Born in New York, Alan Arkin launched his career with Chicago's Second City. This led to his first part on Broadway, the lead in Carl Reiner's play Enter Laughing, for which he won a Tony Award. The following year he appeared again on Broadway in Murray Schisgal's hit, LUV. In 1998, he directed, starred and co-wrote with Elaine May, the hit production of Power Plays at the Promenade Theatre. Arkin began directing for the stage with the much acclaimed Eh?, starring Dustin Hoffman, at the Circle in the Square. He then won an Obie for directing Jules Feiffer's Little Murders, followed by Feiffer's The White House Murder Case. These productions were followed by The Sunshine Boys on Broadway; Rubbers and Yanks Three at The American Place Theater; Joan of Lorraine at the Hartman in Stamford; The Sorrows of Stephen at the Burt Reynolds Theatre, starring his son, Adam; and Room Service at the Roundabout in New York.
Arkin's first feature, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor, as well as an Oscar® nomination. He received a second Oscar nomination, and the New York Critic's Award, for his performance in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. A second New York Critic's Award followed his role in Hearts of the West. His other films have included Catch 22, Little Murders (which he also directed), Simon, The In-Laws, Edward Scissorhands, Havana, Glengarry Glenn Ross, Four Days in September, Mother Night, Slums of Beverly Hills, Gattaca, Steal Big, Steal Little, Jakob the Liar, Grosse Pointe Blank, America's Sweethearts and Thirteen Conversations About One Thing. He has written and directed two short films, T.G.I.F. and People Soup. The first opened the New York Film Festival, and the latter received an Oscar® nomination for Best Short Subject.
On television, Arkin has starred in the highly acclaimed A&E series 100 Centre Street, written and directed by Sidney Lumet. His other television appearances include his Emmy-nominated performances in Escape from Sobibor and The Pentagon Papers for FX Network. He also guest-starred as the father of his real-life son, Adam, on Chicago Hope, which earned him yet another Emmy nomination. He also appeared in Showtime's Varian's War and was most recently seen in HBO's And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself, with Antonio Banderas for director Bruce Beresford.
Arkin directed the television adaptation of the Broadway play Twigs, with Carol Burnett, and The Visitor, with Jeff Daniels, Swoozie Kurtz and Julie Haggerty, which won multiple international awards.
When not occupied as an actor or director, Arkin likes to devote his time to music or writing. He has written six books - the latest a children's book (Cassie Loves Beethoven). An earlier work (The Lemming Condition) was honored by The Book Sellers of America by being placed in the White House Library. He is the co-writer of the musical standard The Banana Boat Song, made immortal by Harry Belafonte.