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Albert Brooks

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Albert Brooks

Albert Brooks
Brooks at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival
Born Albert Lawrence Einstein
(1947-07-22) July 22, 1947
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor, comedian, director, writer
Years active 1969–present
Spouse(s) Kimberly Shlain (m. 1997)
Children 2
Parent(s) Harry Einstein
Thelma Leeds

Albert Lawrence Brooks (born Albert Lawrence Einstein; July 22, 1947) is an American actor, writer, comedian, and director. He received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for 1987's[1] Broadcast News. His voice acting credits include Marlin the clownfish in Disney/Pixar's 2003 computer-animated film Finding Nemo, and recurring guest voices for the animated television series The Simpsons, including Russ Cargill in The Simpsons Movie (2007). Additionally, he has written, directed and starred in several comedy films such as Modern Romance (1981), Lost in America (1985) and Defending Your Life (1991) and is the author of the satire 2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America (2011).

Early life

Brooks was born in Beverly Hills, California, the son of Thelma Leeds (née Goodman), a singer and actress, and Harry Einstein, a radio comedian who performed on Eddie Cantor's radio program and was known as Parkyakarkus.[2] His brothers are comedic actor Bob Einstein, better known by a character he created named "Super Dave Osborne", and for a recurring role in Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Cliff Einstein, a partner and longtime chief creative officer at Los Angeles advertising agency Dailey & Associates. His half-brother was Charles Einstein (1926–2007), a writer for such television programs as Playhouse 90 and Lou Grant. Brooks is Jewish;[3] his grandparents emigrated from Austria and Russia. He grew up among show business families in southern California, attending Beverly Hills High School with Richard Dreyfuss and Rob Reiner.[4]


Early career

Brooks attended Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, but dropped out after one year to focus on his comedy career. By the age of 19, he had changed his professional name to Albert Brooks, joking that "the real Albert Einstein changed his name to sound more intelligent".[5] He began a comedy career that quickly made him a regular on variety and talk shows during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Brooks led a new generation of self-reflective baby-boomer comics appearing on NBC's The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. His onstage persona, that of an egotistical, narcissistic, nervous comic, an ironic showbiz insider who punctured himself before an audience by disassembling his mastery of comedic stagecraft, influenced other '70s post-modern comedians, including Steve Martin, Martin Mull and Andy Kaufman.

After two successful comedy albums, Comedy Minus One (1973) and the Grammy Award–nominated A Star Is Bought (1975), Brooks left the stand-up circuit to try his hand as a filmmaker. He had already made his first short film, The Famous Comedians School, a satiric short and an early example of the mockumentary subgenre that appeared on the PBS show The Great American Dream Machine in 1972.[6]

In 1975, he directed six short films for the first season of NBC's Saturday Night Live:

In 1976 he appeared in his first mainstream film role, in Martin Scorsese's landmark Taxi Driver; Scorsese allowed Brooks to improvise much of his dialogue. The role reflected Brooks's decision to move to Los Angeles to enter the film business. In an interview, Brooks mentioned a conversation he'd had with Taxi Driver screenwriter Paul Schrader, in which Schrader said that Brooks's character was the only one in the movie that he could not "understand" – a remark that Brooks found amusing, as the movie's antihero was a psychotic loner.

Brooks directed his first feature film, Real Life, in 1979. The film, in which Brooks (playing a version of himself) obnoxiously films a typical suburban family in an effort to win both an Oscar and a Nobel Prize, was a sendup of PBS's An American Family documentary. It has also been viewed as foretelling the future emergence of reality television.[7] Brooks also made a cameo appearance in the film Private Benjamin (1980), starring Goldie Hawn.


Through the 1980s and 1990s, Brooks co-wrote (with longtime collaborator Monica Johnson), directed and starred in a series of well-received comedies, playing variants on his standard neurotic and self-obsessed character. These include 1981's Modern Romance, where Brooks played a film editor desperate to win back his ex-girlfriend (Kathryn Harrold). The film received a limited release and ultimately grossed under $3 million domestically,[8] but was well received by critics, with one reviewer commenting that the film was "not Brooks at his best, but still amusing".[9] His best-received film, Lost in America (1985), featured Brooks and Julie Hagerty as a couple who leave their yuppie lifestyle and drop out of society to live in a motor home as they have always dreamed of doing, meeting disappointment.

Brooks's Defending Your Life (1991) placed his lead character in the afterlife, put on trial to justify his human fears and thus determine his cosmic fate. Critics responded to the offbeat premise and the surprising chemistry between Brooks and Meryl Streep as his post-death love interest. His later efforts did not find large audiences, but still retained Brooks's touch as a filmmaker. He garnered positive reviews for Mother (1996), which starred Brooks as a middle-aged writer moving back home to resolve tensions between himself and his mother (Debbie Reynolds). 1999's The Muse featured Brooks as a down-and-out Hollywood screenwriter using the services of an authentic muse (Sharon Stone) for inspiration. In an interview with Brooks with regards to The Muse, Gavin Smith wrote, "Brooks's distinctive filmmaking style is remarkably discreet and unemphatic; he has a light, deft touch, with a classical precision and economy, shooting and cutting his scenes in smooth, seamless successions of medium shots, with clean, high-key lighting.[10] "

Brooks has appeared as a guest voice on The Simpsons five times during its run (always under the name A. Brooks), and is described as the best guest star in the show's history by IGN, particularly for his role as supervillain Hank Scorpio in the episode "You Only Move Twice".[11]

Brooks also acted in other writers' and directors' films during the 1980s and 1990s. He had a cameo in the opening scene of Twilight Zone: The Movie, playing a driver whose passenger (Dan Aykroyd) has a shocking secret. In James L. Brooks's hit Broadcast News (1987), Albert Brooks was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for playing an insecure, supremely ethical network TV reporter, who offers the rhetorical question, "Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive?" He also won positive notices for his role in 1998's Out of Sight, playing an untrustworthy banker and ex-convict.


Brooks received positive reviews for his portrayal of a dying retail store owner who befriends disillusioned teen Leelee Sobieski in My First Mister (2001). Brooks continued his voiceover work in Disney and Pixar's Finding Nemo (2003), as the voice of "Marlin", one of the film's protagonists; Nemo is Brooks's largest grossing film to date.

In 2005, his film Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World was dropped by Sony Pictures due to their desire to change the title. Warner Independent Pictures purchased the film and gave it a limited release in January 2006; the film received mixed reviews and a low box office gross. The movie goes back to the days of Brooks's Real Life, as Brooks once again plays himself, a filmmaker commissioned by the U.S. government to see what makes the Muslim people laugh, thus sending him on a tour of India and Pakistan.

In 2006 he appeared in the documentary film Wanderlust as David Howard from "Lost in America". The documentary included many other well known people. In 2007, he continued his long term collaboration with The Simpsons by voicing Russ Cargill, the central antagonist of The Simpsons Movie.

He has played Lenny Botwin, Nancy Botwin's estranged father-in-law, on Showtime's television series Weeds.[12] St. Martin's Press published his first novel, 2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America, on May 10, 2011.[13]

In 2011, Brooks costarred as a vicious gangster heavy and the main antagonist in the motion picture Drive, alongside Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan, a role that has been given much critical praise and positive reviews, with several critics proclaiming Brooks' performance as one of the film's best aspects. After receiving awards and nominations from several film festivals and critic groups, but not an Academy Award nomination, Brooks responded humorously on Twitter, "And to the Academy: ‘You don't like me. You really don't like me’."[14][15]

Personal life

In 1997, Brooks married Kimberly Shlain, then a 31-year-old website designer.[16] Kimberly's father was surgeon and writer Leonard Shlain. The couple have two children: son Jacob Eli Brooks (b. 1997), and daughter Claire Elizabeth Brooks (b. 2000). He resides in Santa Monica, CA.



Year Film Role Notes
1976 Taxi Driver Tom
1979 Real Life Albert Brooks Also writer/director
1980 Private Benjamin Yale Goodman
1981 Modern Romance Robert Cole Also writer/director
1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie Car Driver Segment: Prologue
Terms of Endearment Voice of Rudyard Greenway Credited as "A. Brooks"
1984 Unfaithfully Yours Norman Robbins
1985 Lost in America David Howard Also writer/director
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay
1987 Broadcast News Aaron Altman American Comedy Award for Funniest Male Supporting Actor
Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
2nd Place – National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor
3rd Place – National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
1991 Defending Your Life Daniel Miller Also writer/director
1994 I'll Do Anything Burke Adler
Scout, TheThe Scout Al Percolo Also writer
1996 Mother John Henderson Also writer/director
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Screenplay
1997 Critical Care Dr. Butz
1998 Dr. Dolittle Jacob the Tiger Voice role
Out of Sight Richard Ripley
1999 Muse, TheThe Muse Steven Phillips Also writer/director
2001 My First Mister Randall 'R' Harris
2003 In-Laws, TheThe In-Laws Jerry Peyser
Finding Nemo Marlin Voice role
Exploring the Reef Voice role
Short film
2005 Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World Himself writer/director
2007 Simpsons Movie, TheThe Simpsons Movie Russ Cargill Voice role
Credited as "A. Brooks"
2008 The Incredible Adventures World Julio / Kevin / Vilgax / Marlin Voice role
Credited as "A. Brooks"
2011 Drive Bernie Rose African American Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Austin Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
Houston Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
New York Film Critics Online Award for Best Supporting Actor
Oklahoma Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
San Francisco Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Village Voice Film Poll – Supporting Actor
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – Central Ohio Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor (runner-up)
Nominated – Detroit Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Nominated – Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male
Nominated – Indiana Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor (runner-up)
Nominated – London Film Critics Circle Award for Supporting Actor of the Year
Nominated – Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – Southeastern Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor (runner-up)
2012 This Is 40 Larry
2014 A Most Violent Year Andrew Walsh
2015 The Little Prince The Businessman Voice role
Concussion Cyril Wecht Post-production
2016 Finding Dory Marlin Voice role
The Secret Life of Pets Tiberius Voice role


Year Title Role Notes
1969 Hot Wheels Kip Chogi
Additional voices
1970 Odd Couple, TheThe Odd Couple Rudy Episode 1.8: "Oscar, the Model" and Episode 1.11: "Felix Is Missing"[17]
1971 Love, American Style Christopher Leacock Episode 2.16: "Love and Operation Model/Love and the Sack"
1972 New Dick Van Dyke Show, TheThe New Dick Van Dyke Show Dr. Norman Episode 2.2: "The Needle"
1975–76 Saturday Night Live Additional characters Writer and director of several segments
1976 Famous Comedians School, TheThe Famous Comedians School N/A television film; writer, editor and director
1990–2015 Simpsons, TheThe Simpsons Various characters Appeared in seven episodes
Credited as "A. Brooks"
2008 Weeds Lenny Botwin Appeared in four episodes


  1. ^ "Academy Awards 1987".
  2. ^ Albert Brooks Biography (1947–).
  3. ^
  4. ^ Kaufman, Peter (January 22, 2006). "The background on Albert Brooks". The Washington Post, The Buffalo News. Accessed April 24, 2008. "Albert Brooks, who grew up in a showbiz family and attended Beverly Hills High School, has never been interested in being an outsider."
  5. ^
  6. ^ Ramsey Ess, The Short Films of Albert Brooks, January 4th, 2013
  7. ^ Montoya, Maria (February 28, 2009). "Albert Brooks 'Real Life' film is an unexpected classic". The Times-Picayune.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Film Comment, Jan/Feb 1999, All The Choices: Albert Brooks Interview
  11. ^
  12. ^ Ausiello, Michael (April 14, 2008). "Weeds Scoop: Albert Brooks Is Nancy's 'Dad'". TV Guide.
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^

External links

  • Official website
  • Albert Brooks at the Internet Movie Database
  • Albert Brooks at AllMovie
  • Interview: Albert Brooks: Comedy And Dystopia – On Point.
  • The films of Albert Brooks, Hell Is For Hyphenates, January 31, 2014
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