Nathan Lane is a two-time Tony and Emmy award-winning American actor of stage and screen. He is best known for his roles as Albert in The Birdcage, Max Bialystock in the musical The Producers, Ernie Smuntz in MouseHunt, Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and his voice work in The Lion King and Stuart Little. In 2008, he was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.
Lane was born Joseph Lane in Jersey City, New Jersey, the son of Irish American Catholic
parents. He was named after his uncle, a Jesuit priest. His father, Daniel, was a truck driver and an aspiring tenor who died from alcoholism when Lane was eleven; his mother, Nora, was a housewife and secretary, who suffered from manic-depression, and died in 2000. He has two brothers, Robert and Daniel. Lane attended Roman Catholic schools in Jersey City, including Jesuit-run St. Peter’s Preparatory High School where he was selected Best Actor in 1974.
His brother Dan accompanied him to what was supposed to be his first day at St. Joseph’s College in Philadelphia. When they arrived, they learned the drama scholarship Lane had won didn’t cover enough of the expenses for him to stay. They went back home. “I remember him saying to me, ‘College is for people who don’t know what they want to do,'” Dan Lane recalls. Because there already was a Joseph Lane registered with Actors Equity, he changed his name to Nathan after the character Nathan Detroit from the musical Guys and Dolls. He moved to New York City where, after a long struggle, his career began to take off, first with some brief success in the world of stand-up comedy with partner, Patrick Stack, and later with off-Broadway productions at Second Stage Theatre, the Roundabout Theatre, the Manhattan Theatre Club, and his 1982 Broadway debut in a revival of Noel Coward’s Present Laughter as Roland Maule with George C. Scott, Kate Burton, Dana Ivey, and Christine Lahti.