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Alan Arkin

  • American actor
  • Born March 26, 1934

Alan Wolf Arkin (born March 26, 1934) is an American actor, director, and screenwriter. With a film career spanning six decades, Arkin is known for his performances in Popi, Wait Until Dark, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Catch-22, The In-Laws, Edward Scissorhands, Get Smart, Glengarry Glen Ross, Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, Little Miss Sunshine, Sunshine Cleaning, and Argo. He has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor twice for his performances in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.


A product is most easily sold when it has an identity. So they wrap you all up and put a label on you. And then that's what you have to be. But what I'm looking for is the opportunity to explore what I can do, probing the limits, learning.




You have to think of your career the way you look at the ocean, deciding which wave you're gonna take and which waves you're not gonna take. Some of the waves are going to be big, some are gonna be small, sometimes the sea is going to be calm. Your career is not going to be one steady march upward to glory.




My father was a painter. There was a lot of singing. We hung around with a lot of folk musicians. My family knew a lot of great folk musicians of the time, like Woody Guthrie, Paul Robeson, Leadbelly. They were all people we knew.




I love insane, stupid comedy, but I can only make it work if it's a character I can give some history to and make real. Like the guy I played in 'Little Miss Sunshine.' He's a maniac, but to me he was absolutely believable.




I used to watch the world as if it was a performance and I would realize that certain things that people did moved me, and certain things didn't move me, and I tried to analyze, even at that age, six and seven and eight, why I was moved by certain things they did.




I did a couple of movies in Brazil, and the actors were incredibly congenial and hung out together a lot. Even the biggest stars would do radio commercials - they're not put on a pedestal like they are in the United States.




I don't know why we have to put things in boxes of superlatives. That isolates them. Life is fluid, and the minute you start trying to put a line around something, it will deceive you and go away.




I get a little upset, yeah, if a year goes by and I don't get a script. Thank God I have other interests that keep me from becoming a nervous wreck.




Over the years, I played with a couple of spectacular guitar players, and playing with them has made me play better than I knew how to play. I hope the same thing is true with acting.




I love working if it's with people who are capable of having a good time. People with a little bit of enjoyment of what they do. If it's enormous pressure, and people feel that their lives are at stake, then it's agony. So I try to pick projects where I feel like I'm going to avoid those traps.




No matter what you do or where you are, you're going to be missing out on something.




My favorite thing about making movies is that it's the only area of human life that I've ever discovered where I can walk away from somebody in the middle of a conversation with somebody and they won't be offended.




I don't live in L.A. on purpose because I don't wanna be immersed in that. I have to have a real life, with real people, in order to inform what I'm doing; otherwise, it just becomes the snake eating its own tail. Vampirism.




Every physicist knows that things connect with each other. To isolate things is not the way the universe works - winning best actor is arbitrary.




Everybody's career has ups and downs. I like to take chances; I don't like to stand still. And I don't give a damn what the market is interested in; I want to try things.




I gotta make a living. I make no bones about that. Most actors do. But within that context, I've never not tried to make something as fresh and alive as I possibly could make it.




I want to feel like I'm doing something creative and trying different things, putting different hats on and playing. I don't know what's the point otherwise; otherwise, it's just a job. You punch a time clock.




The years I spent paying my dues are in the background, and so are my concerns about whether my performance is good or bad.




Unless you're doing Shakespeare or Chekhov... the written word is not sacrosanct.




I know that if I can't move people, then I have no business being an actor.




The last time I heard real screaming in the theatre was when I went to see a movie I did years ago, called 'Wait Until Dark.' Now, my mother was the least emotional person on the planet, but when I got killed in the movie, she stood up and screamed, 'That's my son!' At Radio City Music Hall in New York!




That's the privilege of old age: You don't have to remember.




I would rather die than do a play - 10 years in solitary instead.




I had a hard time treating my field as if it's horse racing, putting actors in competition against each other. I see how the industry and the studios feel it's important, but I don't really have a feeling for being in competition. I want to feel sympathetic and close to others, not opposed to them.




For everybody, the tide comes in, the tide goes out - if you're an actor, particularly.




If you're playing a negative character, sooner or later it rubs off on you. Some people don't mind living in that state, but I don't want to be there anymore. I don't want to live in a state of depression.




I was a stoopball fan. I played stoopball all the time.




I don't believe in competitions between artists. This is insane. Who has the authority to say someone is better?




Something I miss terribly from the '60s - the most important phrase in the English language was, 'I got hung up.' Somebody says they got hung up, it's unassailable, you know? You don't go near that. Whoa! I know what that can be like.




I'm an actor. My life as an actor depends on who sends me what. I'm just taking the best stuff that I can find that's sent my way, regardless of how big or little the paycheck is.




But one of the things I learned from improvising is that all of life is an improvisation, whether you like it or not. Some of the greatest scientific discoveries of the 20th century came out of people dropping things.




No matter how much time you spend reading books or following your intuition, you're gonna screw it up. Fifty times. You can't do parenting right.




There have been times when I've been broke, and a job came along, and I've said, 'Yeah! Let's do it!' But I will never do something without having a feeling of knowing how to play it. I've been in projects that I felt terrible about afterwards, but I've always had something that sparked me while I was doing it.




I don't know what I'm proudest of. The fact that my kids still talk to me.




I'm as old as I am, and I don't try to hide it. It's not a big deal.




I used to have a lot of philosophies of acting; they all fell apart over the years.



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