James Lipton (born September 19, 1926) is an American writer, composer, actor and dean emeritus of the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University in New York City. He is the executive producer, writer and host of the Bravo cable television series Inside the Actors Studio, which debuted in 1994. He is also a pilot and member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. He is aChevalier of France's Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
Lipton was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Betty (née Weinberg), a teacher, and Polish-born journalist Lawrence Lipton. Noted as the author of the popular Beat Generation chronicle, The Holy Barbarians, Lawrence Lipton was a graphic designer, a columnist for the Jewish Daily Forward and a publicity director for a movie theater.
Lipton was a pimp in Paris, France in the 1950s for a year, representing a bordello of prostitutes.
A 1944 graduate of Central High School in Detroit, Lipton portrayed Dan Reid on WXYZ Radio's The Lone Ranger. Moving to New York, he initially studied to be a lawyer, and turned to acting only to finance his education. He wrote for several soap operas, Another World, The Edge of Night, Guiding Light, Return to Peyton Place and Capitol, as well as acting for over ten years on Guiding Light.In 1951, he appeared in the Broadway play The Autumn Garden by Lillian Hellman. He portrayed a shipping clerk turned gang member in Joseph Strick's 1953 film, The Big Break, a crime drama.
Lipton was the book writer and lyricist for the short-lived 1967 Broadway musical Sherry!, based on the Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman play The Man Who Came to Dinner, with music by his childhood friend Laurence Rosenthal. The score and orchestrations were lost for over 30 years, and the original cast was never recorded. In 2003, a studio cast recording (with Nathan Lane, Bernadette Peters, Carol Burnett, Tommy Tune, Mike Myers and others) renewed interest in the show.
In 1968, his book, An Exaltation of Larks, was first published, and has been in print and revised several times since then, including a 1993 Penguin books edition. The book is a collection of "terms of venery", both real and created by Lipton himself. The dust jacket biography for the first edition of Exaltation claimed his activities included fencing, swimming, and equestrian pursuits and that he had written two Broadway productions. He speaks French fluently.
In 1983, Lipton published his novel, Mirrors, about dancers' lives. He later wrote and produced it as a TV movie. In television, Lipton has produced some two dozen specials including: twelve Bob Hope Birthday Specials; The Road to China, an NBC entertainment special produced in China; and the first televised presidential inaugural gala (for Jimmy Carter).
In 2004, 2005, and 2013 Lipton appeared in several episodes of Arrested Development as Warden Stefan Gentles.
In 2008 Lipton provided the voice for the Director in the Disney animation film Bolt. He played "himself" as Brain Wash interviewer of acting teacher for sweet monster Eva in Paris-Vietnam animated Igor.
Inside the Actors Studio
Main article: Inside the Actors Studio
In the early 1990s, Lipton was inspired by Bernard Pivot and sought to create a three-year educational program for actors that would be a distillation of what he had learned in the 12 years of his own intensive studies. In 1994, he arranged for the Actors Studio – the home base of "method acting" in the USA for over 60 years – to join with New York City'sNew School University and form the Actors Studio Drama School, a formal degree-granting program at the graduate level. After ending its contract with the New School, the Actors Studio established The Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University in 2006.
Lipton created a project within the Actors Studio Drama School: a non-credit class called Inside the Actors Studio (1994), where successful and accomplished actors, directors and writers would be interviewed and would answer questions from acting students. These sessions are also taped and broadcast on television for the general public to see. The episodes are viewed in 89 million homes throughout 125 countries. Lipton himself hosts the show and conducts the main interview.
During an interview with writer Daniel Simone, when asked if he had anticipated the sudden success, Lipton responded, "Not in my wildest imaginations. It was a joint, arduous effort involving many people. At a point and time not too distant in the past, I had three lives. I was the dean of the Actors Studio, the writer of the series, its host and executive producer. I maintained a preposterous sixteen-hour schedule."