Alan Arkin, Oscar-Winning Little Miss Sunshine Actor, Has Died At 89


Today brings the sad news that beloved actor Alan Arkin has passed away at his home at the age of 89. In a joint statement issued to People, Arkin's sons  Adam, Matthew, and Anthony said: "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."

Born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 26, 1934, Arkin made his feature film debut with an uncredited turn in the Fred F. Sears-directed 1957 musical, "Calypso Heat Wave." He would kick off his stage acting career not long after, before tackling his first TV role in a 1964 episode of "East Side/West Side." Arkin would continue to work in all three mediums for essentially the rest of his life, picking up all sorts of awards and accolades along the way.

Arkin's filmography, in particular, is filled with '90s movie roles that are intrinsically linked in my mind to my own childhood, from his lovably gruff mechanic in "The Rocketeer" to his hilariously kind police chief in "So I Married An Axe Murderer" and delightfully clueless suburban dad in "Edward Scissorhands." To this day, I still find myself fondly quoting him as John Cusack's put-upon therapist from the terrific hitman comedy, "Gross Pointe Blank." It's a testament to Arkin's range and sheer charisma as an actor that he was not only able to embody such a varied batch of personalities but also in genre movies that were often worlds apart tonally.

My respect for Arkin only deepened as I grew up and familiarized myself with his older work — most notably, his laid-back, sunglasses-sporting, murderous crook Harry Roat in "Wait Until Dark" and his take on Joseph Heller's disillusioned hero John Yossarian in Mike Nichols' 1970 film adaptation of the author's classic anti-war satire, "Catch-22." Of course, around the time he was making those movies, Arkin was also racking up his first of several Oscars nods, starting with "The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming."

A third act to remember

Alan Arkin finally landed his Oscar in a well-deserved win for "Little Miss Sunshine." While his performance as a foul-mouthed, drug-using, irascible grandparent in the hit 2006 indie dramedy could've easily descended into the realm of caricature, Arkin brought a lived-in quality to the role that made even the character's more outlandish behavior ring true. Likewise, for as fun as it is to quote the more, shall we say, colorful life advice Arkin's progenitor relays to his grandson (Paul Dano) in the film, it's the earnestness with which the actor handles the character's heart-to-heart exchanges with the many members of his family that really make you believe his Bad Grandpa could be an actual person.

That sentiment extends to the various other cantankerous old-timers Arkin portrayed in his third act, from a cynical Hollywood producer who's seen it all yet is nonetheless moved by his conscience to do the right thing in "Argo" (which landed Arkin a supporting actor Oscar nod) to a father who's still trying — and failing — to do right by his grown-up daughters with his eccentric schemes in "Sunshine Cleaning."

That's not to say Arkin didn't have fun in-between dealing with heavy topics like mortality and regret during his later years, including his well-received turn opposite Michael Douglas on the Netflix dramedy series "The Kominsky Method." Whether he was cameoing in "The Muppets," lending his voice to "Minions: The Rise of Gru," or portraying not-Mickey to Sylvester Stallone's not-Rocky in "Grudge Match," Arkin's presence was always a pleasure, no matter the quality of the film or show around him.

Rest in peace, Alan Arkin, and thank you for a lifetime spent making us all laugh, think — and perhaps most importantly — feel.

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