Even if he’d never played another role in his life after “Cabaret,” Joel Grey probably would be guaranteed at least a sliver of creative immortality. Seldom has an actor seemed more born to play a part, or embodied one more convincingly, than Grey did in “Cabaret” as the delectably decadent nightclub master of ceremonies in Nazi-era Berlin.
His Broadway performance in the 1966 John Kander and Fred Ebb musical, based on the writings of Christopher Isherwood, and the subsequent 1972 feature film directed by Bob Fosse, won him first the Tony Award and, later, an Oscar for best supporting actor.
But Grey went on to a richly varied career in stage, film and television, solidifying his stature over the years as an unconventional leading man as well as one of the most technically accomplished character actors around.
The son of Grace and Mickey Katz, an actor-comedian and musician, Grey made his acting debut at age 9 at the Cleveland Playhouse in “On Borrowed Time,” a fantasy.
He learned to tap dance while performing in the 1968 Broadway musical “George M!” Among his other Broadway credits are “Come Blow Your Horn” (1961), the acclaimed revival of “Chicago” (1996), and “Wicked” (2003), in which he created the role of the Wizard of Oz.
Concentrating on film and TV in the 1980s, he was cast as an elderly Korean man possessed with supernatural powers in “Remo: The First Adventure.” Among his other characteristically eclectic roles during his midlife phase were parts in Steven Soderbergh’s “Kafka” (1991) and a key part in CBS’ “Dallas” finale.
The end of the 1990s and the 21st century’s early years found the intrepid performer again taking artistic risks. He played a Czech former musical comedy star, opposite Icelandic pop star Bjork, in Lars von Trier’s stylishly bleak “Dancer In the Dark” (2000); earned a Drama Desk nomination for starring in Brian Friel’s comic drama “Give Me Your Answer Do!”; and he performed in Showtime’s adaptation of Armistead Maupin’s “Further Tales of the City.”
He has played Doc the demon on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and Ronald the angel in “Touched By an Angel.”
The father of actress Jennifer Grey, he also has directed in the theater, including a production of “Zorba” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
A photographer, Grey has published three books of his images, “Pictures I Had to Take,” “Looking Hard at Unexamined Things” and “1.3: Images From My Phone.”
|1972||Best Supporting Actor||Cabaret||Win|