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|Born||William Mills Irwin
April 11, 1950
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
William Mills "Bill" Irwin (born April 11, 1950) is an American actor and clown noted for his contribution to the renaissance of American circus during the 1970s. He is known for his vaudeville-style stage acts, but has made a number of appearances on film and television and won a Tony Award for a dramatic role on Broadway. He is known by children as Mr. Noodle on Sesame Street's Elmo's World.
Irwin was born in Santa Monica, California, the son of Elizabeth (née Mills), a teacher, and Horace G. Irwin, an aerospace engineer. He graduated from Oberlin College in 1973 with a degree in theater arts, and from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College the following year. In 1975, he helped found the Pickle Family Circus in San Francisco, California. He left the company in 1979, and decided to pursue stage work.
Irwin created a run of highly regarded stage shows that incorporated elements of clowning, often in collaboration with composer Doug Skinner. These works included The Regard of Flight (1982), Largely New York (1989), Fool Moon (1993), The Harlequin Studies (2003), and Mr. Fox: A Rumination (2004). Mr. Fox is a production that Irwin has worked on for years, a biography of 19th century clown George Washington Lafayette Fox that also has autobiographical elements.
Irwin adapted Molière's play Les Fourberies de Scapin as a comedy called Scapin, and has played the title role in several productions. His adaptation allowed him to interpolate his signature clowning routines into the course of the action.
In 1996, Irwin performed with The Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps at the 1996 Summer Olympics, in a "band on the run" sequence where he played Dr. Hubert Peterson of the fictitious Federation of United Marching Associations of America.
Although Irwin is best known for his theatrical clown work, he has also been featured in a number of dramatic plays. Irwin appeared in 1988 on stage with Steve Martin and Robin Williams for a production of Waiting for Godot in the role of Lucky. Lucky's only lines consist of a famous 500-word-long monologue, an ironic element for Irwin since much of his clown-based stage work was silent. He appeared in 2002 with Sally Field in the replacement cast of The Goat or Who is Sylvia?. In 2005, he starred alongside Kathleen Turner as George in a revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. He directed the 1998 Roundabout Theatre Company production of A Flea in Her Ear. In 2009, he played Vladimir (Didi) in a Broadway revival of Waiting for Godot, and Mr. McAfee in the Broadway revival of Bye Bye Birdie.
Irwin's first featured film role was in 1980, appearing as Ham Gravy in Robert Altman's Popeye starring Robin Williams. He has appeared in over 20 films, mainly in supporting roles. Irwin's principal film roles included My Blue Heaven, a 1990 comedy with Steve Martin and Rick Moranis, and Eight Men Out, which tells the true story of the "Black Sox" gambling scandal of 1919. Irwin tap-danced in a leading role in 1991's Stepping Out with Liza Minnelli and appeared as a mime in the Paul Mazursky film Scenes from a Mall alongside Woody Allen and Bette Midler. His authentic vaudevillian skills landed him a role in the Sam Shepard film Silent Tongue in 1994, and he appeared in film adaptations of How The Grinch Stole Christmas, The Laramie Project and A Midsummer Night's Dream. He played an ex-brain surgeon, house salesman in the Nickelodeon show The Adventures of Pete & Pete. In 2006, Irwin played the solitary Mr. Leeds in M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water and had a small role in 2007's Across the Universe. He received critical acclaim for his role as Paul, father to Anne Hathaway's character Kym, in the 2008 drama Rachel Getting Married.
His most notable television roles have been Enrico Ballati, "The Flying Man", on the television series Northern Exposure, Mr. Noodle in the Elmo's World segment of the PBS children's show Sesame Street and the "Dick & Jane" serial killer Nate Haskell on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
Irwin was featured in the 1988 music video of "Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin (along with McFerrin and Robin Williams). Irwin was also featured in HBO's 1997 production Subway Stories. He has also appeared on The Cosby Show, Saturday Night Live, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Law & Order and Lights Out. In 2011, Irwin guest starred in the pilot episode of A Gifted Man. He is starring in the 2013 medical drama television series, Monday Mornings, as Buck Tierney.
Awards and honors
Irwin was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Choreographer's Fellowship in 1981 and 1983. In 1984, he was named a Guggenheim Fellow and was the first performance artist to be awarded a 5-year MacArthur Fellowship.
For Largely New York, he won a New York Drama Critics Circle Special Citation in 1988, and an Outer Critics Circle Award and Drama Desk Award in 1989. This show also received five nominations for Tony Awards.
In 1992, he won an OBIE Award for his performance in Texts for Nothing. Together with David Shiner he won a special Tony Award for Live Theatrical Presentation in 1999 for their show Fool Moon. In 1993, this show already had won a Drama Desk Award for "Unique Theatrical Experience" and an Outer Critics Circle "Special Achievement" Award.
In 2010, The New Victory Theater presented Bill Irwin with the first ever New Victory Arts Award. He was honored for "bringing the arts to kids and kids to the arts." Nathan Lane and Jonathan Demme spoke at the ceremony.
Bill Irwin is also on the board of The New 42nd Street, Inc.
- Isherwood, Charles (4 March 2013). "Aging Clowns and Brand-New Gags: ‘Old Hats,’ With Bill Irwin and David Shiner". New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
- Brantley, Ben (8 November 2011). "A Fool, His King and the Madness That Engulfs Them". New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
- Gussow, Mel (11 May 2008). "How to Deal With Midlife: Keep Dancing". New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
- Bill Irwin Biography (1950-)
- DCI Cadets 1996 Olympics Performance
- Bill Irwin - Official Site http://www.bill-irwin.com/
- Bill Irwin at the Internet Movie Database
- Bill Irwin at the Internet Broadway Database
- Bill Irwin, Clown Prince. Great Performances (PBS). (2004)
- The Regard of Flight from the New York Times (Registration required) (1984)
- The Harlequin Studies (2003)
- Archive film of Bill Irwin performing Post-Modern Studies in 1983 at Jacob's Pillow