Alan Arkin, who won an Oscar for his tender and darkly comedic performance in Little Miss Sunshine, died on Thursday at his home in California. He was 89.
His sons, Adam, Matthew and Anthony, confirmed the news. "Our father was a uniquely talented force of nature, both as an artist and a man," the Arkins said in a statement. "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, to Russian-German Jewish immigrant parents, Arkin's family moved to Los Angeles when he was a child. He briefly attended Bennington College in Vermont but eventually left to form the music group, The Tarriers. The group produced the hit song, "The Banana Boat Song" in 1956 before dismantling.
In 1960, Arkin became an early member of the Second City improvisational troupe in Chicago. During this time he also continued to record music, including several children's albums with his group, The Baby Sitters. The following year, Arkin made his Broadway debut in the musical From the Second City, for which he wrote lyrics and sketches. He went on to perform in 1963's Enter Laughing, which earned him a Tony Award.
"Second City saved my life. It literally saved my life," Arkin once said. "I have a feeling it's true for a lot of other people, too."
Arkin quickly found success on the big screen. He received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor with his first starring role in the 1966 war comedy, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming. He earned additional Oscar nominations for his performances in the drama, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1967), and the political thriller, Argo (2012).
In 2007, Arkin won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Little Miss Sunshine. In the dramedy, he plays the cantankerous Edwin Hoover, who after being evicted from his retirement home for snorting heroin, becomes an unlikely pageant coach to his granddaughter, aspiring beauty queen Olive (Abigail Breslin).
"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," Arkin said during his acceptance speech at the 79th Oscars. "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."
Breslin paid tribute to her late co-star on social media, writing, "Alan Arkin was one of the kindest, wittiest and most lovely human beings I have had the privilege of working with. I remember when we were doing the 'am I pretty?' scene in Little Miss Sunshine and on the first take, he yelled out to 'cut!' and get my mother immediately because I was crying. I said, 'No, Alan I'm acting!,' and he cracked up."
"I love that story, because that's who Alan was. He cared deeply about his work, but above all and most importantly, he was a genuinely kind and thoughtful man," Breslin continued. "Dearest, Alan... you will be profoundly missed. Thank you for everything. My sincerest condolences and love are sent to his family, including his beautiful wife Suzanne. Although we were not related in real life, you will always be 'Grandpa' in my heart. Rest peacefully."
Over the course of his career, Arkin amassed over 100 acting credits, including the psychological thriller Wait Until Dark (1967), the action comedy The In-Laws (1979), and the crime drama Glengarry Glen Ross (1992). He most recently appeared in the 2020 action-comedy Spenser Confidential opposite Mark Wahlberg and Winston Duke.
Arkin is survived by his wife Suzanne Newlander, whom he married in 1996, and three children: Adam and Matthew, whom he shared with first wife Jeremy Yaffe, and Anthony, from his marriage to his second wife Dana.