Acclaimed US actor Alan Arkin, known for his extensive career spanning films like Catch-22, Edward Scissorhands, and Little Miss Sunshine (which earned him an Oscar), has passed away at the age of 89. The news was confirmed by his sons in a heartfelt statement to People magazine, where they described him as a remarkably gifted force both as an artist and as a man. They expressed their love and emphasized how deeply he would be missed, highlighting his role as a loving husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.
Following his passing, fellow actors took to social media to pay tribute to Arkin. Natasha Lyonne, who co-starred with him in the indie film Slums of Beverly Hills, shared her admiration, describing him as her favorite among all her movie dads and commending his brilliance, inspiration, and enduring kindness. Jason Alexander, known for his role in Seinfeld, expressed his admiration for Arkin’s unique comedic voice, noting how much he learned from watching him and the endless laughter his work brought. Michael McKean from Spinal Tap fondly remembered Arkin as charming, hilarious, and possessing a flawless bullshit detector, making him a delight to be around.
Born in 1934 in New York, Arkin hailed from a lineage of Jewish immigrants to the United States. Before his successful acting career, he spent time with the folk act the Tarriers, achieving chart success with their rendition of “The Banana Boat Song.” Arkin made a notable impact on Broadway, earning a Tony award for his lead role in Enter Laughing in 1963. He then transitioned to film, securing his first major role in the war comedy The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, which earned him a best actor Oscar nomination. His career continued to flourish with memorable performances as the villain in the Audrey Hepburn thriller Wait Until Dark and the lead in the Carson McCullers adaptation The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, garnering him another best actor Oscar nomination.
One of the most significant roles of Arkin’s early career came in 1970 when he portrayed Yossarian in the Mike Nichols-directed adaptation of Catch-22, although the film was somewhat overshadowed by the similarly themed MASH, released the same year. Throughout the 70s, Arkin thrived alongside talented co-stars, delivering notable performances in films like the buddy cop thriller Freebie and the Bean alongside James Caan, as well as the action comedy The In-Laws alongside Peter Falk.
In subsequent years, Arkin found work in television and excelled in supporting and ensemble roles. He received an Emmy nomination for his performance in the 1987 TV movie Escape from Sobibor. Notable appearances included playing Winona Ryder’s grumpy father in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands, portraying one of the office salesmen in Glengarry Glen Ross, and playing a therapist to John Cusack’s hitman in Grosse Pointe Blank. Arkin’s standout performance came as the heroin-snorting grandad in Little Miss Sunshine, which earned him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2007. He also experienced success in the Netflix series The Kominsky Method, portraying the agent to Michael Douglas’ character, Sandy Kominsky.
Arkin was married three times throughout his life. His marriages included Jeremy Yaffe from 1955 to 1961, Barbara Dana from 1964 to 1994, and Suzanne Newlander, who survives him.