Like a bunch of folks online this morning, I saw news of Alan Arkin's passing. Then -- after doing a bit of searching -- it honestly started to look like it might've been one of those nefarious Information Superhighway hoaxes that go 'round the world these days. But as of a few moments ago it does appear as if major news organizations have done the confirmation process, assuring those of us who read their space that the incredibly talented actor has shaken off his mortal coil.
My God, what an incredibly gifted actor this guy was. Just a quick glance at IMDB.com right now shows that -- throughout a storied career -- he'd built a resume of nearly 30 award wins (from a variety of organizations). With over one hundred screen appearances to his name, I think his genre credentials are a bit slim for you young Turks, but us old dogs have nothing but respect for this guy. We've truly lost a giant.
His first big immersion into Science Fiction was 1980's SciFi/Comedy Simon. Marshall Brickman wrote and directed Arkin in this story of a man who is brainwashed to believe he's in reality a being from another planet. While The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards nominated it in their category of 'Most Painfully Unfunny Comedy,' the Academy Of Science Fiction, Fantasy, And Horror Awards still gave Arkin a nod in the category of 'Best Actor' for their 1981 Saturn Awards.
1983 saw the actor return to the SciFi/Comedy fold -- this time with a Musical -- when he joined co-star Christopher Lee in The Return Of Captain Invincible. Poking fun at aging superheroes, Arkin played for former Nazi hunter who comes out of retirement when Mr. Midnight (played by Lee) proves he isn't finished trying to destroy mankind just yet. While this one is largely a forgotten flick (so far as I can tell), it did garner a bit of praise while screening on the film festival circuit.
And speaking of superheroes? In 1991, Arkin appeared as part of a terrific ensemble aboard Walt Disney's adaptation of The Rocketeer. Though I found the film a bit half-baked, I did like the cast, and its effects work was definitely some of the best of their day. Every now and then, this is a property that gets floated around for either reboots or continuation, and I think that could be grand.
Perhaps the actor's biggest dip into something resembling pure Science Fiction was his turn as Detective Hugo aboard Andrew Niccol's Gattaca (1997). The film was a critical favorite, garnering an incredible amount of praise; and it did perform reasonably well at the box office. I'm not sure how well it has stood the test of time; come to think of it, even SciFi fans I'm friendly with never went ga-ga over it but found it worth the price of admission.
As I mentioned above, there's a solid library of work out there for folks to consider this weekend, maybe in some free time or the like. His was an almost effortless skill, and I think it deserves a bit of further recognition considering today's sad circumstances.
Our deepest thoughts and prayers are extended to the friends, family, and fans of Mr. Arkin. May he forever rest in peace.