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|Also Known As:||Died:|
|Born:||December 17, 1946||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Hamilton, Ontario, CA||Profession:||actor, writer, producer, director, production assistant, director of photography, TV creator|
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As a former member of Second City Toronto and performer on the classic sketch comedy show, "SCTV" (syndicated/NBC/Cinemax, 1976-1984), actor Eugene Levy emerged from his native Canada alongside top comedic talent like John Candy, Catherine O'Hara and Martin Short to become one of the most reliable supporting players in film and on television. Levy essayed many characters on the cutting-edge "SCTV," including inept newscaster Earl Camembert, the hunchbacked assistant to Candy's Dr. Tongue, and the obnoxiously phony comic Bobby Bittman, while he killed with his impersonations of Ricardo Montalban and mustachioed movie critic Gene Shalit. After leaving the show, much of his subsequent work involved projects starring his "SCTV" alum, including "National Lampoon's Vacation" (1983), "Armed and Dangerous" (1986) and "The Martin Short Show" (NBC, 1994). Levy has something of a Renaissance when he began collaborating as a writer and star on Christopher Guest's hilariously quirky movies, most notably with "Waiting For Guffman" (1997) and "Best in Show" (2000). He also became a hit with a younger generation after his turn as the painfully endearing dad of a high school senior in "American Pie" (1999), which...
As a former member of Second City Toronto and performer on the classic sketch comedy show, "SCTV" (syndicated/NBC/Cinemax, 1976-1984), actor Eugene Levy emerged from his native Canada alongside top comedic talent like John Candy, Catherine O'Hara and Martin Short to become one of the most reliable supporting players in film and on television. Levy essayed many characters on the cutting-edge "SCTV," including inept newscaster Earl Camembert, the hunchbacked assistant to Candy's Dr. Tongue, and the obnoxiously phony comic Bobby Bittman, while he killed with his impersonations of Ricardo Montalban and mustachioed movie critic Gene Shalit. After leaving the show, much of his subsequent work involved projects starring his "SCTV" alum, including "National Lampoon's Vacation" (1983), "Armed and Dangerous" (1986) and "The Martin Short Show" (NBC, 1994). Levy has something of a Renaissance when he began collaborating as a writer and star on Christopher Guest's hilariously quirky movies, most notably with "Waiting For Guffman" (1997) and "Best in Show" (2000). He also became a hit with a younger generation after his turn as the painfully endearing dad of a high school senior in "American Pie" (1999), which showed that Levy was able to bring humanity and depth to seemingly superficial projects.
Born on Dec. 17, 1946 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Levy attended McMaster University in Hamilton, where he spent most of his time indulging in drama and filmmaking - all extracurricular activities at the school - instead of attending classes. McMaster was a cauldron of future Canadian comedy stars, including Martin Short, Dave Thomas and Ivan Reitman. In fact, Reitman presided over the McMaster Film Board, which lent out film equipment to students whose ideas they were interested in seeing made into movies. Because he spent most of his time making student films and rehearsing for plays, Levy had no real options for a career other than acting after he graduated. So he contacted Reitman, who was making his first movie, "Foxy Lady" (1971), and asked for a job. But the only one available was coffee boy - which Levy unhesitatingly took. Feeling bad for his friend, Reitman put Levy in front of the camera in "Cannibal Girls" (1973), a horror-comedy that was best left in the bargain bin.
From that point on, Levy worked continuously as an actor, never having to take a day job or supplement his income in any way. After "Cannibal Girls," he spent a year touring with the legendary Toronto production of "Godspell" (1972-73), which also starred Martin Short, Dave Thomas, Andrea Martin, Gilda Radner and Paul Shaffer. Levy moved on to join the Toronto branch of the Second City comedy troupe for two years, which led to a failed attempt to form an offshoot in Pasadena, CA with John Candy and Joe Flaherty. Instead, Levy and company forged ahead with "SCTV" (syndicated/NBC/Cinemax, 1976-1984), a bizarre, irreverent and often hilarious sketch show that satirized all facets of television. Over the years, "SCTV" featured some of Canada's most revered comedic talent, including Candy, Catherine O'Hara, Dave Thomas, Martin Short and Rick Moranis. Levy was a major player featured in many of the show's more famous sketches. He played Alex Trebel - a caricature of "Jeopardy" host Alex Trebek - in the skits "Half Wits" and "High-Q," which often ended in him becoming flustered by his rather dumb contestants. Levy also disappeared into characterizations of Ricardo Montalban, Henry Kissinger, Howard Cosell and Wally Cleaver in the "Leave It to Beaver 25th Anniversary Party" sketch, which featured Candy as a 30-year-old slacker Beaver who gets in trouble with his dysfunctional parents for shooting Eddie Haskell (Thomas).
Levy was one of the few original cast members to stay with "SCTV" throughout its entire run, which helped make him a much in-demand character actor, as well as an Emmy Award winner in 1982 and 1983 for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program. During his run on the show, he made his feature acting debut in "Running" (1979), a "Rocky"-like drama about a marathon runner (Michael Douglas) overcoming the odds. After providing several voices for the animated rock-n-roll feature, "Heavy Metal" (1981), he was executive producer, co-writer and performer of "The Last Polka" (HBO, 1985), a mock documentary that profiled Yosh and Stan Schmenge (Candy and Levy), a fictional polka band featured in numerous "SCTV" sketches. Following his television movie debut in "Bride of Boogedy" (ABC, 1987), Levy made his television directing debut with another enlarged skit, "Autobiographies: The Enigma of Bobby Bittman" (Cinemax, 1988). Levy also helmed a cable special for Martin Short, "I, Martin Short, Goes Hollywood" (HBO, 1989), and did the same for the premiere episode of the short-lived sitcom, "The Martin Short Show" (NBC, 1994).
Despite making his name in television, Levy found career security appearing in dozens of films over his career. He had small character parts in a number of comedies, including "National Lampoon's Vacation" (1983) and "Club Paradise" (1986), both directed by Second City alum Harold Ramis. He also appeared alongside John Candy in "Splash" (1984) and "Armed and Dangerous" (1986). Returning to the director's chair, he helmed his first television movie, "Partners 'N Love" (CTV, 1992), for Canadian television. That same year, he made his feature directing debut with "Once Upon a Crime" (1992), a crime comedy about three American couples who get mixed up in a mysterious murder while vacationing in Monte Carlo. Back in front of the cameras, Levy appeared in "Stay Tuned" (1992), "I Love Trouble" (1994) and "Father of the Bride Part II" (1995), in which he played Steve Martin's incomprehensible neighbor. In 1997, he began a long and fruitful collaboration with writer-director-performer Christopher Guest, who asked Levy to write and star in "Waiting for Guffman" (1997), a hilariously straight-faced send-up of small-town show business aspirations. Levy played a dentist whose aspirations for comedy came from Johnny Carson and sitting next to the class clown.
Levy reached a new generation with his memorable character turn in "American Pie" (1999), the hit teen comedy about four high school seniors (Jason Biggs, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Chris Klein and Eddie Kaye Thomas) who make a pact to lose their virginity before graduation. Levy played the father of Jason Biggs' character, whose earnest and well-intentioned advice causes more harm - not to mention embarrassment - than good. Because "American Pie" was a gigantic hit, the movie was turned into a franchise that spawned two theatrical sequels, "American Pie 2" (2001) and "American Wedding" (2003), as well as four direct-to-DVD spin-offs released from 2005-09. Levy's character was the only one from the original movie to appear in all subsequent incarnations. Meanwhile, he collaborated a second time with Guest, writing and co-starring in "Best in Show" (2000), the director's mockumentary about dog breeders competing at a prestigious dog show. The hilarious film - which like most of Guest's works was also highly improvised by the actors - was a critical hit and Levy's portrayal of Gerald 'Gerry' Fleck, a man with literally two left feet, was one of the film's many highlights.
Levy was next tapped by "American Pie" scribes Paul and Chris Weitz to co-star opposite Chris Rock in their "Here Comes Mr. Jordan/Heaven Can Wait" remake "Down to Earth" (2001). After a key role as a slick Bloomingdale's salesman in the John Cusack-Kate Beckinsale romantic fable "Serendipity" (2001), he took the role of television kids show director Gil Bender, one of the few humans populating the behind-the-scenes world of the puppet comedy series and short-lived cult classic, "Greg the Bunny" (Fox 2002). Levy followed with a hysterically low-key performance as Mitch Cohen, a tuned-in, dropped-out folk singer gingerly tiptoeing toward mental health and a career comeback in Christopher Guest's outrageous "A Mighty Wind" (2003). He had one of his best one-liners - "You got me straight trippin', Boo" - as the seemingly white and uptight pal of Steve Martin in the amusing hit comedy, "Bringing Down the House" (2003). Following a small role as the high school principal in "Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd" (2003), he brought a much-needed comic verve to his role as an overzealous truant officer in the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen feature film flop, "New York Minute" (2004).
Levy's next vehicle was the hackneyed, derivative action-buddy flick "The Man" (2005), which attempted to drive laughs by pairing Samuel L. Jackson's hard-edged cop with Levy's awkward dentist who's drawn into a crime scheme. Levy then joined the original cast for the sequel "Cheaper By the Dozen 2" (2005), playing the head of a large, over-achieving family and long-time rival of Tom Baker (Steve Martin). He followed by appearing in several projects, "For Your Consideration" (2006), Christopher Guest's parody about three actors whose small indie feature suddenly gets award buzz; "Curious George" (2006), the animated adventure of an inquisitive little monkey; and "Over the Hedge" (2006), based on the United Media Syndicate comic strip about a mischievous con-artist raccoon (Bruce Willis) and his sensitive turtle pal (Garry Shandling). After voicing Einstein in "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" (2009), Levy was cast as Max Yasgur in the seriocomic "Taking Woodstock" (2009).
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