On Sunday, January 27, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) is honoring Alan Alda (M*A*S*H) at their annual awards ceremony with their Lifetime Achievement Award, to be presented by Tom Hanks. According to SAG, the award is given to an actor who fosters the finest ideals of the profession.
“He [Alda] is an artist whose body of work is a testament to the craft and the magic of our business,” SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris said in a statement. “His ability to make us laugh, to think and to feel is extraordinary. From theater to television, movies and new media Alan’s dedication and talent are exceeded only by his contributions to a just and caring society.”
Photo from Hamptons Film Festival
Alda’s career has spanned more than six decades, taking him from the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Korea to Capitol Hill to being a psychiatrist. He has also acted on Broadway and written and directed films and television episodes. He was the first person to win an Emmy for writing, directing and acting in the same television series. And just last year, he won the Dick Cavett Award at the Hamptons International Film Festival.
While Alda is best known as the wise-cracking Hawkeye Pierce, a top chest-cutter saving lives just miles from the front in Korea, he has portrayed a variety of characters throughout his career, including Dr. Gabriel Lawrence on ER and Senator Arnold Vinick in The West Wing.
Alda and the MASH Cast; Photo from Wikipedia Commons
Off-screen Alda pursues a variety of activities, including writing, teaching and boxing. He has written four books, three of which are New York Times Best Sellers. His most recent work, titled “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face,” discusses the importance of communication and how we can better connect with one another.
Communication has always been of interest to Alda, particularly when it comes to difficult to understand subjects. This passion led Alda to help establish the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, where he serves as a guest lecturer on occasion. Alda has always had an interest in science and hosted Scientific American Frontiers for twelve years.
Last summer, Alda announced that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which affects one’s nerves and mobility. Rather than letting it slow him down, Alda has become more active. He continues to act and give speeches around the country. He also created a podcast called “Clear and Vivid” where he discusses the art of communication with guests ranging from authors to politicians to fellow actors. Alda has no plans to slow down and sees his recent diagnosis as a puzzle to solve rather than an inhibition.
“It hasn’t stopped my life at all,” Alda said. “I’ve had a richer life than I’ve had up until now.”