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What Was Alan Arkin's Only Academy Award Winning Role And Why Was It So Special?

Alan Arkin — the beloved actor who died at 89 on June 30, 2023 — was a rare actor in Hollywood in that he was able to sustain a major presence in the business in a career that lasted nearly six decades. 

In the 1960s Arkin starred in the classics "Wait Until Dark" and "Catch-22," while the '70s featured Arkin in "Freebie and the Bean" and "The In-Laws." The '80s and '90s were equally as kind to Arkin, with memorable turns in such films as "Big Trouble," "Edward Scissorhands," "The Rocketeer," and "Glengarry Glen Ross."

However, it wasn't until the 2000s that the actor finally got his due from his peers in the film industry. In 2007, Arkin took home his first and only Oscar for the 2006 dark comedy "Little Miss Sunshine," beating out such high-profile actors as Eddie Murphy, Mark Wahlberg, Djimon Hounsou, and Jackie Earle Haley for the statuette.

The Oscar was particularly special for Arkin — who was on the verge of turning 74 at the time — because "Little Miss Sunshine" marked Arkin's first Academy Award nomination since his best actor nod for the 1968 drama "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter." Two years prior to that, Arkin received a best actor nomination for the comedy "The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming," so there was an extraordinarily long stretch between the actor's second and third Oscar nominations.

Arkin was originally turned down for Little Miss Sunshine

In "Little Miss Sunshine," Arkin plays Edwin Hoover, a boisterous grandfather whose excessive use of foul language — and his eventual quiet death — made for an interesting cross-country road trip for a family on their way to a youth beauty pageant where Edwin's granddaughter, Olive (Abigail Breslin), was slated to compete. Amazingly, the filmmakers behind "Little Miss Sunshine" managed to prevent Breslin from hearing Arkin's swearing by putting headphones on the then-child actor and turning up some music.

Perhaps the most interesting bit of trivia behind Arkin's "Little Miss Sunshine" role, the actor told the New York Times in 2007, was that he was initially turned down in his bid to play Edwin since the character was supposed to be a drug-addled, 80-year-old man worn out by a life of bad behavior. "It's the best rejection I ever got in my life — they thought I was too virile," Arkin quipped in his interview with the Times while flexing his muscles.

In the end, Arkin was offered — and he accepted — the role of Edwin, and his "Little Miss Sunshine" Oscar win opened up even more doors for the actor. Best of all, Arkin made a return trip to the Oscars, thanks to another best supporting actor nomination for actor-director Ben Affleck's historical drama "Argo." While Arkin didn't win, "Argo" scored an Oscar for best picture.

Arkin's work continued on through the early 2020s, as he starred in the hit Netflix comedy "The Kominsky Method" opposite Michael Douglas and voiced a role in the 2022 animated blockbuster "Minions: The Rise of Gru." Arkin is still slated to appear in the crime film "The Smack," which is awaiting a release date.