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Steve Martin won an Emmy for his work on the "Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" in 1972 and less than a decade later returned to performance. It wasn't long before Martin was a comedy superstar, filling stadiums, releasing platinum records, coining catch-phrases ("Well excuuuse me!") and making zany, inspired appearances on "The Tonight Show" and "Saturday Night Live". He even enjoyed a highly popular single on the pop record charts with his half-spoken, half-sung comic rendition of "King Tut". Martin launched a successful film career with "The Jerk" (1979), a hilariously silly comedy whose success paved the way to feature careers for other 70s comedians including Robin Williams and Billy Crystal.
While Martin's laudably lowbrow early movies gave little indication of career longevity, the 80s saw him develop into a leading comic actor and capable dramatic player in films including the off-beat revisionist musical drama "Pennies From Heaven" (1981) and the unremarkable but pleasant mainstream comedy of "Parenthood" (1989). His most outstanding performances include his award-winning work in the farce "All of Me" (1984), in which his confused body had to accommodate the spirit of both his own personality as well as that of a woman (Lily Tomlin), and his surprisingly touching and graceful acting in "Roxanne" (1987), a modern-day comic revamp of "Cyrano de Bergerac."
In the 90s, Martin became a Hollywood hyphenate producing, writing and starring in the quirky romantic comedy "L.A. Story" (1991) opposite then-wife Victoria Tennant. Although fine in a dramatic stretch as a Joel Silver-like producer in Lawrence Kasdan's "Grand Canyon" (1991), he enjoyed perhaps his greatest commercial successes in light Disney comedies, starring as the put-upon dad in the remake of "Father of the Bride" (1991) and "Housesitter" (1992) as an uptight architect whose life is disrupted by female grifter Goldie Hawn. He reunited with Keaton in 1995 for the warm-hearted sequel "Father of the Bride II" and with Hawn for the lackluster 1999 remake of "Out of Towners". Whereas Martin's earlier films expertly showcased his manic qualities, his later work demonstrated his competence as a straight man and comic foil.
Martin subsequently attempted to stretch himself as a film performer but the results were uneven and commercially unsuccessful. He proved light on his feet if ultimately joyless and opaque playing a charlatan faith healer in the largely dramatic "Leap of Faith" (1992). Martin returned to Disney's Touchstone division for an atypical assignment as executive producer and scripter of "A Simple Twist of Fate" (1994), a polished yet problematic adaptation of George Eliot's "Silas Marner". He was effective as a gloomy recluse who reconnects with life by raising an infant girl abandoned on his doorstep but audiences detected a downer and steered clear. Martin returned to more conventional comedy with "Mixed Nuts" (1995), a remake of a French film ("Le Pere Noel est une ordure") about a telephone crisis center. The Christmas-themed comedy proved a critical and commercial disaster despite major talents before and behind the camera including writer-director Nora Ephron, Madeline Kahn, Rob Reiner, Juliette Lewis and Garry Shandling.
In 1993, Martin made his debut as a playwright with "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," a comic fantasy about a meeting between the celebrated painter and Albert Einstein in a Paris bar in 1904 shortly before they achieved worldwide fame. The one-act play started out in an Australian workshop and had its premiere in Chicago as a Steppenwolf Theatre Company presentation. The show became a hit in Los Angeles in 1994 where its originally scheduled six-week run was extended to nine months. "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" opened Off-Broadway in the fall of 1995 to respectable reviews and a healthy box office. "WASP and Other Plays" followed soon after at the Public Theater to further confirm Martin's status as a significant new voice on the theater scene.
Having taken a few years off from films to concentrate on his writing, Martin returned to the big screen in 1998 in two vastly different movie roles. He delivered a strong supporting turn as a mysterious businessman in David Mamet's psychological drama "The Spanish Prisoner" and lent his voice to the wily servant Hotep in DreamWorks' animated Moses musical "The Prince of Egypt". The following year he combined his two loves, penning the sharp, witty "Bowfinger" (1999), a hilarious satire that successfully skewered Hollywood stereotypes. Martin portrayed Bobby Bowfinger, an unsuccessful producer who convinces several other bottom feeders he has gotten the world's biggest action star (fellow "SNL" alum Eddie Murphy) to appear in his inane alien movie "Chubby Rain". In reality, he sets the C-list actors up to interact with Murphy in public so he can film the star without his knowledge. After a brief turn in director Stanley Tucci's serious-minded "Joe Gould's Secret" (2000), Martin continued to undertake more dramatic roles when he played a dentist suspected of murdering a patient in the thriller "Novocaine" (2001). Lest anyone think he had lost his sense of humor, Martin executive produced NBC's little-seen sketch comedy series "The Downer Channel" (2001) and displayed his rapier wit skewering Hollywood and his colleagues while genially hosting the Academy Awards ceremonies in 2001 and 2003.
The laugh-streak continued when Martin joined Grammy winner and Oscar nominee Queen Latifah for the hit comedy feature "Bringing Down The House" (2003). Martin portrayed a lonely, recently divorced attorney who decides to look for love on the Internet. What he finds is an incarcerated woman (played by Latifah) who breaks out of jail and wreaks havoc upon his ordinarily boring life. Later that year in "Looney Tunes: Back In Action"--a mix of live action and animation starring Bugs Bunny and the famous Warner Brothers cast of cartoon icons--Martin threw off his now well-worn uptight act and cut loose in the manic old school style of "The Jerk," playing the villainous Chairman of the Acme Corporation. Appearing in even further family-oriented fare, Martin teamed with Bonnie Hunt as the parents to a dozen demanding children in the mild 2003 remake of "Cheaper By the Dozen," a role he reprised for the 2005 sequel.
Off-screen, Martin developed a successful side career as a writer of prose. His 2001 novella "Shopgirl," about a depressed glove saleswoman at a Beverly Hills Neiman Marcus, was a bestseller, as was 1999's "Pure Drivel," a collection of his whimsically absurdist essays for New Yorker magazine. "Shopgirl" was ultimately translated into a 2005 film starring Martin, who also penned the screenplay, as the well-to-do suitor of a glove salesgirl in Beverly Hills (Claire Danes), who is also pursued by a less successful would-be beau (Jason Schwartzman). Martin then reprised his role as overburdened parent in the sequel "Cheaper By the Dozen 2" (2005). He then took on the iconic role of the classic Peter Sellers character Inspector Clouseau in the comedy remake "The Pink Panther" (2006)?a role some commented was too big for even Martin to fill.