(CNN) – Charles Grodin, a versatile comedian best known for his roles in films like “Midnight Run” and “The Heartbreak Kid,” died Tuesday at his Connecticut home after battling cancer, according to his son. He was 86 years old.
Grodin’s son Nicholas confirmed the news of his father’s passing in an email to CNN.
Grodin had several theatrical credits before being cast in director Mike Nichols’ film “Catch-22” in 1970 (after an unsuccessful audition for “The Graduate”). Then he got his big break by starring in “Heartbreak Kid,” as a newlywed who falls in love with another woman, played by Cybill Shepherd, on their honeymoon.
Since then, Grodin worked steadily. He was a coportagonist with Warren Beatty in “Heaven Can Wait” and played a runaway accountant with Robert De Niro in “Midnight Run.”
“Chuck was such a good person as an actor,” De Niro said in a statement issued through his publicist. “’Midnight Run’ was a great project we worked on, and Chuck did even better. We will miss you. I am very, very sad to hear of his passing.
Grodin’s other memorable works include the movie “Dave,” in which he appeared as the accountant for a man disguised as the president of the United States, who is asked to help analyze the federal budget; and the “Beethoven” films, expansive comedies in which he played the owner of a Saint Bernard.
The actor became a favorite late-night talk show guest, acting like a haughty character, with dozens of appearances with Johnny Carson and David Letterman. Later, Grodin tried to host a talk show on CNBC, and also became an author, writing several books, beginning in 1989 with “It Would Be So Nice If You Weren’t Here: My Journey Through Show Business” ( It’d be so cool if you weren’t here – my showbiz trip).
Grodin explained that he stumbled upon his haughty talk show persona after following Diana Ross on “The Tonight Show.” He then went on to perfect that act, and the hosts, especially Letterman, were delighted to play along.
On stage, Grodin starred with Ellen Burstyn in the Broadway play “Same Time, Next Year,” about a couple in an annual romance. He also directed and wrote plays and won an Emmy in 1977 as one of the writers on a Paul Simon television special.
Born in Pittsburgh, Grodin studied acting at the University of Miami before moving to New York and studying under famous acting teacher Lee Strasberg.
“Hollywood is an industry in the same way that General Motors is an industry,” Grodin once said in an interview. And if you’ve been in this for a long time, you know it.
Grodin’s eclectic career included writing a column for the New York Daily News and providing commentary for the news magazine “60 Minutes II.”
“A brilliant comedy actor,” Albert Brooks tweeted. “I had the wonderful experience of working with him on my first feature film ‘Real Life’ and it was incredible.”
Grodin is survived by his wife, author Elissa Durwood Grodin, son Nicholas, and daughter Marion.