Alan Arkin: Oscar-Winning Actor Dead at 89

Alan Arkin and Ben Affleck in Argo. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Oscar-winning character actor Alan Arkin, best known for Little Miss Sunshine, Argo, and a number of roles, has died at 89 years old.

“If I’m doing a fake movie, it’s gonna be a fake hit.” – Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), Argo

Starting in 1960, Arkin had performed in a pair of revues on The Second City mainstage in Chicago: In Animal Fair or Caviar To The General and Six of One. In 1961, the actor would be in the cast of From the Second City and make his Broadway debut. Arkin made a name for himself on Broadway for a few years but then transitioned to film with an Oscar-nominated performance in The Russians Are Coming! the Russians Are Coming!. His film career lists a host of credits but he was nominated for four Oscars, winning one for Little Miss Sunshine. Alan Arkin’s character in Argo, Lester Siegel, most famously responded “Argo fuck yourself” to a L.A. Times reporter during a press conference. On the TV side, Arkin found acclaim with his work over two seasons on Chuck Lorre’s The Kominsky Method.

Toni Collette, Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin, Paul Dano, Steve Carell, and Greg Kinnear in Little Miss Sunshine.
L-R: Toni Collette, Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin, Paul Dano, Steve Carell, and Greg Kinnear in Fox Searchlight’s Little Miss Sunshine.

Upon winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance in Little Miss Sunshine, the actor remarked:

More than anything I am 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. Acting for me has always been and always will be a team sport. I cannot work at all unless I feel a spirit of unity around me. So my main sense of gratitude goes to the entire cast and crew and production team of Little Miss Sunshine for creating the same sense of joy and trust and community that the film speaks about.

Before joining the famed Chicago improv and sketch comedy theater, Arkin had went to acting school and in a stand-out on his resume, he sung with The Tarriers, where he co-wrote the lyrics to the “Banana Boat Song.” Harry Belafonte, who died earlier this year in April, would later make the song famous.

Alan Arkin lit up both the big and small screen for over a half century with his talents–the character actor will be missed.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.