Nathan Lane (born February 3, 1956) is an American actor of stage and screen. He is best known for his roles as Mendy in The Lisbon Traviata, Albert in The Birdcage, Max Bialystock in the musical The Producers, Ernie Smuntz in MouseHunt, Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and his voice work in The Lion King and Stuart Little. In 2006, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 2008, he was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.
Lane was born Joseph Lane in Jersey City, New Jersey, the son of Irish American Catholic parents. He was named after his uncle, a Jesuit priest. His father, Daniel, was a truck driver and an aspiring tenor who died from alcoholism when Lane was eleven; his mother, Nora, was a housewife and secretary who suffered from manic-depression, and died in 2000. He has two brothers, Robert and Daniel. Lane attended Roman Catholic schools in Jersey City, including Jesuit-run St. Peter's Preparatory High School, where he was selected Best Actor in 1974.
His brother Dan accompanied him to what was supposed to be his first day at St. Joseph's College in Philadelphia, where he had received a drama scholarship. When they arrived, they learned he still couldn't cover enough of the expenses for him to stay without taking out another student loan, so he decided to go back home. "I remember him saying to me, 'College is for people who don't know what they want to do,'" Dan Lane recalled. Because there already was a Joseph Lane registered with Actors Equity, he changed his name to Nathan after the character Nathan Detroit from the musical Guys and Dolls. He moved to New York City where, after a long struggle, his career began to take off, first with some brief success in the world of stand-up comedy with partner, Patrick Stack, and later with Off-Broadway productions at Second Stage Theatre, the Roundabout Theatre, the Manhattan Theatre Club, and his 1982 Broadway debut in a revival of Noël Coward's Present Laughter as Roland Maule (Drama Desk nomination) with George C. Scott, Kate Burton, Dana Ivey, and Christine Lahti.
His second Broadway appearance was in the 1983 musical Merlin, starring Chita Rivera and magician Doug Henning. This was followed by Wind in the Willows as Mr. Toad, Some Americans Abroad at Lincoln Center, and the national tour of Neil Simon's Broadway Bound.
In 1992, he starred in the hit revival of Guys and Dolls, receiving his first Tony nomination, as well as Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards, playing the character who lent him his name, opposite Peter Gallagher and Faith Prince.
His professional association with his close friend the playwright Terrence McNally includes roles in The Lisbon Traviata (Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel Awards), Bad Habits, Lips Together, Teeth Apart, Love! Valour! Compassion! (Obie, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards), Dedication or the Stuff of Dreams (Drama Desk nomination), The Last Mile on PBS Great Performances, and the film version of Frankie and Johnny. The early 1990s began a stretch of successful Broadway shows for Lane. In 1993, he portrayed Sid Caesar-like Max Prince in Neil Simon's Laughter on the 23rd Floor, inspired by Simon's early career writing sketches for Your Show of Shows. In 1996, he starred in the revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, for which he won the Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards.
His association with Sondheim began with the workshop of Assassins, and after Forum he appeared with Victor Garber in the workshop of Wise Guys (later retitled Road Show). Their collaboration continued when he revised the original book for and starred in the Broadway debut of the composer's The Frogs at Lincoln Center in 2004. He also sang a song written especially for him by Sondheim in the film The Birdcage, for which he received his first Golden Globe nomination.
In addition to the McNally plays, Lane has appeared in numerous other Off Broadway productions, including Love (the musical version of Murray Schisgal's Luv), Measure for Measure directed by Joseph Papp in Central Park, for which he received the St. Clair Bayfield Award, The Common Pursuit, The Film Society, Mizlansky/Zilinsky or Schmucks, In a Pig's Valise, Trumbo, She Stoops to Conquer, The Merry Wives of Windsor and A Midsummer Night's Dream. In fact, in 1992 he won an Obie Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance. He also appeared at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in The School for Scandal and John Guare's Moon Over Miami.
In 1994 Lane voiced Timon in Disney's animated movie The Lion King
Lane performed in 1995's The Wizard of Oz in Concert at Lincoln Center to benefit the Children's Defense Fund. The performance was originally broadcast on Turner Network Television (TNT), and issued on CD and video in 1996.
Lane won his second Tony Award for his portrayal of Max Bialystock in the musical version of Mel Brooks's The Producers, as well as Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards. He later replaced Richard Dreyfuss in the role in 2004 at London's Theatre Royal Drury Lane at the last minute, and went on to win the Olivier Award as Best Actor in a Musical. He recreated his performance for the film version, for which he received his second Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy.
Lane has performed two roles originated by Zero Mostel, Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Max Bialystock in The Producers. He declined the role of Tevye in the 2004 Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof because he didn't want to be seen as always following in Mostel's footsteps. Coincidentally, both of Lane's Tony Awards were for Mostel's roles.
In 2005, Lane rejoined his Producers co-star Matthew Broderick for a successful limited run of The Odd Couple. In 2006, he took on a primarily dramatic role in a revival of Simon Gray's Butley, having played the role to great success at The Huntington Theater in Boston in 2004. He and Broderick were awarded adjacent stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in a joint ceremony on January 9, 2006. They were also immortalized as Max and Leo at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. He then played the President of the United States in the new David Mamet political satire, November, directed by Joe Mantello, followed by the critically acclaimed revival of Waiting for Godot as Estragon (Outer Critics Circle nomination) with Bill Irwin as Vladimir. He next starred in the musical version of The Addams Family as Gomez (Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations). In 2008, he was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.
Lane committed to starring in a revival of the Eugene O'Neill play The Iceman Cometh at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. Lane assumed the role of Hickey, with Brian Dennehy playing the role of Larry Slade. The production was directed by the Artistic Director of the Goodman Theatre Robert Falls. It received rave reviews, and became the most successful show in the history of the Goodman.
A reporter once asked Lane if he was gay; he replied, "I'm 40, single and work a lot in the musical theater. You do the math." When he told his mother he was gay, she replied, "I'd rather you were dead," to which he replied, "I knew you'd understand." Lane, who came out publicly after the death of Matthew Shepard, has been a long-time board member of and fundraiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and has been honored by the Human Rights Campaign, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and The Trevor Project for his work in the LGBT community.
Awards and nominations
He has received three Daytime Emmy nominations for George and Martha, Timon and Pumbaa and Teacher's Pet, and won two Daytime Emmy Awards, in 1995 for Disney's Timon and Pumbaa and in 2000 for Disney's Teacher's Pet. He has also received three Primetime Emmy Award nominations for guest appearances on Frasier, Mad About You and Modern Family. In 1999, he won the People's Choice Award for Favorite Male Performer in a New TV Series.
- 1997 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast - The Birdcage
- 1996 American Comedy Award for Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture - The Birdcage
- 2002 National Board of Review Award for Best Ensemble Performance - Nicholas Nickleby
- 1996 American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture - Jeffrey
- 1997 MTV Movie Award for Best On-Screen Duo - The Birdcage
- 1997 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy - The Birdcage
- 1997 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role - The Birdcage
- 2006 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy - The Producers
- 1986 St. Clair Bayfield Award for Shakespearean Performance - Measure for Measure
- 1990 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play, Lucille Lortel Award, Los Angeles Critics Circle Award - The Lisbon Traviata
- 1992 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical - Guys and Dolls
- 1992 Obie Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance
- 1995 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play - Love! Valour! Compassion!
- 1995 Obie Award for Ensemble Acting - Love! Valour! Compassion!
- 1996 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical - A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
- 1996 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical - A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
- 2001 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical - The Producers
- 2001 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical - The Producers
- 2005 Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical - The Producers
- 1983 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play - Present Laughter
- 1990 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play - "The Lisbon Traviata"
- 1992 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical - Guys and Dolls
- 2006 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play - Dedication or the Stuff of Dreams
- 2009 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play - Waiting For Godot
- 2010 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical - The Addams Family
- 2010 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical - The Addams Family
- 2002 GLAAD Media Awards Vito Russo Award
- 2006 American Theatre Wing Honor for his commitment to and achievement in theatre
- 2007 The Trevor Project Hero Award
- 2007 Human Rights Campaign Equality Award
- 2010 The Drama League - Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theater
- 2010 National Corporate Theatre Fund - Theatre Artist Award
His television credits include One of the Boys with Mickey Rooney and Dana Carvey, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, the title role in The Man Who Came to Dinner, broadcast live on P.B.S., and the voices of the title characters in the animated series Teacher's Pet, Timon & Pumbaa, and George and Martha. He has also made guest appearances on Miami Vice, Mad About You, Sex and the City, Frasier, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Absolutely Fabulous, 30 Rock, as well as recurring characters on Modern Family, and The Good Wife.
He has hosted Saturday Night Live, The Tony Awards (once as host for the 50th anniversary telecast, and three as co-host, to Glenn Close and Gregory Hines; Rosie O'Donnell; and Matthew Broderick respectively), and appeared on Great Performances (Alice In Wonderland, The Last Mile (TV play)|The Last Mile, and as host of the 30th anniversary telecast, A Celebration in Song). He has starred in two television films, The Boys Next Door (1996 film)|The Boys Next Door and Laughter on the 23rd Floor. With the Boston Pops, he performed a tribute concert of Danny Kay] material, as well as appearing in the Harry Connick Christmas Special; Merry Christmas, George Bailey; The Wizard of Oz in Concert; and A Muppet Christmas: Letters to Santa. His attempts at a regular series of his own, Encore! Encore! and Charlie Lawrence, were ratings disappointments.
- Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls (TV) (1981) as Stage Manager
- Ironweed (film)|Ironweed (1987) as Harold Allen
- The Lemon Sisters (1990) as Charlie Sorrell
- Joe Versus the Volcano (1990) as Baw, Waponi Advance Man
- He Said, She Said (1991) as Wally Thurman
- Frankie and Johnny (1991 film)|Frankie and Johnny]] (1991) as Tim
- Addams Family Values (1993) as Desk Sergeant
- Life with Mikey (1993) as Ed Chapman
- Jeffrey (film)|Jeffrey (1995) as Father Dan
- The Birdcage (1996) as Albert Goldman
- The Boys Next Door (1996 film)|The Boys Next Door (TV) (1996) as Norman Bulansky
- MouseHunt (film)|MouseHunt (1997) as Ernest "Ernie" Smuntz
- At First Sight (1999) as Phil
- Get Bruce! (1999) documentary, as himself
- Titan A.E. (2000) as Preed
- Love's Labours Lost (2000) as Costard
- Isn't She Great (2000) as Irving Mansfield
- Trixie (film)|Trixie (2000) as Kirk Stans
- Laughter on the 23rd Floor (TV) (2001) as Max Prince
- Nicholas Nickleby (2002 film)|Nicholas Nickleby (2002) as Vincent Crummles
- Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002) as Mysterious Disco Man
- Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! (2004) as Richard Levy the Driven
- The Producers (2005 film)|The Producers (2005) as Max Bialystock
- Trumbo (2007) documentary, as himself
- Swing Vote (2008 film)|Swing Vote (2008) as Art Crumb
- The Nutcracker (2010) as Uncle Albert
- Mirror Mirror (film)|Mirror Mirror (2012) as Brighton
- The English Teacher (2012) as Mr. Kapinas
- A Midsummer Night's Dream (1978-Off Broadway) as Francis Flute
- Present Laughter (1982-Broadway) as Roland Maule
- Merlin (1983-Broadway) as Prince Fergus
- Love (1984-Off Broadway) as Harry Berlin
- She Stoops to Conquer (1984-Off Broadway) as Tony Lumpkin
- Measure for Measure (1985-Off Broadway) as Pompey
- Wind in the Willows (1985-Broadway) as Toad
- The Common Pursuit (1986-Off Broadway) as Nick Finchling
- Claptrap (1987-Off Broadway) as Harvey Wheatcraft
- Broadway Bound(1987-National Tour) as Stanley
- The Film Society (1988-Off Broadway) as Jonathan Balton
- In a Pig's Valise (1989-Off Broadway) as James Taxi
- The Lisbon Traviata (1989-Off Broadway) as Mendy
- Assassins (musical)|Assassins (1989-New York reading) as Sam Byck
- Bad Habits (play)|Bad Habits (1990-Off Broadway) Jason Pepper, M.D./Hugh Gumbs
- Some Americans Abroad (1990-Broadway) as Henry McNeil
- Lips Together, Teeth Apart (1991-Off Broadway) as Sam Truman
- On Borrowed Time (1991-Broadway) as Mr. Brink
- Guys and Dolls (1992-Broadway) as Nathan Detroit
- Laughter on the 23rd Floor (1993-Broadway) as Max Prince
- Love! Valour! Compassion! (1994-Off Broadway and Broadway) as Buzz Hauser
- A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1996-Broadway) as Prologus and Pseudolus
- Angela Lansbury: A Celebration (1996-Broadway benefit) as Host
- Mizlansky/Zilinsky or "Schmucks" (1998-Off Broadway) as Davis Mizlansky
- Do Re Mi (musical)|Do Re Mi (1999-Off Broadway) as Hubert Cram
- Bounce (musical)|Wise Guys (1999-New York workshop) as Addison Mizner
- The Frogs (2000-Library of Congress) as Dionysus
- The Man Who Came to Dinner (2000-Broadway) as Sheridan Whiteside
- The Producers (musical)|The Producers (2001-Broadway) as Max Bialystock
- The Play What I Wrote (2003-Broadway) as Mystery Guest Star
- Trumbo: Red White and Blacklisted (2003-Off Broadway) as Dalton Trumbo
- Butley (play)|Butley (2003-Huntington Theater, Boston) as Ben Butley
- The Frogs (2004-Broadway) as Dionysus
- The Producers (musical)|The Producers (2004-West End, London] as Max Bialystock
- Dedication or the Stuff of Dreams (2005-Off Broadway) as Lou Nuncle
- Catch Me If You Can (musical)|Catch Me If You Can (2005-New York reading) as Hanratty
- The Odd Couple (2005-Broadway) as Oscar Madison
- Catch Me If You Can (musical)|Catch Me If You Can (2006-New York Workshop) as Hanratty
- Butley (play)|Butley (2006-Broadway) as Ben Butley
- Catch Me If You Can (musical)|Catch Me If You Can (2007-New York reading) as Hanratty
- November (2008-Broadway) as Charles Smith
- Waiting for Godot (2009-Broadway) as Estragon
- The Addams Family (musical)|The Addams Family]] (2010-Broadway) as Gomez Addams
- The Iceman Cometh (2012-Chicago, Goodman Theatre) as Theodore "Hickey" Hickman
- The Lion King (1994) as Timon
- The Lion King II: Simba's Pride (1998) as Timon
- Stuart Little (film)|Stuart Little (1999) as Snowbell
- George and Martha (1999) as George
- Titan A.E. (2000) as Preed
- Stuart Little 2 (2002) as Snowbell
- The Lion King 1½ (2004) as Timon
- Teacher's Pet (2004) as Spot AKA Scott Leadready II
- Gaturro (2010) as Rat Pit (English dub)
- Astro Boy (film)|Astro Boy (2009) as Hammegg
- Presented Mike Birbiglia's (2008) Off-Broadway show Sleepwalk With Me.
- Lane provided the voice of Tom Morrow, the Audio-Animatronic host of Disneyland's Innoventions attraction.
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