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Nathan Lane

For the Wisconsin politician, see Nathan E. Lane.

Nathan Lane
File:Nathan Lane - Butley.jpg
Lane in Huntington Theatre Company's production of Simon Gray's Butley
Born Joseph Lane
(1956-02-03) February 3, 1956 (age 60)
Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
Occupation Actor, writer
Years active 1975–present
Awards Tony Awards, Daytime Emmy Awards, SAG Award, Drama Desk Awards, Olivier Award, Obie Awards, People's Choice Award

Nathan Lane (born Joseph Lane; February 3, 1956) is an American actor and writer. He is known for his roles as 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, his voice work as Snowbell in Stuart Little and Timon in The Lion King, and his recurring roles on Modern Family and The Good Wife. In 2006, Lane received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 2008, he was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.[1][2]

Early life

Lane was born Joseph Lane in Jersey City, New Jersey. 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.[3][4][5] He has two older brothers, Daniel Jr. and Robert.[6] Lane's parents were Catholics of Irish descent.[7] He was named after his uncle, a Jesuit priest.[8] Lane attended Catholic schools in Jersey City, including Jesuit-run St. Peter's Preparatory High School, where he was voted Best Actor in 1974, and years later received the 2011 Prep Hall of Fame Professional Achievement Award.[9]



Accepted to Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia on a drama scholarship, he was accompanied on what was supposed to be his first day there by his older brother Dan. Discovering that the scholarship would not cover enough of his expenses, he decided to leave, and work for a year to earn some money. "I remember him saying to me, 'College is for people who don't know what they want to do,'" his brother said.[6] 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.[10] 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,[11][12] 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 1991, Lane starred with George C. Scott again in a revival of Paul Osborne's On Borrowed Time at the Circle in the Square Theatre on Broadway. 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 hit 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 has also appeared at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in The School for Scandal and John Guare's Moon Over Miami.

In 1994, Lane voiced Timon, the meerkat, in Disney's blockbuster animated film The Lion King. In 1995 performed 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).


Lane won his second Tony Award for his portrayal of Max Bialystock in the blockbuster 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 2000, he starred in the Roundabout revival of The Man Who Came to Dinner as Sheridan Whiteside, with Jean Smart and Harriet Harris. Prior to that he starred in the Encores! production of Do Re Mi.

In 2005, Lane rejoined his Producers co-star Matthew Broderick for a successful limited run of The Odd Couple.[13] 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 2003. 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 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)[14] 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 in 2012. 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. It also won six Jeff Awards, including Best Ensemble, Director, and Production.[15] In the spring of 2013, he returned to Broadway in The Nance, a new play by Douglas Carter Beane; a Lincoln Center production directed by Jack O'Brien. He received Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations, and won the Outer Critics Circle Award and the 2013 Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance. The play was also filmed for broadcast on PBS Live From Lincoln Center in 2014.

In autumn 2014 he was a part of an all-star ensemble for Terrence McNally's revised and updated It's Only a Play, with F. Murray Abraham, Matthew Broderick, Stockard Channing, Rupert Grint, Megan Mullally, and Micah Stock; in February 2015 he reprised the role of "Hickey" in the Robert Falls production of The Iceman Cometh to great acclaim at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.[16]

Personal life

A reporter for Us Weekly 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."[17] When, at age 21, he told his mother he was gay, she replied, "I would rather you were dead,"[3][18] to which he replied, "I knew you'd understand." Lane, who came out officially after the death of Matthew Shepard,[3] has been a long-time board member of and fundraiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS,[19] and has been honored by the Human Rights Campaign,[20] Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation,[21] and The Trevor Project[22] for his work in the LGBT community. Lane resides in New York City with long-time partner Devlin Elliott.[23]

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 six Primetime Emmy Award nominations for guest appearances on Frasier, Mad About You, Modern Family, and The Good Wife. 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
  • 2013 Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance - The Nance * 2013 The Joan and Joseph F. Cullman Award for Extraordinary Creativity - The Nance

Also the winner of 5 Outer Critics Circle Awards for Guys and Dolls, Love! Valour! Compassion!, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Producers, and The Nance, and two GQ Man Of The Year Awards for Theater in 1997 and 2000


  • 2002 GLAAD Media Awards Vito Russo Award * 2003 Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame
  • 2006 American Theatre Wing Honor for his commitment to and achievement in theatre
  • 2006 Hollywood Walk of Fame Star
  • 2007 The Trevor Project Hero Award[22]
  • 2007 Human Rights Campaign Equality Award[20] * 2009 The Barrow Group Sustained Excellence in Theater Award
  • 2010 The Drama League – Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theater
  • 2010 National Corporate Theatre Fund – Theatre Artist Award
  • 2012 COAF Humanitarian Award * 2012 Tribute Award from League of Chicago Theaters
  • 2013 Guild Hall Lifetime Achievement Award For the Performing Arts
  • 2014 Sir Peter Ustinov Comedy Award - Banff Media Festival
  • 2015 Monte Cristo Award - Eugene O'Neill Theater Center

Television work

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 two Disney animated series, Teacher's Pet and Timon & Pumbaa, as well as George and Martha for HBO. He has also made guest appearances on Miami Vice, Mad About You, Sex and the City, Frasier, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Absolutely Fabulous, and 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, with Glenn Close and Gregory Hines; Rosie O'Donnell; and Matthew Broderick respectively), and appeared on Great Performances (Alice In Wonderland, The Last Mile, Guys and Dolls: Off The Record, My Favorite Broadway: The Love Songs, Recording The Producers: A Musical Romp With Mel Brooks, and as host of the 30th anniversary telecast, A Celebration in Song). He has starred in two television films, The Boys Next Door and Laughter on the 23rd Floor. With the Boston Pops, he performed a tribute concert of Danny Kaye 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.



Year Title Role Notes
1981 Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls Stage Manager TV
1987 Ironweed Harold Allen
1990 The Lemon Sisters Charlie Sorrell
1990 Joe Versus the Volcano Baw, Waponi Advance Man
1991 He Said, She Said Wally Thurman
1991 Frankie and Johnny Tim
1993 Addams Family Values Desk Sergeant
1993 Life with Mikey Ed Chapman
1994 The Lion King Timon Voice
1995 Jeffrey Father Dan
1996 The Birdcage Albert Goldman
1996 The Boys Next Door Norman Bulansky TV
1997 MouseHunt Ernest "Ernie" Smuntz
1998 The Lion King II: Simba's Pride Timon Voice
1999 Stuart Little Snowbell Voice
1999 At First Sight' Phil
1999 Get Bruce! Himself Documentary
1999 George and Martha George TV
2000 Titan A.E. Preed Voice
2000 Love's Labours Lost Costard
2000 Isn't She Great Irving Mansfield
2000 Trixie Kirk Stans
2001 Laughter on the 23rd Floor Max Prince TV
2002 Stuart Little 2 Snowbell Voice
2002 Nicholas Nickleby Vincent Crummles
2002 Austin Powers in Goldmember Mysterious Disco Man
2004 The Lion King 1½ Timon Voice
2004 Teacher's Pet Spot AKA Scott Leadready Voice
2004 Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! Richard Levy the Driven
2005 The Producers Max Bialystock
2007 Trumbo Himself Documentary
2008 Swing Vote Art Crumb
2009 Astro Boy Hammegg Voice
2009 Modern Family Pepper Saltzman TV (Guest role)
2010 The Nutcracker Uncle Albert
2012 Mirror Mirror Brighton
2013 The English Teacher Mr. Kapinas




  1. ^ Nathan Lane
  2. ^ "Lane, Hamlisch among Theater Hall of Fame inductees". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c Vilanch, Bruce, (February 2, 1999) "The Many Faces of Nathan Lane, The Advocate. Retrieved August 10, 2013
  4. ^ "Nathan Lane Biography". Yahoo! Movies. 2008. Retrieved June 9, 2008. 
  5. ^ "Nathan Lane Biography". Film Reference. 2008. Retrieved June 9, 2008. 
  6. ^ a b Wichtel, Alex (September 2, 2001) "'This Is It -- As Happy As i Get, Baby' Nathan Lane". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  7. ^ Tugend, Tom (December 30, 2005). "In Search of Nathan Lane's 'Jewish' Roots". Jewish News of Greater Phoenix 58 (14). Retrieved June 9, 2008. 
  8. ^ Smith, David (November 7, 2004). "Bring on the clown". The Observer. Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  9. ^ St. Peter's Preparatory School website, "Nathan Lane, '74 Nominated for NJ Hall of Fame". Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  10. ^ Collins, Glenn (April 22, 1992) "AT LUNCH WITH: Nathan Lane; A 'Guy' Thrives on Broadway", The New York Times. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  11. ^ TimeOut Chicago. (April 12, 2012) "Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy | Interview. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  12. ^ Groundlings Theatre and School. Patrick Stack. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  13. ^ Ben Brantley (October 28, 2005). "Theater Review- The Odd Couple". The New York Times ( Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  14. ^ Frey, Hillary (March 3, 2009). "Broadway Bows Down to Power Dames Fonda, Sarandon, Lansbury". The New York Observer ( Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Jeff Awards". Retrieved March 1, 2013. 
  16. ^ Vincentelli, Elisabeth (February 12, 2015). "Nathan Lane is a revelation in drinking drama ‘Iceman Cometh’". New York Post. Retrieved 21 February 2015. 
  17. ^ Hisock, John (December 19, 2005). "Springtime for The Producers". The Telegraph (London: Telegraph Media Group). Retrieved December 28, 2013. 
  18. ^ Dezell, Maureen (October 19, 2003). "Nathan Lane goes beyond Broadway". The Boston Globe. Retrieved April 1, 2009. 
  19. ^ For example, see their annual report archive.
  20. ^ a b "Lane to Be Honored by Human Rights Campaign". Back Stage. January 30, 2007. Archived from the original on April 13, 2008. Retrieved June 9, 2008. 
  21. ^ Gans, Andrew (April 3, 2002) "GLAAD Honors Glenn Close, Nathan Lane & The Invention of Love". Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  22. ^ a b "Trevor NY Honoring Nathan Lane". The Trevor Project. 2008. Archived from the original on June 7, 2008. Retrieved June 9, 2008. 
  23. ^ Gans, Andrew (October 26, 2014). "Nathan Lane and Partner Devlin Elliott". Playbill. Retrieved October 26, 2014. 
  24. ^ Hetrick, Adam and Gans, Andrew."Billy Porter, Andrea Martin, 'Pippin', 'Matilda', 'Vanya and Sonia' Win Drama Desk Awards", May 19, 2013
  25. ^ Mervyn Rothstein (April 20, 2012). "Nathan Lane Scales a Theatrical Everest in Chicago's The Iceman Cometh". Playbill ( Retrieved June 27, 2012. 

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