Alan Arkin, Tireless Oscar-Winning Screen Legend, Dies at 89

Movies News The Kominsky Method
Alan Arkin, Tireless Oscar-Winning Screen Legend, Dies at 89

Getting nominated for an Oscar for your first credited performance in a movie sets a certain standard that’s hard to live up to. Under that kind of pressure, who wouldn’t burn out early? Well, Alan Arkin. The observant, pointed, naturally amusing actor made his debut and earned his first Oscar nod with the same 1967 Norman Jewison film: The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming. And then he kept going. For six more decades. Arkin, a master of comedy but an accomplished dramatic actor as well, got another nomination for 1969’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter but didn’t win an Oscar until 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine. He followed that up with another Oscar nod for Argo and a few Emmy nominations on The Kominsky Method. An accomplished actor with over 100 credits, who stole scenes big and small in everything from Edward Scissorhands to Grosse Pointe Blank, Arkin has died at age 89.

Arkin died yesterday, June 29, at his home in Carlsbad, California, as confirmed by his sons:

“Our father was a uniquely talented force of nature, both as an artist and a man. A loving husband, father, grand and great grandfather, he was adored and will be deeply missed.”

“Force of nature” is right, as Arkin started out hot and only kept going. Before moving to the screen (and getting that early Oscar nod), he won a Tony for the comedy Enter Laughing. Before that, Arkin was a member of The Tarriers, a band that competed with Harry Belafonte on the charts with their version of “The Banana Boat Song.” A star of stage, screen, and calypso music – all before the ’60s were out.

Obviously, Arkin never allowed himself to be typecast.

Early on, he branched out with his acting: His villainous turn in the 1967 thriller Wait Until Dark, a “suave, sociopathic” performance our Jim Vorel called “genuinely menacing,” earned him attention from all corners of Hollywood. His wry range was established early, and deployed often.

Arkin moved into directing during then ’70s, helming Little Murders with Elliot Gould and Fire Sale with Rob Reiner, though as his acting career flourished, that path faded in favor of more winning roles. He kept up a steady pace in film and TV until a voice performance in 2022’s Minions: The Rise of Gru, his final film role. One of our most precise and reliable actors, Arkin continued adding to his toolbox over the course of his lengthy career, only getting better with age. And when you come out of the gate so hot, that’s really saying something.

Arkin is survived by his three sons, Adam, Matthew, and Anthony, and his wife, Suzanne.

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