Known for his outrageous, divinely comedic performances on stage and screen, Nathan Lane has led a career encompassing Broadway, television, and film. Born Joe Lane in Jersey City, New Jersey on February 3, 1956, Lane took his stage name from Nathan Detroit, the character he played to great acclaim in the 1992 Broadway version of Guys and Dolls.
Lane made his film debut in 1987's Ironweed, and he spent the rest of the 1980s and early 1990s playing secondary roles in films like Joe Versus the Volcano (1990), Frankie and Johnny (1991), and Addams Family Values (1993). During this time, his stage career was thriving; in addition to his celebrated turn in Guys and Dolls (for which he won a Tony nomination, as well as Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards), he frequently collaborated with playwright Terrence McNally, who cast him in a number of his plays, including The Lisbon Traviata, in which Lane played an opera queen, and Love! Valour! Compassion!, in which he starred as Buzz, an HIV-positive musical aficionado who provides much of the play's comic relief and genuine anger. The actor won particular acclaim for his portrayal of the latter character, taking home Obie and Drama Desk Awards, as well as other honors, for his work.
In 1994, the same year that he starred in the stage version of Love! Valour! Compassion! (his role was played in the film version by Jason Alexander), Lane gained fame of a different sort, lending his voice to Timon, a hyperactive meerkat in Disney's animated The Lion King. He reprised the role for the extremely successful movie's 1998 sequel. Two years after playing a meerkat, Lane finally became widely visible to screen audiences as Robin Williams' flamboyantly limp-wristed lover in The Birdcage, Mike Nichols' remake of La Cage aux Folles. The film helped to establish Lane--who was at the time starring on Broadway in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum--as a comic actor worthy of big-screen exposure, and in 1997 he was given his own vehicle to display his talents, Mouse Hunt. Unfortunately, the film was a relative disappointment, as was Encore! Encore!, a 1998 sitcom that cast the actor as a Pavorotti-like opera singer alongside Glenne Headly and Joan Plowright. However, Lane continued to work steadily, appearing both on stage and in film. In 1999, he could be seen in At First Sight and Get Bruce, a documentary about comic writer Bruce Vilanch. The same year, he could also be heard in Stuart Little, a live action/animated adaptation of E.B White's celebrated children's book.
Over the coming years, Lane would appear in several films, including a new big screen adaptation of The Producers and the fairy tale Mirror Mirror.