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Nathan Lane

For the Wisconsin politician, see Nathan E. Lane.

Nathan Lane (born February 3, 1956) is a two-time Tony and Emmy Award-winning American actor of stage, screen, and television. He is best known for his roles as Mendy in The Lisbon Traviata, Albert in The BirdcageMax 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.

Early life[]

Lane was born Joseph Lane in Jersey City, New Jersey, the son of Irish American Catholic parents.[1][2] He was named after his uncle, a Jesuitpriest.[3] 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.[4][5][6] 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 Detroitfrom 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'sPresent Laughter as Roland Maule (Drama Desk nomination) with George C. ScottKate BurtonDana 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. ToadSome 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 HabitsLips Together, Teeth ApartLove! 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 byJoseph Papp in Central Park, for which he received the St. Clair Bayfield Award, The Common PursuitThe Film SocietyMizlansky/Zilinsky or SchmucksIn a Pig's ValiseTrumboShe Stoops to ConquerThe 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, the meerkat, in Disney's blockbuster animated film The Lion King and 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), and issued on CD and video in 1996.


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.[7] 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)[8] 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. It also won six Jeff Awards, including Best Ensemble, Director, and Production.[9] In the spring of 2013, he returned to Broadway in The Nance, a new play by Douglas Carter Beane; aLincoln Center production directed by Jack O'Brien.[10]

Personal life[]

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."[citation needed] When he told his mother he was gay, she replied, "I'd rather you were dead,"[1] 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 forBroadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and has been honored by the Human Rights CampaignGay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and The Trevor Project for his work in the LGBTcommunity. Lane resides in New York City with his long-time partner, producer Devlin Elliott and has maintained close friendships with Matthew BroderickMel Brooks, and Ernie Sabella.

Awards and nominations[]


He has received three Daytime Emmy nominations for George and MarthaTimon and Pumbaa and Teacher's Pet, and won two Daytime Emmy Awards, in 1995 for Disney's Timon and Pumbaaand in 2000 for Disney's Teacher's Pet. He has also received three Primetime Emmy Award nominations for guest appearances on FrasierMad 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

Also the winner of four Outer Critics Circle Awards for Guys and DollsLove! Valour! Compassion!A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and The Producers




His television credits include One of the Boys with Mickey Rooney and Dana CarveyThe 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 PetTimon & Pumbaa, and George and Martha. He has also made guest appearances on Miami ViceMad About YouSex and the CityFrasierCurb Your EnthusiasmAbsolutely Fabulous, and 30 Rock, as well as recurring characters on Modern Family, and The Good Wife.

He has hosted Saturday Night LiveThe 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 WonderlandThe 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 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 SpecialMerry Christmas, George BaileyThe Wizard of Oz in Concert; and A Muppet Christmas: Letters to Santa. His attempts at a regular series of his own, Encore! Encore! andCharlie Lawrence, were ratings disappointments.