Bob Balaban Biography

Bob Balaban photo

Born: August 16, 1945


Date of Birth: August 16, 1945/

Born in Chicago, Bob Balaban is the son of Elmer Balaban, who was one of seven brothers who built Chicago's first "super-colossal" theaters. One of the brothers, Barney, went on to become the chairman of Paramount Pictures in Hollywood, and his son became a director/producer, so it seemed natural that Bob would also get involved in show business one way or another. While in high school, he took a workshop at Second City, then went to Colgate University and NYU, as well as taking acting lessons with Uta Hagen. During summer breaks from school, Balaban worked in summer stock, then landed a role in a TV series during his sophomore year. During his junior year, Balaban played Linus in the original off-Broadway production of You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, then, during his senior year, he landed a part in a Broadway play directed by Mike Nichols, which led to his being offered a role in the feature film Catch-22, directed by Nichols. He next played a gay high school student who has a tryst with Jon Voight in the classic film, Midnight Cowboy (1969), although this was released prior to Catch-22 (1970). More roles in features followed, and in 1977, Balaban was cast as the cartographer/French translator in Steven Spielberg's huge hit, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Balaban later published a diary of his experiences working on the film.

In the 1980s, he began directing for television, and made his feature film directing debut with Parents (1989). Balaban continued to act, landing a variety of character roles requiring middle-aged, soft-spoken, balding men. He may be best known for playing the NBC executive who accepts, then declines, then accepts again a script written by George and Jerry on the hit sitcom Seinfeld.

Other credits include Jakob the Liar (1999) starring Robin Williams, The Mexican (2001) starring Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt, and The Majestic (2001) starring Jim Carrey. Balaban, along with Robert Altman, came up with the idea for the film Gosford Park (2001) and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, and a BAFTA award for Best British Film. Along with the other cast members, Balaban won a Screen Actors Guild award for Outstanding Performance by the Cast of a Theatrical Motion Picture for Gosford Park. Besides Altman, Balaban has worked with many other top directors, including Woody Allen, Sidney Lumet, Tim Robbins and Gore Verbinkski. After working with actor/director Christopher Guest in Waiting for Guffman (1996), Balaban found himself a regular niche in Guest's films, appearing in two more of his comedies, Best in Show (2000) and A Mighty Wind (2003). He most recently starred in The Monuments Men (2014) alongside George Clooney and Matt Damon.

Balaban lives in New York City with his wife, writer Lynn Grossman, and his daughters, Hazel and Mariah. He has had two fiction books published by Scholastic books, called It's a Dog's Life and Beware of Dog.

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