skip navigation
Albert Brooks

Albert Brooks

Up
Down

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)

Recent DVDs

 
 

Looking For Comedy In The Muslim World... Albert Brooks directs the offbeat satire "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim... more info $5.98was $5.98 Buy Now

Private Benjamin / Protocol (Double... Goldie Hawn stars in "Private Benjamin" (1980) and "Protocol" (1984), two... more info $14.98was $14.98 Buy Now

The Twilight Zone - The Movie... A highly anticipated release for fantasy fans in the summer of 1983, Twilight... more info $5.98was $5.98 Buy Now

Out Of Sight DVD It's the film that turned George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez into genuine film... more info $12.98was $12.98 Buy Now

Out Of Sight / Intolerable Cruelty (Double... A double dose of George Clooney! First he pairs up with Jennifer Lopez in "Out... more info $14.98was $14.98 Buy Now

Taxi Driver: Collector's Edition... You know a film matters when every single compilation of "the best of Hollywood"... more info $19.99was $19.99 Buy Now



Also Known As: Albert Lawrence Einstein, A Brooks Died:
Born: July 22, 1947 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Los Angeles, California, USA Profession: actor, screenwriter, director, comedian, sportswriter, musician

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Once dubbed the West Coast Woody Allen for his cerebral brand of comedy, actor-writer-director Albert Brooks once turned down the Billy Crystal role in "When Harry Met Sally..." (1989) precisely because it read like a Woody Allen movie - a comparison he assiduously avoided. After receiving his start in show business as a stand-up comedian - a route he also wished to avoid - Brooks finally achieved his dream of becoming an actor when he made his first foray into features with a prominent supporting role in "Taxi Driver" (1976). He made his biggest contribution to movies as director, helming his first film, "Real Life" (1978), which many critics lauded as being the first and one of the best mocumentaries ever made. Returning to the director's chair following a sprinkling of small roles on the big screen, Brooks helmed the romantic comedy, "Modern Romance" (1981), before directing "Lost in America" (1985), his sharp satiric look at American materialism that many considered to be his finest work behind the camera. His best work in front of the lens came with "Broadcast News" (1987), playing a sympathetic news reporter - a role that earned him an Academy Award nomination. He returned to directing with the...

Once dubbed the West Coast Woody Allen for his cerebral brand of comedy, actor-writer-director Albert Brooks once turned down the Billy Crystal role in "When Harry Met Sally..." (1989) precisely because it read like a Woody Allen movie - a comparison he assiduously avoided. After receiving his start in show business as a stand-up comedian - a route he also wished to avoid - Brooks finally achieved his dream of becoming an actor when he made his first foray into features with a prominent supporting role in "Taxi Driver" (1976). He made his biggest contribution to movies as director, helming his first film, "Real Life" (1978), which many critics lauded as being the first and one of the best mocumentaries ever made. Returning to the director's chair following a sprinkling of small roles on the big screen, Brooks helmed the romantic comedy, "Modern Romance" (1981), before directing "Lost in America" (1985), his sharp satiric look at American materialism that many considered to be his finest work behind the camera. His best work in front of the lens came with "Broadcast News" (1987), playing a sympathetic news reporter - a role that earned him an Academy Award nomination. He returned to directing with the philosophical and funny "Defending Your Life" (1991), before helming the more underwhelming "Mother" (1996) and "The Muse" (1999). Though his output diminished in later years, including only one film as director in the new millennium - "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World" (2005) - Brooks nonetheless remained one of the most gifted and prolific comedic actors of his generation.

Born Albert Einstein on July 22, 1947 in Los Angeles, Brooks was raised in nearby Beverly Hills by his father, Harry Parke, a radio and film character actor best known for his Greek character Parkyakarkus on Eddie Cantor's radio show, and his mother, Thelma Leeds, a singer and actress who met her husband on the set of the musical "New Faces of 1937" (1937) before retiring from performing soon after. Also in the family were brothers Bob Einstein - a.k.a. daredevil comic Super Dave Osborne - and Clifford, later an advertising executive. Brooks began developing his comedy chops as the class clown at Beverly Hills High School, which he attended alongside Rob Reiner and Richard Dreyfuss. Because his mother wanted him to focus on a steady career, Brooks went on to attend the Carnegie Institute of Technology - later renamed Carnegie-Mellon University - only to drop out after two years and return to his hometown in order to become an actor. But work was hard to come by, which led to stand-up comedy by way of a ventriloquist act called Danny and Dave, in which he was the world's worst ventriloquist - his lips moved every time the dummy spoke.

The act was a hit and led to numerous television appearances, including on "The Steve Allen Westinghouse Show" (1962-68), "The Dean Martin Show" (NBC, 1965-1974) and most notably, "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (NBC, 1962-1992). Brooks also began opening for several musical acts from the day, like Neil Diamond, Richie Havens, and Sly and the Family Stone. But by this time he was getting further and further away from his desired goal of becoming an actor, despite assurances from his agent that traveling the comedy circuit would lead to such a career. Brooks graduated to touring clubs as a headliner following his first album, Comedy Minus One (1974), which led to performing two or three shows a night - a stressful schedule that began taking its toll on him. His success led to another comedy album, A Star Is Bought (1975), which earned a Grammy Award nomination. Eventually, however, he had a panic attack and nervous breakdown before stepping onstage to perform in Boston. After managing to collect himself in his hotel room, Brooks went on to deliver his routine, but soon left stand-up comedy altogether and started seeing a shrink.

Despite his stand-up comedy career being over, Brooks was offered a permanent hosting gig on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) by producer Lorne Michaels, only to turn the job offer down. Instead, he made six short comedy films - including one where he performed open heart surgery - and left the show amidst disgruntlement with the regular cast. Brooks finally made some headway in his acting career with a supporting role as an annoying campaign worker who senses something wrong with the man (Robert De Niro) his co-worker (Cybill Shepherd) has agreed to date in Martin Scorsese's gritty classic, "Taxi Driver" (1976). Two years later, he took his first shot at directing a feature with "Real Life" (1978), a satirical take on the PBS series "An American Family," in which he starred as a documentarian who films for the typical American family, only to find them incredibly boring and so alters real events to make them more cinematic. Striking a clear balance between humor and social criticism - which remained a hallmark of his later work - Brooks built off his "SNL" shorts to become one of the better mocumentary filmmakers.

Having gained a greater degree of autonomy with his entre as a director, Brooks maintained a steady onscreen presence. Following a small turn as the newly wed husband who dies following an orgasm after sex with Goldie Hawn in "Private Benjamin" (1980), Brooks returned to the director's chair with "Modern Romance" (1981), an extremely funny look at a neurotic man (Brooks) attempting to find love in Hollywood with a bank executive, played by his real-life companion, Kathryn Harrold. After a supporting turn opposite Dudley Moore and Nastassja Kinski in "Unfaithfully Yours" (1984), he directed then-companion Julie Hagerty in his road comedy, "Lost in America" (1985), which brought him an increased legion of fans atop a bevy of critical kudos. The film's meticulous observation of two disillusioned yuppies (Brooks and Hagerty) who liquidate their assets and buy a Winnebago, struck a chord with people who secretly longed to act on the youthful, irresponsible fantasy of dropping out of society. Full of pointed commentary on 1980s materialism, "Lost in America" stood as one of Brooks' finest directorial achievements.

Brooks followed with one of his best acting performances when he played the talented, but luckless television journalist who sweats a lot on screen in "Broadcast News" (1987), directed by friend James L. Brooks. The director's satirical look at the inner workings of a Washington D.C. television news bureau allowed Brooks the opportunity to play a sympathetic character, which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor and a significantly higher public profile. Returning to directing his own material, he helmed his fourth feature, "Defending Your Life" (1991), a speculative comedy with Brooks as a self-obsessed, recently deceased executive who, after being unable to learn from his mistakes in life, must face his past in order to continue in the afterlife. Along the way, he falls in love with a brave, deceased woman (Meryl Streep), whose advancement to the next stage is all but certain. Boasting enjoyably broad performances by Brooks, Streep and Rip Torn, the one-joke script eventually wore thin, though in the end the film was enjoyable overall.

After portraying a strident Hollywood producer of slick action films in "I'll Do Anything" (1994), Brooks stared as "The Scout" (1994), a baseball fantasy based on an old Andrew Bergman baseball script which he and longtime collaborator Monica Johnson rewrote for director Michael Ritchie. Unfortunately, that year's Major League Baseball strike, which canceled the World Series for the first time in 90 years, sank the slim commercial chances of a comedy that never quite recovered from its detour to drama. Brooks went back to directing for "Mother" (1996), a midlife-crisis comedy about a twice-divorced sci-fi author (Brooks), who moves back home with his mother (Debbie Reynolds) and brother (Rob Morrow) in order to figure out why he has problems with women. Though earning only $19 million at the box office, "Mother" became the highest-grossing film directed by Brooks to date. Following a turn as a 65-year-old alcoholic surgeon in Sidney Lumet's medical satire "Critical Care" (1997) and a voiceover role as the suicidal tiger in "Dr. Dolittle" (1997), he had a small, but memorable supporting role in "Out of Sight" (1998) as a billionaire and convicted felon, whose loose lips inside prison attract a motley crew - including a charming ex-con (George Clooney) and a violent thug (Don Cheadle) - to his home in suburban Detroit in order to steal a fortune in uncut diamonds.

Three years after "Mother," Brooks helmed, co-wrote again with Johnson, and starred as a Hollywood screenwriter struggling for inspiration in "The Muse" (1999), which also starred Sharon Stone as the titular source of creativity. Also featuring Jeff Bridges and Andie MacDowell, plus a slew of celebrity cameos, including Martin Scorsese, Rob Reiner and James Cameron, Brooks' show business satire was the first of his own films that perhaps demonstrated he had begun losing his edge. Stepping outside of his own image, Brooks received an abundance of critical praise for his turn in director Christine Lahti's unassuming indie debut, "My First Mister" (2001), playing a finicky clothing store owner who embarks on a relationship with a Goth-like, tattooed 17-year-old employee (Leelee Sobieski). After voicing Marlin the Clownfish who searches for his lost son in Pixar's animated phenomenon, "Finding Nemo" (2003), Brooks teamed with Michael Douglas for the rather flaccid remake of "The In-Laws" (2003), playing a neurotic dentist opposite Douglas' die-hard CIA agent. He returned to stand-up - sort of - for "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World" (2005), in which he played a fictional version of himself as he travels India and Pakistan with two State Department officials (John Carroll Lynch and Jon Tenney) trying to figure out what makes Muslims laugh. He next voiced Russ Cargill, the villain in "The Simpsons Movie" (2007), before appearing as the estranged father of Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) for six episodes of the critically acclaimed series, "Weeds" (Showtime, 2005- ) in 2008. Brooks went against type to play the smiling but brutal mobster Bernie Rose opposite Ryan Gosling's unnamed antihero in the indie neo-noir, "Drive" (2011), which earned him an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

2.
  Muse, The (1999) Director
3.
  Mother (1996) Director
4.
  Defending Your Life (1991) Director
5.
  Lost in America (1985) Director
6.
  Modern Romance (1981) Director
7.
  Real Life (1979) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Finding Dory (2016)
3.
4.
 This Is 40 (2012)
5.
7.
 In-Laws, The (2003) Jerry Peyser
8.
 Finding Nemo (2003) Marlin
9.
 My First Mister (2001) Randall ("R")
10.
 Muse, The (1999) Steven Phillips
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1962:
Worked as sportswriter for KMPC in Los Angeles, CA
:
Worked as a stand-up comic
1968:
Made his TV debut, performing his stand-up act on "The Steve Allen Show" (syndicated)
1969:
Performed as a regular on the summer variety series "Dean Martin Presents the Golddiggers" (NBC)
:
Provided the voices of Mickey Barnes and Kip for the ABC animated series "Hot Wheels"
1969:
Received first TV writing credit for the ABC variety series "Turn On"
1971:
Made first directorial effort, adapting his <i>Esquire</i> article, "Albert Brooks' Famous School for Comedians" for the PBS series "The Great American Dream Machine"
1973:
Released first comedy album <i>Comedy Minus One</i>
:
Wrote, produced and directed six short films during the first season of NBC's "Saturady Night Live"
1975:
Released second comedy album <i>A Star Is Bought</i>; received Grammy nomination
1976:
Made his feature acting debut playing a campaign worker in Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver"
1979:
Directed, co-wrote (with Monica Johnson and Harry Shearer), and starred in "Real Life"
1980:
Appeared in "Private Benjamin" as Goldie Hawn's short-lived husband
1981:
Directed and starred in "Modern Romance"; also re-teamed with Johnson to co-write
1983:
Credited as A Brooks for supplying Rudyard's voice in James L Brooks' "Terms of Endearment"
1985:
Co-wrote (with Johnson) and directed "Lost in America"; also co-starred opposite Julie Hagerty
1987:
Received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his role in James L Brooks' "Broadcast News"
1991:
Co-starred with Meryl Streep in the comedy "Defending Your Life"; also directed and co-wrote (with Johnson)
1994:
Re-teamed with James L Brooks for "I'll Do Anything"
1996:
Played a middle-aged writer moving back home to resolve tensions between himself and his mother (Debbie Reynolds) in the well received comedy feature "Mother"; also directed and co-wrote (with Johnson)
1997:
Played a 65-year-old alcoholic surgeon in Sidney Lumet's "Critical Care"
1998:
Provided the voice of a suicidal tiger in the live-action "Dr. Dolittle"
1998:
Played an untrustworthy banker and ex-convict who teams up with George Clooney in Steven Soderbergh's "Out of Sight"
1999:
Co-starred with Sharon Stone in the romantic comedy "The Muse"; also directed and co-wrote (with Johnson)
2001:
Starred in the independent dark comedy "My First Mister"
2003:
Co-starred in the Andrew Fleming comedy "The In-Laws"
2006:
Wrote and directed the comedy "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World"; also co-starred
2007:
Joined the cast for "The Simpsons Movie" as Russ Cargill, the film's villain
2008:
Joined the Showtime series "Weeds" as Nancy's (Mary-Louise Parker) estranged father-in-law
2011:
Appeared in the action film "Drive" opposite Ryan Gosling
2012:
Featured opposite Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann in "This Is 40," directed by Judd Apatow
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Beverly Hills High School: Beverly Hills , California -
Carnegie Institute of Technology: Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania - 1966 - 1968

Notes

About why he came aboard as star and script doctor for "The Scout": "I like to write, but I wanted to take a job. In Hollywood, people thought I would work only for myself or Jim Brooks. I wanted to say, 'That's not true.'

"I came across this script which had been around a long time and was inspired by Roger Angell's The New Yorker article on Fernando Valenzuala.

"Most Hollywood comedies are miserable. There are 80 laughs in this--and not one from fart jokes. In this day and age, that's something." --Albert Brooks, to Stephen Schaefer from New York Post, September 26, 1994.

On turning down Lorne Michaels' offer to be the sole host of the original "Saturday Night Live": "Fame isn't the goal. It's better to be known by six people for something you're proud of than by 60 million for something you're not." --Brooks quoted in People, January 27, 1997.

About his feature acting debut in Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver": "My role was only indicated in the script, so I had to write it. Paul Scharader [the film's screenwriter] once said the funniest thing to me. He said, 'Thank you, I didn't understand that character.' And I thought, That's the character you don't understand? You understand Harvey Keitel and Travis Bickle perfectly, but the guy who works at the campaign office you're not sure of?" --Brooks to Premiere, January 1997.

"I've always felt like I work in a small little area that doesn't represent ANYTHING like the rest of society." --Brooks quoted in Entertainment Weekly, April 30, 1999.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Carrie Fisher. Actor, writer. Carrie's mother Debbie Reynolds used to try to convince the pair to wed, prompting her daughter's retort: "Mother, there can't be two neurotic parents!".
companion:
Linda Ronstadt. Singer. Lived with her for two years during the 1970s.
companion:
Kathryn Harrold. Actor. Co-starred with her in "Modern Romance" (1981).
companion:
Julie Hagerty. Actor. Acted opposite her in "Lost in America" (1985).
wife:
Kimberly Shlain. Multi-media creative director. Married on March 15, 1997 in San Francisco, California; born c. 1965; mother of Jacob and Claire.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Harry Einstein. Comedian, actor. Born in 1904; died in 1958; best known for his Greek dialect character Parkyarkarkus; appeared in "Strike Me Pink" (1936), "New Faces of 1937" (1937), "Night Spot" (1938), "Sweethearts of the U.S.A." (1944), "Out of This World" (1945), and "Earl Carroll's Vanities" (1945); had Paget's disease, a rare spinal cord problem, but died of a heart attack at a Friars Club banquet roast of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
mother:
Thelma Einstein. Former actor. Born c. 1912; met husband shooting "New Faces of 1937".
brother:
Clifford Einstein. Advertising executive. Older; came up with unique trailer for "Mother" which played before showings of "Mission: Impossible" in 1996.
brother:
Bob Einstein. Stuntman, writer, performer. Played a sporting-goods salesman in brother's "Modern Romance" (1981).
son:
Jacob Eli Brooks. Born on October 1, 1998; mother, Kimberly Brooks.
daughter:
Claire Elizabeth Brooks. Born on March 27, 2000; mother, Kimberly Brooks.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute