Little Miss Sunshine Actor Alan Arkin Dead At 89

Alan Arkin has died at the age of 89, with his family telling People, "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."

Alan Arkin had a long and illustrious career in Hollywood and starred in some extremely well-known and critically-acclaimed films, including "Spenser Confidential," "Going in Style," "Argo," "Million Dollar Arm," "Get Smart," "Little Miss Sunshine," "Glengarry Glen Ross," and "Edward Scissorhands" (via IMDb). He also received numerous award nominations, and won an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in "Little Miss Sunshine," per Reuters. Arkin established himself as an actor with incredible performance range, though he was admired in particular for his comedic skills.

Alan Arkin's early years

But where did Alan Arkin get the inspiration to pursue acting? According to Notable Biographies, Arkin was born in 1934 in Brooklyn, New York to parents David and Beatrice Arkin, both of whom worked as teachers. At just 5 years old, he decided that he wanted to become an actor. He studied acting throughout his childhood, and when he was 11, he and his family moved to Los Angeles so that his father could work as a set painter, per Turner Classic Movies (TCM). However, his father, a communist, was fired after refusing to sign a declaration about his political beliefs. He couldn't get a job for 15 years, which left the family extremely poor, as Arkin told The Independent. Nonetheless, Arkin's parents instilled in him a love of music, and Arkin soon taught himself to play guitar, via Notable Biographies.

As Arkin got older, he began earning a little extra money by playing guitar and performing in social clubs, according to Notable Biographies. He soon attended Los Angeles City College and Los Angeles State College, studying drama at both, then moved on to Bennington College on the east coast. He eventually dropped out to join a band called the Tarriers, and started to find acting opportunities on stage.

How Alan Arkin broke into the film industry

After making his off-Broadway debut in the musical "Heloise," Arkin joined an improv group at the Crystal Palace in St. Louis, Missouri, via TCM. Theater director and improv teacher Paul Sills saw him perform, and invited him to join the original cast of The Second City improv group in Chicago. Joining Second City transformed Arkin's career and opened a lot of doors. In 1963, Arkin left the group to join the cast of "Enter Laughing" on Broadway, and won a Tony for his performance, per Notable Biographies.

From there, Arkin decided to try his hand at film. He made guest appearances in the series "East Side/West Side" and on "The Les Crane Show." When director Norman Jewison watched Arkin perform in the musical "Luv," Jewison decided to cast him in "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming," a Cold War spoof, in 1966, per IMDb, TCM. Arkin earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor and a Golden Globe for his performance, and his career took off.

Alan Arkin's notable career accomplishments

It didn't take long for Alan Arkin to build a reputation as an actor with great dramatic range. In the late 1960s, he went from playing a psychopathic killer opposite Audrey Hepburn in "Wait Until Dark" to the comedic role of Abraham in "Popi," via IMDb, TCM. Though his career plateaued in the 1970s after he appeared in the lackluster film "Catch-22," Arkin made a comeback when he starred as Sigmund Freud in the 1976 Sherlock Holmes film "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution." In the 1980s, he went on a streak of playing comedic roles in successful films, including Flash in "Chu Chu and the Philly Flash," which also starred Carol Burnett, and Reuben Shapiro in "Joshua Then and Now."

Most film buffs agree that Arkin's best performances in later years included Bill in "Edward Scissorhands," George Aaronow in "Glengarry Glen Ross," Detective Hugo in "Gattaca," Grandpa in "Little Miss Sunshine," and Lester Siegel in "Argo," per IMDb, The Independent. When The Independent asked him about the movies he was most proud of, Arkin said that "Little Miss Sunshine" was high up on the list. "He's a maniac, but to me he was absolutely believable," he explained, in reference to Grandpa. He also listed "Glengarry Glen Ross" as some of his best work. "It was the hardest role I ever worked on," he said.

Alan Arkin's personal life

Alan Arkin met his first wife, Jeremy Yaffe, at Bennington College. The two married in 1955 after Yaffe got pregnant, per The Independent. They moved to St. Louis when Yaffe had their first son, Adam, though the marriage became strained as Arkin failed to find success in the arts. "I was broke, so my marriage was falling apart, and at the age of 28 I was convinced nothing would ever happen to me," Arkin told the LA Times in a 1998 interview. That's when Arkin got the offer to join Second City. Arkin and Yaffe soon divorced. Not long after, Yaffe gave birth to their second son, Matthew, via The Independent.

In 1964, Arkin remarried, this time to his co-star Barbara Dana, as noted by TCM. Dana performed alongside Arkin in the musical "Enter Laughing" in 1963. Arkin later starred in a film written by Dana and his son Adam, called "Chu Chu and the Philly Flash." The couple had one son together, Anthony, who went on to become an actor and director. However, Arkin and Dana got divorced in the mid-1990s, via The Famous People.

Arkin then married Suzanne Newlander, a psychotherapist, in 1996. The duo lived together for the remainder of Arkin's life and shared a quiet home in Santa Fe, where they would garden, read Eastern philosophy together, and meditate, per The Independent. In addition to his wife and three sons, Arkin is survived by two grandchildren, Molly and Emmet, via The New York TimesYahoo!.