, Futurist Radio Hour – October 10, 1995