He has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor twice for his performances in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Little Miss Sunshine and received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his performance in Argo.
Arkin was born in Brooklyn, New York City on March 26, 1934, the son of David I. Arkin, a painter and writer, and his wife, Beatrice (née Wortis), a teacher. He was raised in a Jewish family with "no emphasis on religion". His grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, Russia, and Germany. His parents moved to Los Angeles when Alan was 11, but an 8-month Hollywood strike cost his father his job as a set designer. During the 1950s Red Scare, Arkin's parents were accused of being Communists, and his father was fired when he refused to answer questions about his political ideology. David Arkin challenged the dismissal, but he was vindicated only after his death.