See '80s Comedy Icon Carol Kane Now at 70
She starred as Simka on Taxi and Valerie in The Princess Bride.
Carol Kane's career contains multitudes. To some, she will forever be synonymous with Simka Dahblitz, Latka's (Andy Kaufman) girlfriend from the old country, on the legendary 1980s sitcom Taxi. To others, she'll always be Valerie, the argumentative wife of Billy Crystal's Miracle Max in 1987's The Princess Bride. Still others know her best as Lillian Kaushtupper, the amoral but goodhearted landlord of the title character in the much more recent hit, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Those iconic roles only scratch the surface of Kane's storied career. Keep reading to learn what she's been doing since her time on Taxi, and to see her now, at age 70.
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She went beyond comedy.
Although she's best known for comedy, Kane's roots are in drama. At age 23, she was nominated for an Oscar for her role as the young immigrant wife Gitl in the low-budget drama Hester Street. However, the sudden rise to fame "frightened" her and led to her turning down potentially important dramatic roles due to a serious case of impostor syndrome, as she explained to HuffPost in 2020.
Several years later—following roles in the films When a Stranger Calls and Annie Hall—she received a call from James L. Brooks to see if she would be interested in playing the role of Simka Dahblitz, the recently immigrated girlfriend of Latka, on Taxi. Kane went on to win two Emmy Awards for her work on the series and soon found her way into other offbeat comedic characters, including The Princess Bride's Valerie and the Ghost of Christmas Present in Scrooged.
She returned to drama in the 2020 Al Pacino Amazon series Hunters, playing a Holocaust-survivor-turned-Nazi-hunter in pursuit of her son's killer. Other notable film and television gigs over the years include Joe vs. The Volcano, Jumpin' Jack Flash, Addams Family Values, the Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon (as herself), 10 episodes of the Fox superhero drama Gotham, and more than a dozen voiceover roles in various animated series.
She had a high-profile romance.
Although Kane never married and has kept her personal life largely out of the press, she did have one public relationship. Starting in 1986, she dated Woody Harrelson, then famous for his role as bartender Woody on Cheers. (Kane guest starred on the sitcom as former mental patient Amanda in 1984.)
"We had a friendship that became a romance and then a friendship again," Harrelson told People after their breakup in 1988. That friendship has survived decades, with both appearing in the 1991 film Ted & Venus and Harrelson attending Kane's 60th birthday party in 2012.
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She starred in Wicked on Broadway and on tour.
Even while keeping busy with dozens of film and television projects, Kane managed to launch an impressive stage career as well. She trod the boards of Broadway twice in the '70s, including in a production of the Pulitzer-winning play The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, but her most enduring role would come three decades later.
In 2005, Kane took on the role of Madame Morrible, headmistress at the school attended by the witches from Oz, in the national touring company of Wicked, the musical based on the novel by Gregory Maguire. The actor would return to the character multiple times, on Broadway in 2006 and again in 2013, and in the original casts of the Los Angeles (2008) and San Francisco (2009) productions. She's even said she would entertain a return for the planned film version, due to be released as a two-part film beginning in 2024. "I'd love to play Madame Morrible again, which I did for many, many years. I love that part," Kane told Vulture last year. "What's so genius about the musical onstage is that they've been able to create this complete fantasy world so thoroughly…It must be a movie!"
She played Kimmy Schmidt's landlady.
Kane found a new generation of fans with her fearless, shameless portrayal of Lillian Dolomite Kaushtupper, the possibly criminal landlord of innocent New York City newcomer Kimmy in Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, co-created by Tina Fey and starring Ellie Kemper. The comedy ran for four seasons on the streaming network, ending with the "interactive movie" Kimmy vs. the Reverend in 2020.
Kane found a strangely personal connection to the seemingly outlandish character. "I think that she's a real fighter because she's had to be, considering everything life has sent her way and the challenges that she had to face making a living on her own," she said in an interview with MEAWW. "And I feel like, I'm a fighter too, and I've had to be for different reasons. Things in my childhood and adolescence were less than perfect, and then I came out fighting."
She's about to join the Star Trek universe.
On Star Trek Day this September, Paramount announced that Kane would be joining the second season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Following in the footsteps of fellow funny people Tig Notaro and Simon Pegg, the Taxi star will be playing an engineer, namely Chief Engineer Pelia. The official description says that the character, who replaces the late Hemmer (Bruce Horak), is "highly educated and intelligent," and continues, "This engineer suffers no fools; Pelia solves problems calmly and brusquely, thanks to her many years of experience."