Nathan Lane is a two-time Tony and Emmy award-winning American actor and singer of stage and screen. He is best 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, and his voice work in The Lion King and Stuart Little. In 2008, he was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.

Early years

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 Jesuit priest.[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. When they arrived, they learned the drama scholarship Lane had won didn't cover enough of the expenses for him to stay. They went back home. "I remember him saying to me, 'College is for people who don't know what they want to do,'" Dan Lane recalls.[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 box-office failure 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, the national tour of Neil Simon's Broadway Bound, and On Borrowed Time at Circle in the Square Theatre with George C. Scott again. 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 Lips Together, Teeth Apart, The Lisbon Traviata (Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel Awards), Bad Habits, Love! Valour! Compassion! (Obie, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards), and Dedication or The Stuff of Dreams (Drama Desk nomination). 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 in 2004 when he revised the original book for and starred in the Broadway debut of the composer's The Frogs at Lincoln Center. He also sang a song written especially for him by Sondheim in the film The Birdcage. 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 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, The Common Pursuit, The Film Society, Mizlansky/Zilinsky or Schmucks, In a Pig's Valise, Trumbo, She Stoops to Conquer, and A Midsummer Night's Dream. 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 2005, Lane rejoined his Producers co-star Matthew Broderick for an extremely successful limited run of The Odd Couple. In 2006, he changed gears to take on a primarily dramatic role in a revival of Simon Gray's Butley. 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 next starred in the new David Mamet play, November, directed by Joe Mantello, and in the critically acclaimed revival of Waiting for Godot (Outer Critics Circle nomination)[7] with Bill Irwin. He is now starring in the musical 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.

Personal life

A reporter once asked Lane if he was gay, he replied "I'm 40, single and work in the musical theater. You do the math." When he told his mother he was gay, she replied, "I'd rather you were dead,"[8] to which he replied, "I knew you'd understand." Lane, who came out publicly after the death of Matthew Shepard, once jokingly explained, "I was born in 1956. I'm one of those old-fashioned homosexuals, not one of the newfangled ones who are born joining [pride] parades."[3] He has been a long-time board member of and fundraiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and he has been honored by the Human Rights Campaign, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and The Trevor Project for his work in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

Lane resides in New York and has a long-time partner. He remains very good friends with Matthew Broderick, Mel Brooks, and Ernie Sabella.

Awards and nominations


He has received three nominations 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 two Emmy nominations for guest appearances on Frasier and Mad About You. In 1999 he won the People's Choice Award for Favorite Male Performer in a New TV Series. He recently made a guest appearance on Modern Family on October 6, 2010.


  • 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 - 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, and a Lucille Lortel Award for The Lisbon Traviata




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, 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, and three as co-host), and 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; and A Muppet Christmas: Letters to Santa. His attempts at a regular series of his own, Encore! Encore! and Charlie Lawrence, were ratings disappointments. He also guest stared on Modern Family as Cameron and Mitchell's friend, Pepper.



Lane provided the voice of Tom Morrow, the Audio-Animatronic host of Disneyland's Innoventions attraction.


  1. Dezell, Maureen (2003-10-19). "Nathan Lane goes beyond Broadway". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  2. Tugend, Tom (2005-12-30). "In Search of Nathan Lane's 'Jewish' Roots". Jewish News of Greater Phoenix 58 (14). Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Smith, David (2004-11-07). "Bring on the clown". Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  4. Vilanch, Bruce (1999-02-02). "Citizen Lane - Actor Nathan Lane". The Advocate. Retrieved 2008-06-09. [dead link]
  5. "Nathan Lane Biography". Yahoo! Movies. 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  6. "Nathan Lane Biography". Film Reference. 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  7. Frey, Hillary (2009-03-03). "Broadway Bows Down to Power Dames Fonda, Sarandon, Lansbury". The New York Observer. Retrieved 2009-03-08. 
  8. Dezell, Maureen (2003-10-19). "Nathan Lane goes beyond Broadway". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-04-01. 
  9. "Trevor NY Honoring Nathan Lane". The Trevor Project. 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-06-07. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  10. "Lane to Be Honored by Human Rights Campaign". Backstage. 30 January 2007. Archived from the original on 2008-04-13. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 

External links

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