1. Juilliard graduate Mandel Bruce Patinkin—call him Mandy— gets his Broadway break from Joseph Papp, who in 1975 casts him in a Lincoln Center Theater production of Trelawny of the Wells. The same year, Papp picks Patinkin to play Fortinbras to Sam Waterston’s Hamlet, and a star is born.
2. Patinkin, in his first hirsute role, grew a beard to play Che in Evita, winning a 1980 Tony—and the loyalty of co-star Patti LuPone, after consoling her over an overreaching understudy. She’ll later say, “I would lay down and die for Mandy.”
3.. The early eighties are golden: Henry IV with Papp; a Tony nod for his Seurat (French beard) in Sunday in the Park With George; and two film roles, Ragtime and Yentl (rabbinical beard and Barbra Streisand).
4. Then, in 1985, disaster strikes. Mike Nichols fires him from Heartburn in favor of Jack Nicholson. Soon after, Patinkin breaks down at an audition in front of Robert De Niro. “He hugged me,” Patinkin will recall, “and then he pulled me away and he said, ‘He fired me too.’ ” A year later, he gets three big offers in a week. He forsakes The Phantom of the Opera for The Princess Bride—which will give him the line of his career: “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” He still ends his concerts with this line.
5. In 1986, Papp suggests that Patinkin, fresh off recording a CD, do a Monday concert series, “Dress Casual,” at the Public. He persuades him to perform a Yiddish song at a benefit, and Patinkin learns the language. (He releases a Yiddish record, Mamaloshen, in 1998.)
6. TV gigs and mysterious departures follow. After winning an Emmy for Chicago Hope in 1995, he abruptly leaves a year in, saying he wants to spend more time with his family. In 2007, he fails to show up on the set of Criminal Minds. He cites “creative differences,” which CBS Entertainment head Nina Tassler calls “a euphemism for personal issues.” Patinkin later claims it was the show’s violence: “You’ve got to live it, and if you live it, it costs you.” Which fails to explain his macabre next role, on Showtime’s short-lived Dead Like Me.
7. Papp’s former casting director pushes him for the Classic Stage Company’s current The Tempest. Patinkin (in gray beard) plays Prospero opposite Elisabeth Waterston, daughter of his 1975 Hamlet co-star. Next up: a cabaret tour with old pal LuPone.