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June 30, 2023 11:01 am

‘He Was a Uniquely Talented Force of Nature’: Jewish Oscar-Winning Actor Alan Arkin Dies at 89


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Alan Arkin with his wife Suzanne Newlander at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. Photo: Gdcgraphics via Wikimedia Commons

Actor Alan Arkin, who won an Oscar for 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine and most recently starred in the Netflix series The Kominsky Method, has died at the age of 89, his sons announced Friday morning in a joint statement.

“Our father was a uniquely talented force of nature, both as an artist and a man,” his sons Adam, Matthew and Anthony said in the statement on behalf of the family to People magazine. “A loving husband, father, grand and great grandfather, he was adored and will be deeply missed.” The cause of death was not revealed.

Arkin was born in 1934 in Brooklyn, New York, to Russian-German Jewish immigrant parents, according to CNN. The family moved to Los Angeles when Arkin was a child. After leaving several colleges, Arkin had a short-lived music career with a folk group called the Tarriers, where he sang and played guitar. The group produced the hit The Banana Boat Song in 1957.

In 1960, Arkin, who wanted to be an actor from childhood, joined the Second City improvisational comedy troupe in Chicago, according to the group’s website. He made his Broadway debut a year later in the musical From the Second City and following that starred in 1963’s Enter Laughing, for which he won a Tony Award.

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His first big screen role was in the 1966 comedy The Russians Are Coming! the Russians Are Coming!, which garnered him a Golden Globe win and an Academy Award nomination for best actor. Throughout his illustrious career he appeared in more than 100 films, including Wait Until Dark (1967), where he starred alongside Audrey Hepburn; The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968), which earned him his second Oscar nomination; Catch-22 (1970); Edward Scissorhands (1990); Glengarry Glen Ross (1992); and America’s Sweethearts (2001).

He won the Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role in the cult comedy Little Miss Sunshine, also starring starring Abigail Breslin, Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Paul Dano. His role in the 2012 Ben Affleck-directed film Argo earned him his fourth Oscar nomination.

In 2020, he published Out of My Mind: (Not Quite a Memoir) about his spiritual journey.

Arkin starred in only two seasons of The Kominsky Method, which had three seasons in total. He starred alongside Michael Douglas and the role earned him Emmy nominations in 2019 and 2020, and Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations in 2020 and 2021. In an interview with The Guardian in 2020, he talked about the desire to exit The Kominsky Method after two seasons, at the age of 87, and slow down his career.

“I’m like a horse going down the trail,” he said. “Acting is so ingrained in my physiognomy and the channels of my brain that I find myself missing aspects of the business. But I don’t need it any more. I should probably get over it.”

He also reportedly told health food writer Andrea Donsky in an interview: “The less work I get, the better my health. The stress in the marketplace is enormous and my system has a fast reaction. I can’t deal with stress anymore.”

Arkin is survived by his wife Suzanne Newlander and three children: sons Adam Arkin and Matthew Arkin, from his first marriage to Jeremy Yaffe, and Anthony Dana Arkin, whom he shared with second wife, Barbara Dana.

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