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A polarizing talent who inspired fervent fans as well as devoted detractors, Mandy Patinkin broke through with his Tony-winning turn as Che, the narrator of the 1979 Broadway smash "Evita." He earned a Golden Globe nomination opposite Barbra Streisand in "Yentl" (1983), a Tony nomination for starring in the 1984 musical "Sunday in the Park with George" and cinematic immortality with the line "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die" in "The Princess Bride" (1987). After the latter film brought him mainstream fame, he appeared in major feature films including "Alien Nation" (1988) and "Dick Tracy" (1990) and earned an Emmy for his love-him-or-hate-him turn as the tormented, sharp-tongued Dr. Jeffrey Geiger on "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000). Surprising many, he left the series after one season to focus on his recording and theatrical careers, returning to the series only near its end. Patinkin resurfaced on the hit crime drama "Criminal Minds" (CBS, 2005- ), but shocked viewers, critics and colleagues alike when he just stopped showing up to work after two seasons, adding to his career-long reputation as a difficult performer. Regardless of any baggage, he found a new...
A polarizing talent who inspired fervent fans as well as devoted detractors, Mandy Patinkin broke through with his Tony-winning turn as Che, the narrator of the 1979 Broadway smash "Evita." He earned a Golden Globe nomination opposite Barbra Streisand in "Yentl" (1983), a Tony nomination for starring in the 1984 musical "Sunday in the Park with George" and cinematic immortality with the line "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die" in "The Princess Bride" (1987). After the latter film brought him mainstream fame, he appeared in major feature films including "Alien Nation" (1988) and "Dick Tracy" (1990) and earned an Emmy for his love-him-or-hate-him turn as the tormented, sharp-tongued Dr. Jeffrey Geiger on "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000). Surprising many, he left the series after one season to focus on his recording and theatrical careers, returning to the series only near its end. Patinkin resurfaced on the hit crime drama "Criminal Minds" (CBS, 2005- ), but shocked viewers, critics and colleagues alike when he just stopped showing up to work after two seasons, adding to his career-long reputation as a difficult performer. Regardless of any baggage, he found a new home as Claire Danes' wise, protective CIA mentor on the critically acclaimed series "Homeland" (Showtime, 2011- ). Beloved as well as mocked for his intense, over-the-top performance style, Mandy Patinkin proved to be a passionate artist who followed his heart and instincts instead of playing the stardom game.
Born Nov. 30, 1952 in Chicago, IL, Mandel Bruce Patinkin came from a Russian and Polish Jewish family and was raised in conservative Judaism. Nicknamed "Mandy," he began singing as a child in synagogue and briefly attended the University of Kansas before transferring to Juilliard to study drama. Showing a temperamental side that would haunt him throughout his career, the high-strung, emotional Patinkin clashed with his teachers and dropped out to pursue the stage. Success came quickly, and he created the role of Mark, the gay lover of a cancer-stricken man in the Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Shadow Box." Singing remained his true passion, however, and he nabbed the role of the lifetime when he was cast in the new Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice Broadway musical, 1979's "Evita" as the narrator, a one-man Greek chorus named Che in honor of the famous revolutionary. The demanding role required Patinkin to expend considerable energy, and although some critics mocked the high tenor's fervently over-the-top performance, the actor's hard work paid off when he won a Tony Award for his efforts.
Patinkin segued to the screen with performances in a pair of high-profile films that made much of his own heritage. He played Tateh, a Jewish immigrant who finds success in America as a filmmaker in Milos Forman's sprawling but uneven adaptation of E.L. Doctorow's novel "Ragtime" (1981), and an accused spy with shades of Julius Rosenberg in another adaptation of the author's works, "Daniel" (1983). He notched a Golden Globe nomination and made his biggest impression that same year, however, opposite director-actress Barbra Streisand in "Yentl" (1983), playing Avigdor. Many fans were disappointed that Patinkin was not given the chance to sing in the film, but were pleased when he returned to Broadway the following year to star in the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical "Sunday in the Park with George," loosely inspired by the life of pointillist painter Georges Seraut. He earned a Tony nomination and a CableACE Award for his role, but his professional reputation soon took a big hit. Signed to star opposite Meryl Streep in Nora Ephron's autobiographical dramedy "Heartburn" (1986), Patinkin was fired by director Mike Nichols and replaced by Jack Nicholson.
Dogged by a growing reputation for being mercurial and erratic both on set and off, Patinkin returned to the stage to star in the bizarre sex change musical, 1987's "The Knife," which received poor reviews across the board. He chalked up a major triumph that same year, however, when he played a flamboyant, revenge-seeking swashbuckler in Rob Reiner's instant classic "The Princess Bride" (1987). His oft-stated delivery of the immortal line, "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die" stuck with audiences, who would go on to quote it back to him decades after the fact. He scored a cult success with the multilayered "Alien Nation" (1988), in which he played an extraterrestrial rookie cop paired with a bitter, alcoholic veteran (James Caan), as well as took the small, semi-musical role of 88 Keys, the pianist for the nightclub singer Breathless Mahoney (Madonna), in Warren Beatty's candy-colored hit "Dick Tracy" (1990). Off-screen, he recorded his self-titled debut album and began to tour, working up a set of songs that would comprise his second album, 1990's Dress Casual. He starred as the emotionally frozen uncle of a fierce-tempered orphan in the Broadway adaptation of "The Secret Garden" and continued to record and perform music, including a string of performances on "Late Show with David Letterman" (CBS, 1993- ).
Many were surprised when Patinkin next accepted a leading role on David E. Kelley's hospital drama "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000), but his portrayal of the brilliant but caustic heart surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Geiger definitely made waves. Although some fans and critics complained that Patinkin was too hammy and, in a nod to the actor's vanity, sang too frequently, others adored his intensity. For his efforts, Patinkin won an Emmy, a Golden Globe nomination and the lion's share of attention. Despite his success, he left the show after one season to return to the gypsy life of guest spots, including a memorable role as Lisa Simpson's would-be husband on "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ). He also focused on singing and touring, including his pet project, 1998's Yiddish album Mamaloshen. He earned an Emmy nomination for his guest spot on "The Larry Sanders Show" (HBO, 1992-98) and made high-profile appearances as the titular tragic hero of "The Hunchback" (TNT, 1997) and a kid-friendly comic villain in "The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland" (1999). "Chicago Hope" fans had reason to rejoice when Patinkin began an Emmy-nominated recurring run near the show's end, helping inject some much-needed adrenaline to the sagging series.
The actor returned to Broadway as the lead in a new 2000 production of "The Wild Party," but his performance divided critics and reportedly alienated his fellow cast members, who allegedly found him unprofessional and difficult. Still, Patinkin took home another Tony nomination and went on to spearhead a series of concerts celebrating the music of famed theater composer Stephen Sondheim. He returned to series television as Rube Sofer, a supernatural mentor to a newly dead grim reaper on the black comedy "Dead Like Me" (Showtime, 2003-05), but found a sturdier, more popular vehicle with "Criminal Minds" (CBS, 2005- ), where he essayed the part of Jason Gideon, an experienced but troubled FBI profiler. Although the gritty crime series was an immediate hit, Patinkin's difficult professional nature reared its head again and he shocked the industry - and infuriated many of his co-stars and colleagues - when he abruptly stopped showing up for work after two seasons. In several interviews given before he dropped out, Patinkin spoke of his dislike of televised violence and his difficulty reconciling his participation in the series. Although his intentions might have been noble, Patinkin ended up leaving the series in the messiest possible manner and several of his castmates would later give interviews that cast the actor in a less than flattering light.
Off-screen, Patinkin overcame many health issues, including a degenerative eye disease called keratoconus that led to him receiving two corneal transplants, and a successful battle with prostate cancer. As always, singing remained his greatest and most unwavering of passions, and he returned to musical performance, landing a starring role in the London-based musical "Paradise Found" in 2010. The following year, he made a triumphant return to television with his subtle characterization of Saul Berenson, the CIA's Middle-East Division Chief and mentor to Claire Danes' passionate, emotionally disturbed agent Carrie Mathison on "Homeland" (Showtime, 2011- ). The critically acclaimed hit, based on the Israeli series "Hatufim" ("Kidnapped"), was the perfect showcase for Patinkin's larger-than-life gravitas, and he and Danes enjoyed an almost father-daughter-like onscreen chemistry that proved to be one of the show's many assets.
By Jonathan Riggs
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CAST: (feature film)
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Patinkin underwent corneal transplant surgery in May 1997.
New York Shakespeare Festival producer Joseph Papp in a 1987 interview said Patinkin was "worse than a perfectionist. A perfectionist reaches some degree of satisfaction. ..."
On his stint at Juilliard: "After six hours, I knew that I didn't want to be there; but I also knew that I wanted to get hold of some of the tools, in terms of being an actor--so I stuck it out for two-and-a-half years.
"There were some students who couldn't function under the guide rules. They fell apart or were thrown out. To try to be an actor is a very delicate thing; you're exposing your soul. To say to a person of 17 or 18 or 19, who loves doing this, 'You're no god; we don't want you,' is a horrible thing!" --Mandy Patinkin to TheaterWeek, August 7-13, 1989.
"His biggest goal is to become less obsessive about acting, particularly about becoming a big screen success. His new philosophy? 'Take supporting parts, come back to New York, and sing for a week, then do a play,' he says. 'In the end you'll be known for your body of work.'
To that end, he credits Rob Reiner, who directed "The Princess Bride", with a memorable piece of advice. 'I was agonizing over some little scene where I was supposed to be drunk,' recalls Patinkin. 'I was in my trailer pouring my heart out to Rob, telling him I was letting the movie down. He said these words to me, which are at the heart of my struggle: 'GET OUT OF YOUR WAY, MAN!' I love Rob for that. I will always have to work at getting out of my own way.'"
--From "On the Move: Actor Mandy Patinkin Battles His Perfectionist Tendencies--with a Solo Album of Scorching Heat" by John Stark in People (1989).
"I'm very immature, but I'm an actor." --Patinkin to James Brady in Parade Magazine, August 28, 1994.
"Patinkin's over-the-top performing style won't be to everyone's taste. In an era where cool is king, where irony and wry detachment are expected from performers, the Tony-winning actor-singer is unapologetically extravagant. Among other pop singers these days, perhaps only U2's Bono could match Patinkin's willingness to so fervently wear his emotions on his sleeve." --From Jonathan Taylor's review of "Mandy Patinkin in Concert" in Variety, January 28, 1996.
"I love the audiences, their response and the freshness of the day or that evening. I love the songs that speak to my heart, my insanity, the complicated things, the things that tell you how to have a great day, be a better father or husband or how to shut up and have a good time." --Patinkin on his concert appearances, quoted in IDaily News, February 18, 1996.
On critics, Patinkin told InTheater (October 23, 1998): "If it's a live performance, I try not to read them while I'm doing it because they will affect my mood. I save them and read them later. Good ones will give me advice and teach me things--I've learned from critics. You can see the difference between a kind-hearted, constructive criticism and someone who's trying to draw attention to themselves. But must critics say I'm over-the-top and too big. ... Because it's true! And I've often said that I won't disappoint my critics."
"Mandy Patinkin does admirably subtle work (that's right, you just read the words Mandy Patinkin and subtle in the same sentence) as Kenneth Duberstein, the savvy political operative who pushed the Bush administration's appointee through the Senate." --From Bruce Fretts' review of the Showtime movie "Strange Justice" in Entertainment Weekly, August 27, 1999.
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