Born: May 15, 1940
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Lainie Kazan (born May 15, 1940) is an American actress and singer. She was nominated for the 1988 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for St. Elsewhere and the 1993 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for My Favorite Year. She was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her role in My Favorite Year (1982). Kazan played Maria Portokalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and its sequel film My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.
Kazan was born Lainie Levine in Brooklyn, New York City, The daughter of Carole (née Kazan) and Ben Levine, Kazan's mother was Sephardic Jewish whose family came from Jerusalem, her father was of Russian Ashkenazi Jewish descent and worked as a gambling bookmaker. Kazan has described her mother as "neurotic, fragile and artistic." She attended Brooklyn's Erasmus Hall High School, where she was a senior while Barbra Streisand, whom she would later understudy, was a sophomore. Kazan went on to graduate from Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, on Long Island, in 1960. While at Hofstra, Kazan appeared in school musicals written and directed by a fellow classmate, future Academy Award-winning director Francis Ford Coppola.
Kazan made her Broadway debut in 1961 with the musical The Happiest Girl in the World. She appeared the following year in another musical, Bravo Giovanni, and in 1963 served as Barbra Streisand's understudy for the lead role of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl. When Streisand was unable to perform due to a throat condition, Kazan took her place in both a matinee and evening performance for one day of the show's run.
Her popularity increasing, Kazan posed nude for the October 1970 issue of Playboy, which was reused in Pocket Playboy #4, issued in 1974. Her appearance in the magazine opened the door for her to headline at and operate two different Playboy Jazz Clubs. Overseen by Hugh Hefner himself, the clubs were called "Lainie’s Lounge East" and "Lainie's Lounge West", each on opposite coasts, with one located in Manhattan and the other in Los Angeles. Her Playboy photographs inspired the look of Jack Kirby’s DC Comics superheroine, Big Barda.
Along with appearing in numerous supper clubs across the country, Kazan guest-starred on Dean Martin’s variety series twenty-six times. Other television work includes a recurring role as Aunt Frieda on the Fran Drescher sitcom The Nanny, the mother of Kirstie Alley's character on Veronica’s Closet, guest roles on St. Elsewhere that resulted in an Emmy nomination). Other television work includes The Paper Chase, Touched by an Angel, and Will & Grace as Grace's Aunt Honey.
One of her better known recent film roles was as Maria Portokalos, mother of Nia Vardalos's lead character Toula Portokalos in the films My Big Fat Greek Wedding and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. Following the first film in the franchise, Kazan was featured in My Big Fat Greek Life, a short-lived series based on the movie. Other recent film work includes the mother of Adam Sandler’s character in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Although the scene was deleted in the feature film, it is included on the DVD in the special features section. Kazan had appeared as the once-renowned singer Ava St. Clair with Chuck and Larry co-star Kevin James in two episodes of The King of Queens, a TV series with James in the lead role.
A life member of The Actors Studio, Kazan returned to Broadway to recreate her film role for the musical adaptation of My Favorite Year, earning a Tony Award nomination for her performance. She completed a stint in The Vagina Monologues. She has also appeared in regional productions of A Little Night Music, Man of La Mancha, Gypsy, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Hello, Dolly!, and Fiddler on the Roof, among others. In 1984, she made a guest appearance on the Faerie Tale Theatre episode “Pinocchio” as Sophia the Blue Fairy.
She appeared in an episode of Ugly Betty, playing the mother of Bobby, who was soon to become the central character’s brother-in-law. She appeared in one episode, "Fire and Nice". In 2010, Kazan joined the cast of Desperate Housewives for Season 7. She played the role of a self-employed business owner and neighbor to Susan.
After meeting musical director-arranger Peter H.B. Daniels on the Broadway musical Funny Girl, in which Kazan was a cast-member and he was associate orchestra conductor, the two began a five-year relationship. They married sometime after the 1971 birth of their daughter, Jennifer. The marriage did not last, and Kazan was single again by 1976.
In the mid-1970s, Kazan was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Since then, she has dedicated time to public education about DVT. On April 9, 2016, Kazan was injured in a head-on collision. Kazan was driving her sport utility vehicle when the collision occurred in front of a Greek restaurant in Sherman Oaks, California. Kazan was hospitalized following the crash.
Beginning in 2012, Kazan became an adjunct professor at UCLA, teaching acting classes and directing her students in drama-department production. She has served on the boards of the Young Musicians’ Foundation, AIDS Project LA, and B'nai Brith, the California Jazz Foundation, and her alma mater, Hofstra University.
|1968||Dayton's Devils||Leda Martell|
|1968||Lady in Cement||Maria Baretto|
|1971||Romance of a Horsethief||Estusha|
|1982||One from the Heart||Maggie|
|1982||My Favorite Year||Belle Carroca|
|1985||Lust in the Dust||Marguerita Ventura|
|1985||The Journey of Natty Gann||Connie|
|1986||The Delta Force||Sylvia Goldman|
|1987||Harry and the Hendersons||Irene Moffitt|
|1987||Medium Rare||Helga Costas|
|1988||Out of the Dark||Hooker / Nancy|
|1989||Eternity||Mother / Berneice||Uncredited|
|1991||29th Street||Mrs. Pesce|
|1992||I Don't Buy Kisses Anymore||Sarah Fishbine|
|1993||The Cemetery Club||Selma|
|1996||Love Is All There Is||Sadie Capomezzo|
|1996||Movies Money Murder||Sylvia|
|1996||The Associate||Cindy Mason|
|1997||Allie & Me||Camille Alexander|
|1998||The Big Hit||Jeanne Shulman|
|1998||Permanent Midnight||Jerry's Mother at Funeral||Uncredited|
|1998||The Unknown Cyclist||Rachel|
|1999||Mike & Spike Movie|
|2000||What's Cooking?||Ruth 'Ruthie' Seelig|
|2000||Bruno||Sister Mary Perpetua|
|2000||The Crew||Pepper Lowenstein|
|2000||The Dress Code|
|2002||My Big Fat Greek Wedding||Maria Portokalos|
|2002||Eight Crazy Nights||Old Woman||Singing voice|
|2003||Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There||Documentary|
|2003||A Good Night to Die||Diane|
|2004||Red Riding Hood||Grandma|
|2005||Whiskey School||Hedy Seligman|
|2007||Bratz: The Movie||Bubbie|
|2007||Beau Jest||Miriam Goldman|
|2008||You Don't Mess with the Zohan||Gail|
|2009||Oy Vey! My Son Is Gay!!||Shirley Hirsch|
|2010||Expecting Mary||Lillian Littlefeather|
|2012||Divorce Invitation||Elaine Lipnicks|
|2016||My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2||Maria Portokalos|
|1962||Car 54, Where Are You?||Girl at bar||Episode: "Je T'Adore Muldoon"|
|1965||Ben Casey||Della||Episode: "Why Did the Day Go Backwards?"|
|1969||The Dean Martin Show|
|1977||A Love Affair: The Eleanor and Lou Gehrig Story||Sophie Tucker||Television film|
|1978||Columbo||Valerie Kirk||Episode: "Make Me a Perfect Murder"|
|1980||A Cry for Love||Tina Weathersby||Television film|
|1983||Sunset Limousine||Jessie Durning||Television film|
|1984||The Jerk, Too||Card Player||Television film|
|1984||Obsessive Love||Margaret Chase||Television film|
|1985-1986||The Paper Chase||Rose Samuels||15 episodes|
|1986||Tough Cookies||Rita||6 episodes|
|1987||Karen's Song||Claire Steiner||13 episodes|
|1989||Hägar the Horrible||Helga (voice)||Television short|
|1990||Earthday Birthday||(voice)||Television film|
|1992||Beverly Hills 90210||Rose Zuckerman||Episode: "Down and Out of District in Beverly Hills"|
|1995-1998||The Nanny||Aunt Freida||4 episodes|
|1995||Prince for a Day||Rose||Television film|
|1998||Safety Patrol||Mrs. Day||Television film|
|2001||Will & Grace||Aunt Honey||Episode: "Moveable Feast"|
|2002||Returning Lilly||Television film|
|2003||My Big Fat Greek Life||Maria Portokalos||7 episodes|
|2005||The Engagement Ring||Alicia Rosa Anselmi||Television film|
|2007||The King of Queens||Ava St. Clair||2 episodes|
|2008||Boston Legal||Judge Paula Stern||Episode: "Dances with Wolves"|
|2010||Medium Rare||Helga Costas||Episode: "Episode #1.1"|
|2010||'Til Death||Donna||3 episodes|
|2010||Desperate Housewives||Maxine Rosen||5 episodes|
|2012||Modern Family||Eleanor||Episode: "New Years Eve"|
|2013||Jessie||Wanda Winkle||Episode: "Throw Momma From the Terrace"|
|2013||Greys Anatomy||C.J.||Episode: "Two Against One"|
|2014||RuPaul's Drag Race|
This section of a biography of a living person does not include any references or sources. Please help by adding reliable sources. Contentious material about living people that is unsourced or poorly sourced must be removed immediately.