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Alan Arkin
Arkin waving, wearing a bucket hat
Arkin in 1975
Alan Wolf Arkin

(1934-03-26)March 26, 1934
Died June 29, 2023(2023-06-29) (aged 89)
  • Actor
  • director
  • screenwriter
Years active 1951–2023
  • Jeremy Yaffe
    (m. 1955; div. 1961)
  • Barbara Dana
    (m. 1964; div. 1994)
  • Suzanne Newlander
    (m. 1996)
Children 3, including Adam and Matthew
  • David I. Arkin (father)
  • Joseph Wortis (uncle)
  • Avi (cousin)
Awards Full list

Alan Wolf Arkin (March 26, 1934 – June 29, 2023) was an American actor, director, and screenwriter. In a career spanning eight decades, he received various accolades, including an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Tony Award. For his work on television, he received six Primetime Emmy Award nominations.

Arkin began his career on the Broadway stage, starring in Enter Laughing in 1963, for which he won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play, and the comedic play Luv (1964). For his work directing The Sunshine Boys, he was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play in 1973.

Arkin gained stardom with his roles in the films 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); and The In-Laws (1979). He later took on supporting roles in Edward Scissorhands (1990), Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), Grosse Point Blank (1997), Thirteen Conversations About One Thing (2001), Sunshine Cleaning (2007), Get Smart (2008), and Argo (2012). For his performance as a foul-mouthed grandfather in Little Miss Sunshine (2006), he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Known for his roles on television, memorable performances included Leon Felhendler in Escape from Sobibor (1987), and as Harry Rowen in The Pentagon Papers (2003) for which he earned Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited or Series or Movie nominations. From 2015 to 2016, he voiced J.D. Salinger in the Netflix animated series BoJack Horseman. From 2018 to 2019, he starred as a talent agent in the Netflix comedy series The Kominsky Method, earning two consecutive nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.

Early life and education

Alan Wolf Arkin was born in Brooklyn, New York, 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 State College from 1951 to 1953. He also attended Bennington College.


1960s: Early work and stardom

Alan Arkin - 1963
Arkin in Enter Laughing (1963)

Early roles and Broadway debut

Arkin was an early member of the Second City comedy troupe in the 1960s. In 1957, he made his feature film acting debut in a small role the musical film Calypso Heat Wave. In the early sixties, he appeared in episodes of East Side/West Side (1964) and ABC Stage 67 (1966). He also made his Broadway debut as a performer in From the Second City at the Royale Theatre in 1961.

Arkin starred in 1963 on Broadway as David Kolowitz in Joseph Stein's comedic play Enter Laughing. Critic Howard Taubman of The New York Times gave the play a mixed review but praised Arkin's performance, describing it as "a choice specimen of a shrewd actor ribbing his profession". For his performance, he received the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play, and a Theatre World Award. The following year, he returned to Broadway starring as Harry Berlin in Luv directed by Mike Nichols. Arkin starred opposite Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson.

Film work and stardom

Alan Arkin - Popi - 69
Arkin in Popi (1969)

In 1966, he starred in Norman Jewison's comedy film The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming opposite Carl Reiner, and Eva Marie Saint. Robert Alden of The New York Times praised Arkin's performance describing it as his, "first full-length film appearance and a particularly wonderful performance". For his performance Arkin received a Academy Award for Best Actor nomination and a BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer nomination. He also received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. The following year he appeared in the Terence Young's psychological thriller film Wait Until Dark starring Audrey Hepburn.

In 1968, he starred as Inspector Jacques Clouseau in the third installment of The Pink Panther franchise, titled Inspector Clouseau, after Peter Sellers dissociated himself from the role. The film was not well-received by Sellers' fans and critics, but Penelope Gilliatt of The New Yorker called it "an incredibly bad film, but Alan Arkin is sometimes very funny in it, especially when he doesn't try to be." That same year, he starred as a deaf mute in a small southern town during the depression era in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968). For his performance, he received nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actor, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama. He also won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor. In 1969, he starred in Arthur Hiller's comedy Popi opposite Rita Moreno. The film focuses on a Puerto Rican widower struggling to raise his two young sons in the New York City neighborhood of Spanish Harlem. Arkin received another nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama.

In 1969, Arkin's directorial debut was the Oscar-nominated 12-minute children's film titled People Soup, starring his sons Adam Arkin 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.

1970s: Established actor

Alan Arkin - Kudirka - 1978
With Shirley Knight in the TV special The Defection of Simas Kudirka (1978)

Comedies and dramas

In 1970, Arkin starred as Capt. John Yossarian in the Mike Nichols film Catch-22. The film is a satirical black comedy war film adapted from the 1961 novel of the same name by Joseph Heller. Arkin co-starred alongside Bob Balaban, Martin Balsam, Buck Henry, Bob Newhart, Austin Pendleton, Martin Sheen, Jon Voight, and Orson Welles. Arkin received a Laurel Award nomination for his performance. 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."

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 dysfunctional family amid 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 enthusiastic, stating "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)

During the 1970s, Arkin starred in films of various genres including the Vernon Zimmerman road comedy Deadhead Miles (1972), the Gene Saks adaptation of the Neil Simon play of the same name Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1972), the black comedy action film Freebie and the Bean (1974), the dramedy Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins (1975), the western comedy Hearts of the West (1975), and the British mystery The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976). In 1979, he starred and co-produced the buddy comedy film The In-Laws. Arkin starred opposite Peter Falk in a film directed by Arthur Hiller written by Andrew Bergman. The film was a financial and critical success.

In 1975, Arkin directed the Broadway production of Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys. He received the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play nomination.

1980s: Escape from Sobibor

In 1980, Arkin starred in the Marshall Brickman comedy Simon which gained mixed reviews but earned him a Saturn Award nomination. The following year, he starred in three comedy films, Improper Channels, Chu Chu and the Philly Flash opposite Carol Burnett, and Full Moon High. During the 1980s, Arkin appeared frequently in various television programs including The Muppet Show and St. Elsewhere. In 1985, Arkin starred in the television film The Fourth Wise Man starring Martin Sheen and Eileen Brennan. In 1987, Arkin appeared in the sitcom Harry, which was canceled after four low-rated episodes. Also more importantly in that same year, he starred in another television film Escape from Sobibor portraying Leon Felhendler. The film revolves around the mass escape from the Nazi extermination camp at Sobibor. Arkin received nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film.

1990s: Supporting roles

In 1990, Arkin appeared in a supporting role in Tim Burton's fantasy romance Edward Scissorhands starring Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder. He also appeared in the live action Disney film The Rocketeer (1991) starring Bill Campbell and Jennifer Connelly, and the film adaptation of the David Mamet play Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) starring Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, and Kevin Spacey. In 1993, he appeared in the comedies Indian Summer and So I Married an Axe Murderer. The following year, Arkin starred in the Rob Reiner film North.

In 1996, Arkin appeared in the film adaptation of the Kurt Vonnegut novel Mother Night starring Nick Nolte, Sheryl Lee, John Goodman, and Kirsten Dunst. The following year Arkin appeared in the comedy Grosse Point Blank starring John Cusack and Minnie Driver as well as the dystopian science fiction film Gattaca starring Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman. Arkin also Directed Samuel Beckett Is Coming Soon (1993), and Arigo (2000).

2000s: Little Miss Sunshine

In 2001, he appeared in the comedy America's Sweethearts starring John Cusack, Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. He also starred in the Jill Sprecher directed drama Thirteen Conversations About One Thing with Matthew McConaughey, John Turturro, and Clea DuVall. For his performance, he received the Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor. In 2003, he starred in the television film The Pentagon Papers starring James Spader and Paul Giamatti for which he received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie nomination. That same year, he starred in another television film And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself with Antonio Banderas in eponymous role. In 2005, he appeared as Marty Adler in the NBC sitcom Will & Grace in the episode "It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World".

In 2006, Arkin appeared in a supporting role in the ensemble comedy-drama Little Miss Sunshine with Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, and Abigail Breslin. His role won him the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. At 72 years old, Arkin was the sixth oldest winner of the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. 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".

In 2006–2007, Arkin was cast in supporting roles in Rendition as a U.S. Senator and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause as Bud Newman (Carol's Father). In 2008, he appeared in the comedy films Sunshine Cleaning with Emily Blunt and Amy Adams, Get Smart with Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway, and Marley & Me starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston. The following year, he appeared in Rebecca Miller's The Private Lives of Pippa Lee and Raymond De Felitta's City Island (both 2010).

2010s: Continued work

AlanArkinTIFFSept2012 (cropped)
Arkin at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival

In 2012, he appeared in a supporting role as a Hollywood agent Lester Siegel in Ben Affleck's drama Argo with Affleck, John Goodman, and Bryan Cranston. For his performance, he received his fourth Academy Award nomination, his second for Best Supporting Actor, losing to Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained. He also received nominations for the Golden Globe Award, the BAFTA Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award. He did receive the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. That same year, he appeared in the crime drama Stand Up Guys, opposite Al Pacino and Christopher Walken. The following year he appeared in the comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone with Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, and Jim Carrey and Grudge Match with Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, and Kim Basinger. He continued to act in supporting roles in films such as the sports drama Million Dollar Arm (2014) with Jon Hamm, the Christmas comedy Love the Coopers (2015), the comedy Going in Style (2017) with Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, and Tim Burton's Dumbo (2019).

From 2015 to 2016, Arkin voiced J. D. Salinger in the Netflix animated series BoJack Horseman. From 2018 to 2019, he starred opposite Michael Douglas in the Netflix series The Kominsky Method for which he received two Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series nominations, two Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film nominations, and four Screen Actors Guild Award nominations.

2020s: Final roles

Arkin gave his final two film-acting roles during this decade. His first was starring alongside Mark Wahlberg and Winston Duke in the 2020 Netflix film Spenser Confidential. His final performance was voicing the character Wild Knuckles in the 2022 animated film Minions: The Rise of Gru, which was released to critical and commercial success. In September 2022, Arkin had been cast in the independent heist thriller The Smack, which was in pre-production prior to his death.


With two friends, he formed the folk 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 No. 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". Arkin was a member of The Tarriers when they recorded "Cindy, Oh Cindy" which went to the top of the charts.

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. In 1985, he sang two selections by Jones and Schmidt on Ben Bagley's album Contemporary Broadway Revisited.

Personal life

Arkin was thrice married, with two marriages ending in divorce. He and Jeremy Yaffe (m. 1955–1961) had 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 Sesame Street in the 1970s. They lived in Chappaqua, New York. In 1967, they had a 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.


Arkin died at his home in Carlsbad, California, on June 29, 2023, at the age of 89. He had a history of heart problems.

Filmography and live performances


Alan Arkin film work
Year Title Role Other notes
1957 Calypso Heat Wave Tarriers lead singer
1963 That's Me Unknown Short film; also writer
1966 The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming Lt. Rozanov
The Last Mohican Mr. Ableman Short film; also writer
1967 Woman Times Seven Fred
Wait Until Dark Roat
Harry Roat Jr.
Harry Roat Sr.
1968 Inspector Clouseau Inspector Jacques Clouseau
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter John Singer
1969 Popi Abraham Rodriguez
The Monitors Garbage man in commercial Cameo
People Soup Adam Short film; also writer and director
1970 Catch-22 Capt. John Yossarian
1971 Little Murders Lt. Miles Practice Also director
1972 Deadhead Miles Cooper
Last of the Red Hot Lovers Barney Cashman
1974 Freebie and the Bean Det. Sgt. Dan "Bean" Delgado
1975 Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins Gunny Rafferty
Hearts of the West Burt Kessler
1976 The Seven-Per-Cent Solution Sigmund Freud
1977 Fire Sale Ezra Fikus Also director
1979 The In-Laws Sheldon S. Kornpett, D.D.S. Also executive producer
The Magician of Lublin Yasha Mazur
1980 Simon Prof. Simon Mendelssohn
1981 Improper Channels Jeffrey Martley
Chu Chu and the Philly Flash Flash
Full Moon High Dr. Brand
1982 The Last Unicorn Schmendrick Voice
1983 The Return of Captain Invincible Captain Invincible
1985 Joshua Then and Now Reuben Shapiro
Bad Medicine Dr. Ramón Madera
1986 Big Trouble Leonard Hoffman
1987 Escape from Sobibor Leon Feldhendler
1990 Coupe de Ville Fred Libner
Edward Scissorhands Bill Boggs
Havana Joe Volpi
1991 The Rocketeer A. "Peevy" Peabody
1992 Glengarry Glen Ross George Aaronow
1993 Indian Summer Unca Lou Handler
So I Married an Axe Murderer Police Captain
Samuel Beckett Is Coming Soon The Director Also director
1994 North Judge Buckle
1995 Picture Windows Tully Segment: Soir Bleu
The Jerky Boys: The Movie Ernie Lazarro
Steal Big Steal Little Lou Perilli
1996 Heck's Way Home Dogcatcher
Mother Night George Kraft
1997 Grosse Pointe Blank Dr. Oatman
Four Days in September Charles Burke Elbrick
Gattaca Det. Hugo
1998 Slums of Beverly Hills Murray Samuel Abromowitz
1999 Jakob the Liar Max Frankfurter
2000 Magicians Milo Direct-to-video
2001 America's Sweethearts Wellness Guide
Thirteen Conversations About One Thing Gene
2004 Eros Dr. Pearl
Segment: Equilibrium
Noel Artie Venizelos
2006 Little Miss Sunshine Edwin Hoover
Firewall Arlin Forester
The Novice Father Benkhe
The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause Bud Newman
Raising Flagg Flagg Purdy
2007 Rendition Senator Hawkins
2008 Sunshine Cleaning Joe Lorkowski
Get Smart The Chief
Marley & Me Arnie Klein
2009 The Private Lives of Pippa Lee Herb Lee
City Island Michael Malakov
2011 Thin Ice Gorvy Hauer
The Change-Up Mitchell Planko Sr.
The Muppets Tour Guide Cameo
2012 Argo Lester Siegel
Stand Up Guys Richard Hirsch
2013 The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Rance Holloway
In Security Officer Riggs
Grudge Match Louis "Lightning" Conlon
2014 Million Dollar Arm Ray Poitevint
2015 Love the Coopers Bucky
2017 Going in Style Albert Garner
2019 Dumbo J. Griffin Remington
2020 Spenser Confidential Henry Cimoli
2022 Minions: The Rise of Gru Wild Knuckles Voice; final film role
TBA The Smack Posthumous release


Alan Arkin television work
Year Title Role Notes
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"
1970–1971 Sesame Street Larry 4 episodes, with then-wife Barbara Dana as Larry's wife Phyllis
1978 The Other Side of Hell Frank Dole Television film
The Defection of Simas Kudirka Simas Kudirka
1979 Carol Burnett & Company Himself Episode #1.2
1980 The Muppet Show Himself Episode: "Alan Arkin"
1983 St. Elsewhere Jerry Singleton 3 episodes
1985 Faerie Tale Theatre Bo Episode: "The Emperor's New Clothes"
The Fourth Wise Man Orontes Television film
1986 A Deadly Business Harold Kaufman
1987 Harry Harry Porschak 7 episodes
Escape from Sobibor Leon Feldhendler Television film
1988 Necessary Parties Archie Corelli Television film
1993 Cooperstown Harry Willette Television film
Taking the Heat Tommy Canard Television film
1994 Doomsday Gun Col. Yossi
1995 Picture Windows Tully Miniseries
1997 Chicago Hope Zoltan Karpathein Episode: "The Son Also Rises"
1999 Blood Money Willy "The Hammer" Canzaro Television film
2001 Varian's War Bill Freier
2001–2002 100 Centre Street Joe Rifkind 10 episodes
2003 The Pentagon Papers Harry Rowen Television film
And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself Sam Drebben Television film
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


Alan Arkin theater work
Year Title Role Notes
1961 From the Second City Performer Royale Theatre, Broadway
1963 Enter Laughing Performer – David Kolowitz Henry Miller's Theatre, Broadway
1964 Luv Performer – Harry Berlin Booth Theatre, Broadway
1966 Hail Scrawdyke! Director Booth Theatre, Broadway
1972 The Sunshine Boys Director Broadhurst Theatre, Broadway
1973 Molly Director Alvin Theatre, Broadway
2000 Taller Than a Dwarf Director Longacre Theatre, Broadway

Awards and nominations

In 2014, Arkin received the Gregory Peck Award for Cinematic Excellence to honor his life's work at the San Diego Film Festival.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Alan Arkin para niños

  • List of oldest and youngest Academy Award winners and nominees
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