Nathan Lane is arguably one of the greatest talents to ever hit a Broadway stage. He is continually on lists of highest paid performers on the Great White Way, and it is understandable that he would be.
People who have never seen a Broadway musical still know who Nathan Lane is from his memorable performances in films like The Birdcage opposite Robin Williams and the remake of The Producers alongside his friend and Broadway partner Matthew Broderick.
Here are some interesting tidbits about one of the most loved Broadway stars of his generation.
1. Nathan Lane chose his stage name after a loved musical character.
Nathan Lane knew from a very early age that he wanted to be a star and after graduating from St. Peter’s Prep High School, where he was awarded Best Actor of his class in 1974, Lane set out to start his acting career. St. Joseph’s College in Philadelphia awarded him a scholarship for theater studies, which wasn’t that substantial. Still, Lane was determined to make his way into show business and was driven to succeed.
While attending college Late would do nearly anything to earn a living from bail interviewer, singing messenger, and telemarketer. Imagine being the recipient of a singing telegram from Nathan Lane. That would surely be a great story to tell at the next holiday party if you haven’t worn out that tale yet. In fact, it is said that Lane had to work for a year to earn money for school.
Either way, the point of this entry is that he was not born under the moniker, Nathan Lane. He was born Joseph Lane in Jersey City on February 3, 1956. His father was hoping to be a successful tenor who made his money from driving a truck. The elder lane passed away from complications due to alcoholism in 1967. His mother earned money as a secretary and spend much of her life runner her household.
They were a family with three boys, Daniel Jr., Robert, and Joseph. Yet, when Joseph began his acting career he found out, after registering with Actors Equity, the young ambitious Lane learned that there was Joseph Lane working, so this star borrowed the first name a famous musical character, Nathan Detroit from Guys and Dolls.
2. Nathan Lane was part of a stand-up comedy team.
Odd jobs are not the only way that Lane could earn a living while trying to make his way to the top of the acting pile. For a while he was a part of a comedy duo with Patrick Stack and the duo made their way through the comedy circuits and stand-up clubs in New York. Lane would have to give that up eventually because he had his sights set on Broadway even though their act was successful.
Lane moved on to Off-Broadway shows and appeared in a few theaters including the Roundabout Theatre, Second Stage Theatre, and the Manhattan Theatre Club. It wouldn’t take long for Lane to move on to the famed theater street in New York. Lane’s first Broadway role was in the revival of Present Laughter by Noël Coward. He played Roland Maule alongside George C. Scott, Dana Ivey, Kate Burton, and Christine Lahti. For his work, he was nominated for a Drama Desk Award that year.
Merlin was his next show, opening on Broadway in 1983. From there he appeared in Wind in the Willows, Some Americans Abroad, and traveled with a theater group performing Broadway Bound by Neil Simon.
3. Nathan Lane has won a multitude of awards and honors.
Not only has Lane been nominated for six Primetime Emmy Awards for his work on television shows like Frasier, Mad About You, and Modern Family, he has also been nominated for the American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture in 1996, two Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical, or Comedy, one in 1997 for The Birdcage and the other in 2006 for The Producers.
Lane has won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a cast in 1997, an American Comedy Award for Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture in 1996, and the National Board of Review Award for Best Ensemble Performance in 2002.
Stage awards include seven Drama Desk Awards including one for Distinguished Performance in The Nance in 2013, two Tony Awards including one for Best Actor in a Musical in 2001, the other for his work in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in 1996. Other awards Lane has been given include two Obie awards (1992 and 1995 for Love! Valor! Compassion!), the Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical in 2005, and the Joan and Joseph F. Cullman Award for Extraordinary Creativity for The Nance in 2013.
4. Nathan Lane isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
In just this decade alone Lane has taken on the role of Gomez in a 2010 version of The Addams Family put to music. For his work in that he was given a nod from both the Drama Desk Awards and the Outer Circle Awards. Two years later he was spending time in Chicago in The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O’Neill at the Goodman Theater. The reception for his portrayal of Hickey opposite Brian Dennehy’s Larry Slade was overwhelmingly positive.
The next year Lane reappeared on Broadway at the Lincoln Center in The Nance by Douglas Carter Beane, which is a story about a stereotypical gay performer who is over-the-top, or campy. Lane played the lead role of Chauncey and his performance garnered him nods from the Tonys, the Drama Desk Awards, the Outer Critics Circle Awards, and the Drama League Awards. He won the Outer Critics Circle Award and the Drama League Award.
5. Nathan Lane had his own short-lived sitcom.
After his guest performance on the hit television program Frasier, for which he earned an acknowledgement from the Primetime Emmy Awards, Lane was offered a role in his own sitcom where he acted in the role of a singer who has lost his vocal abilities and is forced to return home to live on the winery his family owns. The title was Encore! Encore! and the critics loved it. Yet, the viewers weren’t there and it only survived one season.
Still, television is old hat to Lane at this point, after all the memorable roles he has taken on over the years. Some include Pepper, friend to Mitch and Cam on Modern Family. Other productions on the tube that included vocals for Teacher’s Pet and Timon and Pumbaa, two Disney animations. Lane also did the voice work for HBO’s George and Martha. Lane has also made appearances on popular primetime shows including Mad About You, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Sex and the City, 30 Rock, Miami Vice, Difficult People, Absolutely Fabulous, and The Good Wife.
Lanes other television appearances include One of the Boys opposite Mickey Rooney and Dana Carvey, The Man Who Came to Dinner, and a live PBS performance in The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd. Most recently Lane was seen in The People vs. O.J. Simpson, the first season of FX’s American Crime Story. He played defender of Simpson F. Lee Bailey.
Did you know these celebrities also acted in theatre at some point?