Albert Brooks


Actor, Director, Screenwriter
Albert Brooks

About

Also Known As
Albert Lawrence Einstein, A Brooks
Birth Place
Los Angeles, California, USA
Born
July 22, 1947

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 finall...

Family & Companions

Carrie Fisher
Companion
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!".
Linda Ronstadt
Companion
Singer. Lived with her for two years during the 1970s.
Kathryn Harrold
Companion
Actor. Co-starred with her in "Modern Romance" (1981).
Julie Hagerty
Companion
Actor. Acted opposite her in "Lost in America" (1985).

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.

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 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, 2005-12) 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.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (2006)
Director
The Muse (1999)
Director
Mother (1996)
Director
Defending Your Life (1991)
Director
Lost in America (1985)
Director
Modern Romance (1981)
Director
Real Life (1979)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019)
Voice
Finding Dory (2016)
Voice
Little Prince (2016)
Voice
The Secret Life of Pets (2016)
Voice
Concussion (2015)
A Most Violent Year (2014)
This Is 40 (2012)
The Simpsons Movie (2007)
Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (2006)
Himself
Finding Nemo (2003)
Marlin
The In-Laws (2003)
My First Mister (2001)
The Muse (1999)
Out of Sight (1998)
Critical Care (1997)
Mother (1996)
The Scout (1994)
I'll Do Anything (1994)
Burke Adler
Defending Your Life (1991)
Broadcast News (1987)
Lost in America (1985)
Unfaithfully Yours (1984)
Twilight Zone--The Movie (1983)
Modern Romance (1981)
Private Benjamin (1980)
Real Life (1979)
Taxi Driver (1976)

Writer (Feature Film)

Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (2006)
Screenplay
The Muse (1999)
Screenplay
Mother (1996)
Screenplay
The Scout (1994)
Screenplay
Defending Your Life (1991)
Screenplay
Lost in America (1985)
Screenplay
Modern Romance (1981)
Screenplay
Real Life (1979)
Screenplay

Music (Feature Film)

Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (2006)
Song Performer
Mother (1996)
Theme Lyrics

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (2006)
Other

Cast (Special)

100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time (2004)
The ShoWest Awards (1997)
Performer
Make Believe: The Making of "I'll Do Anything" (1994)
General Electric's All-Star Anniversary (1978)
Milton Berle's Mad Mad Mad World of Comedy (1975)

Life Events

1962

Worked as sportswriter for KMPC in Los Angeles, CA

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)

1969

Received first TV writing credit for the ABC variety series "Turn On"

1971

Made first directorial effort, adapting his Esquire article, "Albert Brooks' Famous School for Comedians" for the PBS series "The Great American Dream Machine"

1973

Released first comedy album Comedy Minus One

1975

Released second comedy album A Star Is Bought; 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

Photo Collections

Taxi Driver - Lobby Card Set
Taxi Driver - Lobby Card Set

Videos

Movie Clip

Real Life (1979) - Etinauer 226-XL Director and star Albert Brooks (as "himself," a comedian turned documentary film-maker) talks about the special gear chosen for his scientific observation of the Yeager family in Real Life, 1979.
Real Life (1979) - It's Not Degrading! Director and star Albert Brooks assures doctors Cleary and Hill (J.A. Preston and Matthew Tobin) about his documentary as they arrive to meet the Yeagers (Charles Grodin, Frances Lee McCain et al) in Real Life, 1979.
Real Life (1979) - First Supper Charles Grodin (as "Warren") and Frances Lee McCain (as "Jeanette") in their first "at home" episode as the family goes under the microscope in Albert Brooks' 1979 "Mockumentary," Real Life.
Modern Romance (1981) - I Don't Feel Real Good Writer, director and star Albert Brooks, as film editor Bob Cole, with Kathryn Harrold as girlfriend Mary, in the unadorned and tone-setting opening of Modern Romance, 1981.
Modern Romance (1981) - If You Were A Bird Back in his apartment on the night he's broken up with his girlfriend, movie editor Bob (writer and director Albert Brooks) calls back friend and assistant Jay (Bruno Kirby), who's given him two Quaaludes, and flounders, in Modern Romance, 1981.
Taxi Driver (1976) - Put Your Glasses On First scene for Albert Brooks as Tom and first speaking scene for Cybil Shepherd as Betsy, at the campaign office, certainly the funniest piece of Paul Schrader’s script, Robert DeNiro as title character Travis Bickle lurking outside, in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, 1976.
Broadcast News (1987) - How Do You Say No To That? Rising reporter Tom (William Hurt) growing into his role, with editor Bobby (Christian Clemens), then his story (with date-rape victim Marita Geraghty) watched in the newsroom, Aaron (Albert Brooks), producer Jane (Holly Hunter) and anchor Jack Nicholson reacting, in Broadcast News., 1987.
Broadcast News (1987) - Along The Nicaraguan Border Reporter Aaron (Albert Brooks) and producer Jane (Holly Hunter) under fire in Nicaragua, followed by one of her crying fits, then in the control room with exec Ernie (Robert Prosky), assistant Blair (Joan Cusack), new-hire Tom (William Hurt) and anchorman Bill (Jack Nicholson), in Broadcast News, 1987.
Broadcast News (1987) - We're Not Gonna Make It! Newsroom action scene stolen by desperate Joan Cusack's barrelling run with a videotape, producer Jane (Holly Hunter) with editor Bobby (Christian Clemens), reporter Aaron (Albert Brooks) in support and newly-hired Tom (William Hurt) dazzled, in James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News, 1987.
Modern Romance (1981) - You Want Happiness? The morning after breaking up with his girlfriend, Bob (writer and director Albert Brooks) plans his new life, seeking vitamins, then sporting goods, sold by Brooks' older brother Bob Einstein (later famous as "Super Dave Osborne"), in Modern Romance, 1981.
Real Life (1979) - Something's Gotta Give Comic turned documentarian Albert Brooks (as "himself") warms up a crowd of citizens in Phoenix with his modified version of Johnny Mercer's "Something's Gotta Give," in an early scene from Real Life, 1979.
Real Life (1979) - Phoenix Albert Brooks (narrating as comedian turned documentarian "Albert Brooks") extols an improbable set of details as he fills in the audience about Phoenix, Arizona in Real Life, 1979.

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Family

Harry Einstein
Father
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.
Thelma Einstein
Mother
Former actor. Born c. 1912; met husband shooting "New Faces of 1937".
Clifford Einstein
Brother
Advertising executive. Older; came up with unique trailer for "Mother" which played before showings of "Mission: Impossible" in 1996.
Bob Einstein
Brother
Stuntman, writer, performer. Played a sporting-goods salesman in brother's "Modern Romance" (1981).
Jacob Eli Brooks
Son
Born on October 1, 1998; mother, Kimberly Brooks.
Claire Elizabeth Brooks
Daughter
Born on March 27, 2000; mother, Kimberly Brooks.

Companions

Carrie Fisher
Companion
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!".
Linda Ronstadt
Companion
Singer. Lived with her for two years during the 1970s.
Kathryn Harrold
Companion
Actor. Co-starred with her in "Modern Romance" (1981).
Julie Hagerty
Companion
Actor. Acted opposite her in "Lost in America" (1985).
Kimberly Shlain
Wife
Multi-media creative director. Married on March 15, 1997 in San Francisco, California; born c. 1965; mother of Jacob and Claire.

Bibliography

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.