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Lane, Nathan (b. 1956)  
 
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A highly-acclaimed actor, Nathan Lane has appeared on stage, screen, and television. He has starred in Broadway productions of Guys and Dolls, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Love! Valour! Compassion! and The Producers. He has received numerous acting honors, including two Antoinette Perry (Tony) Awards. Openly gay himself, he has portrayed gay characters in several plays and also on screen in Frankie and Johnny and The Birdcage.

One of the most accomplished comic actors of his generation, Lane has an appealing presence that has earned him the admiration of legions of fans and critics. Although his metier is that of comedy, he is remarkably versatile. As Alex Witchel has observed, "Lane is an outsize talent who can belt it to the balcony and back, cajoling and beguiling with song, laughs, a few lumps in the throat. With his classic clown's face, part bulldog, part choirboy, he can be good and evil, smart and stupid, funny and sad, sometimes all in one number."

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The youngest of three sons of Daniel Lane, a truck driver, and Nora Lane, a secretary, he was born Joseph Lane on February 3, 1956, in Jersey City, New Jersey. Around the time of his birth, his father's eyesight began to fail. Unemployed, the father fell victim to alcoholism and eleven years later "drank himself to death," according to his son.

When Lane was in his early teens, his mother began to suffer from manic depression severe enough to require occasional hospitalization. Lane's older brother Daniel became a surrogate father to him and encouraged his love of reading and theater.

Lane began acting while attending St. Peter's Preparatory School in Jersey City. He won a drama scholarship to St. Joseph's College in Philadelphia, but even with the award, the family could not afford the expense of college, and so he began working as an actor.

As Lane established himself in the profession by performing in dinner theater and children's productions, he supplemented his income with various jobs, including telemarketing, conducting surveys for the Harris poll, and delivering singing telegrams.

At the age of twenty-two Lane registered with Actors' Equity. Since there was already a performer listed as Joe Lane, he changed his first name from Joseph to Nathan after the character Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, whom he had played in dinner theater the previous year.

With Patrick Stark, Lane formed a comedy team called Stark and Lane. The duo, based in Los Angeles, worked at clubs, opened concerts, and made occasional television appearances. After a couple of years Lane quit the act, which was not particularly profitable because of the travel expenses involved. In addition, Lane wanted to return to New York.

Before leaving California, Lane auditioned for and won a part in One of the Boys, a situation comedy starring Mickey Rooney. The series, which was filmed in New York, ran for only thirteen episodes in 1982, but it brought Lane to the attention of the public.

In the same year Lane made his Broadway debut, playing Roland Maule in Noël Coward's Present Laughter, directed by George C. Scott. His performance met with critical approval, and he went on to appear in a number of plays, including Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer (1984, directed by Daniel Gerroll), Shakespeare's Measure for Measure (1985, directed by Joseph Papp), Simon Gray's The Common Pursuit (1986-1987, directed by Simon Gray and Michael McGuire), and August Darnell and Eric Overmyer's A Pig's Valise (1989, directed by Graciela Daniele), as well as two unsuccessful musicals, Elmer Bernstein and Don Black's Merlin (1982-1983, directed by Frank Dunlop) and William Perry's Wind in the Willows (1985-1986, staged by Tony Stevens).

In 1987 Lane made his film debut playing a ghost in Hector Babenco's Ironweed, based on the novel by William Kennedy.

In 1989 Lane played his first gay role as Mendy in Terrence McNally's The Lisbon Traviata, directed by John Tillinger. His performance earned him the Drama Desk award for best actor in a play.

Lane's association with McNally has been long and successful. In 1990, he acted in McNally's Bad Habits (directed by Paul Benedict), while in 1991, he appeared in the playwright's Lips Together, Teeth Apart (directed by Tillinger). In the latter he played a character.

In the early 1990s Lane had roles in half a dozen films, including Frankie and Johnny (1991, directed by Garry Marshall), which was based on a play by McNally. In it he played the gay friend of Frankie, the female lead.

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