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 December 25, 2023

Mike Nussbaum Dead at 99

The world of theatre and film lost a legendary figure.

Celebrated for his extensive stage and screen career, Mike Nussbaum died just days before his 100th birthday.

Mike Nussbaum, a prominent Chicago actor known for his role as George Aaronow in the original Broadway production of "Glengarry Glen Ross" and numerous collaborations with David Mamet, has passed away at the age of 99. He died at his home in Chicago, as confirmed by his daughter Karen to the Chicago Sun-Times.

A late bloomer in the acting world

Mike Nussbaum's journey in acting began later in life, but his impact was profound and lasting. Born in Chicago in 1923, Nussbaum's early years were far from the glamour of the stage and screen. He served in the Army under General Eisenhower during World War II and initially worked in his family's exterminating business.

It wasn't until his 40s that Nussbaum turned to acting, a decision that would shape the rest of his life. Once he started, there was no looking back. He quickly made a name for himself in the Chicago theatre scene, earning his Actors' Equity card in the early 1970s.

Nussbaum's talents were not confined to the stage. He also made notable appearances in films such as "Fatal Attraction," "Field of Dreams," and "Men in Black." His ability to transition seamlessly between stage and screen showcased his versatility as an actor.

Collaboration with David Mamet

One of Nussbaum's most significant collaborations was with playwright David Mamet. He starred in the premieres of Mamet's plays "American Buffalo" and "Glengarry Glen Ross," earning critical acclaim for his performances. His portrayal of George Aaronow in the original Broadway production of "Glengarry Glen Ross" remains one of his most celebrated roles.

In speaking about Nussbaum, Mamet expressed immense admiration and respect. He highlighted Nussbaum's unique approach to acting and his innate ability to surprise and captivate audiences.

It's wonderful to work with Mike because, like any artist, like any actor, he's just unusual. You're constantly saying, ‘My God, where did that come from?' It's not coming out of a bag of ‘acting moments.' That's all b*******. It's coming out of - who the hell knows where? You either got it, or you don't, and Mike certainly does.

Nussbaum's career was marked by numerous accolades. In 1984, he won a Drama Desk Award for his role in "Glengarry Glen Ross." His talent was recognized on stage and through various recognitions, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the League of Chicago Theaters in 2019.

Legacy beyond the stage and screen

Despite his success in New York and L.A., Nussbaum chose to remain in Chicago, valuing the authenticity and balance he found in his hometown. He once remarked on the overwhelming desire for fame and glory in other cities, contrasting it with his fulfilling life in Chicago.

Nussbaum's humility and dedication to his craft made him a beloved figure both on and off the stage. His passion for acting never waned, even into his 90s, famously maintaining a routine of 50 push-ups daily.

I think that being an actor in Chicago, over a number of years, is the most satisfying life I could imagine. I found New York and L.A. to be ... antithetic to art. The desire for fame, the desire for glory, for money, is overwhelming in both cities. Although I had some success in both cities, I decided my life was more balanced here. I enjoy getting on the bus to go downtown and have someone come up and say, ‘I loved you in such-and-such.'

Nussbaum's passing leaves behind a rich legacy. He is survived by his wife, two children, and seven grandchildren, who, along with the theatre and film community, mourn the loss of this remarkable artist.

Lessons to learn from this tragedy

While Nussbaum's death is not a crime, there are lessons we can learn from his life:

  1. It's never too late to pursue your passion. Nussbaum started acting in his 40s, proving that age is just a number when it comes to following your dreams.
  2. Stay true to your values. Despite opportunities elsewhere, Nussbaum chose to remain in Chicago, valuing the artistic integrity and balance it offered.
  3. Hard work and dedication pay off. Nussbaum's commitment to his craft was evident in his lifelong pursuit of acting excellence.
  4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Nussbaum's routine of daily push-ups well into his 90s is a testament to the importance of physical fitness at any age.

Remember, no matter what precautions we take, life is unpredictable. We should cherish each moment and strive to live life to its fullest, just as Nussbaum did.

Why this story matters

Mike Nussbaum's story is a beacon of inspiration for aspiring actors and anyone looking to pursue their passion later in life. His commitment to his craft and his community set a standard for aspiring artists everywhere. His life reminds us of the importance of staying true to our values and the impact one person can have on their community. Nussbaum's legacy will continue to inspire and influence generations to come.

  • A renowned Chicago actor, Mike Nussbaum, died at 99, just days before his 100th birthday.
  • He was celebrated for his work on stage and screen, including collaborations with David Mamet.
  • Nussbaum's legacy is marked by his dedication to his craft and his community, inspiring actors and non-actors alike.

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Written By: Rampart Stonebridge

I'm Rampart Stonebridge, a curious and passionate writer who can't get enough of true crime. As a criminal investigative journalist, I put on my detective hat, delving deep into each case to reveal the hidden truths. My mission? To share engaging stories and shed light on the complexities of our mysterious world, all while satisfying your curiosity about the intriguing realm of true crime.
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