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"Actor's Actor" Alan Arkin Honored At Lincoln Center

Alan Arkin, one of the most respected actors of his generation, makes a rare appearance this evening at New York's Walter Reade Theater. The special evening includes a screening of Arkin's latest hit, the quirky indie comedy LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, followed by an onstage conversation between the actor and Kent Jones, Associate Director of Programming of the Film Society of Lincoln Center. The evening will also feature clips from Arkin's remarkable career, which has now spanned four decades of superlative work.

Arkin is regarded among his peers as an "actor's actor", a versatile character actor at home in every possible genre, from drama to comedy to mystery and suspense. Not only is his film resume first rate, but he is the patriarch of a theatrical family, which includes his sons Adam Arkin, Matthew Arkin and Anthony Arkin.

Arkin pere is a native New Yorker, who began his career as a singer with the folk group The Tarriers, before finding his way to improvisational theater. He made his Broadway debut as a member of the famed Second City comedy troupe in FROM THE SECOND CITY (1961), which led to his star turn in comedian Carl Reiner's smash comedy ENTER LAUGHING (1963), for which Arkin won the prestigious Tony Award. He cemented his Broadway credentials in the original production of playwright Murray Schisgal's anarchist romantic comedy LUV (1964), as one point of a triangle with Peter Falk and Elaine May.

For his feature film debut, as the stranded Soviet submarine officer in Norman Jewison's Cold War spoof THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING (1966), Arkin earned the first of his two Oscar nominations as Best Actor. His second nod came two years later, in a completely different role, as the sensitive deaf mute in the film adaptation of novelist Carson McCuller's THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER (1968).

Other key 1960s film in Arkin's early career include his devastating turn as a psychopathic killer opposite Audrey Hepburn in the film adaption of the stage thriller WAIT UNTIL DARK (1967) and the title role in director Arthur Hiller's POPI (1969), playing a Puerto Rican father struggling against big odds to make a better life for his family.

He made a memorable impression as the befuddled air fighter Captain Yossarian in director Mike Nichols' film version of Joseph Heller's antiwar novel CATCH-22 (1970). The film, an all-star satire with dark overtones, has become a cult classic that summed up the zeitgeist of America's distaste for the Vietnam War (and still seems remarkably pungent as a comment on America's current quagmire conflict). The following year, Arkin made his feature directing debut, adapting the Jules Feiffer stage hit LITTLE MURDERS (1971) for the big screen.

During this highly prolific period, Arkin also worked extensively on the New York stage as both actor and director. He directed the Off-Broadway hit EH? in 1966, which introduced a young actor named Dustin Hoffman. He earned a Drama Desk Award for his direction of the Jules Feiffer hit LITTLE MURDERS (1969) and a second Drama Desk Award for THE WHITE HOUSE MURDER CASE (1970). He also directed the original Broadway version of Neil Simon's hilarious smash, THE SUNSHINE BOYS (1972).

Although his subsequent film career was more spotty, Arkin continued to make an impression in a number of highly praised performances. He made an impressive Sigmund Freud opposite Nicol Williamson's Sherlock Holmes in THE SEVEN PER CENT SOLUTION (1977). He teamed with co-star Peter Falk in a classic comedic performance as a straight laced dentist in THE IN-LAWS (1979), an anarchic comedy directed by Arthur Hiller.

More recently, Arkin had memorable roles in Tim Burton's quirky fairytale EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990); the ensemble drama GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (1992),written by David Mamet and co-starring a powerhouse cast including Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin and Kevin Spacey; the Oscar-nominated political drama FOUR DAYS IN SEPTEMBER (1997); and as the father of rebellious teen Natasha Lyonne in the Sundance sleeper THE SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS (1998).

His tour-de-force performance as the foul-mouthed grandfather with a taste for heroin in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006) has already earned him Critics Choice and Independent Spirit Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor, and may very well lead to an Oscar nod.

The visibility in this true indie hit has rekindled an appreciation of Arkin's skills as a character actor. He has a juicy role opposite Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal in the upcoming political thriller RENDITION, scheduled to come out in late 2007; and will lend his voice for the upcoming Dreamworks animation film BEE MOVIE, which also features the voices of Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, Kathy Bates, Oprah Winfrey, John Goodman and Chris Rock.

The Salute To Alan Arkin, whom the Film Society's Kent Jones refers to as "a national treasure", will take place this evening at 7:00pm at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center. For more information and to purchase tickets, log on here to the Film Society's official website: Film Society of Lincoln Center

Sandy Mandelberger
Film New York Editor


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