Nathan Lane

Nathan Lane

Lane at Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony, Los Angeles, November 2005
Born Joseph Lane
February 3, 1956 (1956-02-03) (age 55)
Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
Occupation Actor/Singer/Writer
Years active 1975–present

Nathan Lane (born February 3, 1956)[1] is an American actor of stage and screen. He is best known for his roles as Mendy in The Lisbon Traviata, 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, 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.[2][3] He was named after his uncle, a Jesuit priest.[4] 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.[5][6][7] 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.[citation needed]



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.[citation needed] 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. 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 Noel 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 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 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 also appeared at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in The School for Scandal and John Guare's Moon Over Miami .

Lane performed in 1995's 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 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.[8] 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 2004. 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 new 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)[9] 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 has committed to starring in a revival of the Eugene O'Neill play The Iceman Cometh at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. Lane will assume the role of Hickey, with Brian Dennehy playing the role of Larry Slade. The production will be directed by the Artistic Director of the Goodman Theatre Robert Falls. The play is slated to begin performances in April 2012 and run for six weeks.[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." When he told his mother he was gay, she replied, "I'd rather you were dead,"[11] 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 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and has been honored by the Human Rights Campaign, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and The Trevor Project for his work in the LGBT community.

Lane resides in New York City with his long-time partner, producer Devlin Elliott. He has maintained close friendships with Matthew Broderick, Mel Brooks, and Ernie Sabella.

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 three Emmy nominations for guest appearances on Frasier, Mad 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
  • 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 Dolls, Love! 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 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 the animated series Teacher's Pet, Timon & Pumbaa, and George and Martha. He has also made guest appearances on Miami Vice, Mad About You, Sex and the City, Frasier, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Absolutely Fabulous, 30 Rock and Modern Family.

He has hosted Saturday Night Live, The Tony Awards (one time as host for the 50th anniversary, and three as co-host, to Glenn Close and Gregory Hines; Rosie O'Donnell; and Matthew Broderick respectively), and appeared on Great Performances (Alice In Wonderland, The Last Mile , and as host of the 30th anniversary, 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.






  1. ^ "Nathan Lane". Nathan Lane. 
  2. ^ Dezell, Maureen (2003-10-19). "Nathan Lane goes beyond Broadway". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  3. ^ Tugend, Tom (2005-12-30). "In Search of Nathan Lane's 'Jewish' Roots". Jewish News of Greater Phoenix 58 (14). Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  4. ^ Smith, David (2004-11-07). "Bring on the clown". Guardian Unlimited.,,1345473,00.html. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  5. ^ Vilanch, Bruce (1999-02-02). "Citizen Lane - Actor Nathan Lane". The Advocate. Retrieved 2008-06-09. [dead link]
  6. ^ "Nathan Lane Biography". Yahoo! Movies. 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  7. ^ "Nathan Lane Biography". Film Reference. 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  8. ^ Brantley, Ben."Theater Review 'The Odd Couple'" October 28, 2005
  9. ^ Frey, Hillary (2009-03-03). "Broadway Bows Down to Power Dames Fonda, Sarandon, Lansbury". The New York Observer. Retrieved 2009-03-08. 
  10. ^ "Nathan Lane Take on 'The Iceman Cometh' in Chicago". Retrieved July 22, 2011. 
  11. ^ Dezell, Maureen (2003-10-19). "Nathan Lane goes beyond Broadway". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-04-01. 
  12. ^ "Trevor NY Honoring Nathan Lane". The Trevor Project. 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-06-07. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  13. ^ "Lane to Be Honored by Human Rights Campaign". Backstage. 30 January 2007. Archived from the original on 2008-04-13. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 

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