Elliott Gould (né Goldstein; born August 29, 1938) is an American actor. He began acting in Hollywood films during the 1960s. In addition to his performance in the comedy Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), for which he received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, Gould is perhaps best known for his significant leading roles in Robert Altman films, starring in M*A*S*H (1970), The Long Goodbye (1973) and California Split (1974). Other notable film roles include Little Murders (1971), Capricorn One (1978), The Silent Partner (1978), Bugsy (1991), and American History X (1998).
He also had recurring roles as Jack Geller on the television sitcom Friends (1994–2004), as Reuben Tishkoff in the Ocean's film series (2001–2007, 2018) and as Ezra Goldman on the television series Ray Donovan (2013–2016).
Gould was born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York. His mother, Lucille (née Raver), sold artificial flowers to beauty shops, and his father, Bernard Goldstein, worked in the garment business as a textiles buyer. His family was Jewish, and his grandparents were emigrants from Ukraine, Poland, and Russia. He graduated from the Professional Children's School.
Early roles on stage and screen
Gould began acting on Broadway in the late 1950s, making his professional debut in Rumple (1957). He followed this with small parts in the successful musicals Say, Darling (1958–59) and Irma La Douce (1960–61).
In 1962, he had a starring role in I Can Get It for You Wholesale, which ran for 300 performances and where he met future wife Barbra Streisand. Following that, he landed prominent roles in Drat! The Cat! (1965) and in Little Murders (1967). He was also cast A Way of Life by Murray Schisgal but walked out prior to the play making it to Broadway.
Following his film debut in the comedy Quick, Let's Get Married (1964), Gould's next film appearance was in William Friedkin's The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968). In January 1969, Gould announced he had formed his own film production company with Jack Brodsky, Brodsky-Gould Productions. The company would make two films: The Assistant, based on a novel by Bernard Malamud, and Little Murders. (The Assistant was never produced.) In April 1970, Brodsky and Gould announced plans to make The Dick, from the novel by Bruce Jay Friedman, but it was never made.
Film stardom: Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, M*A*S*H
In March 1969, Gould signed a non-exclusive, four-picture contract with 20th Century Fox, the first of which was to be M*A*S*H and the second Move.
He reached a new level of prominence that year, playing one of the four leads in Paul Mazursky's zeitgeisty social comedy Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, released in September 1969. He earned a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance. "I'm the hottest thing in Hollywood right now," he said in October 1969.
His first film released after Bob & Carol was the wartime satire M*A*S*H (1970), directed by Robert Altman, where Gould played Trapper John McIntyre. It was a huge hit at the box office and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
His third film as star was 1970's Getting Straight, where he played a Vietnam veteran who gets involved in student protests. Not as popular as the other two movies, it was nonetheless still considered a success – the only student protest film to make money – and cemented Gould's place as one of the biggest film stars in the country.
Gould's next film, Move (1970), co-starring Paula Prentiss, was also his first critical and commercial flop. Also unsuccessful was I Love My Wife (1970), with Brenda Vaccaro, for which Gould had turned down a reunion with Altman on McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971). He had also turned down the lead in Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs (1971). Nevertheless, following the signifiant successes of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and M*A*S*H, Gould appeared on the cover of Time magazine that year, where he was described as a "star for an uptight age".
Following his starring role in the stage version, Gould bought the rights for Little Murders with an eye to producing and reprising his lead role in a film adaptation. Directed by Alan Arkin, and released in 1971, it was another commercial disappointment, but has since earned a cult following.
Gould went to Sweden to play the lead role in Ingmar Bergman's English-language debut The Touch (1971). He was the first Hollywood star to appear in a Bergman film. However the movie was a critical and commercial disappointment.
A Glimpse of Tiger and two-year sabbatical
Gould continued developing projects in a behind-the-scenes capacity, including a failed adaptation of the novel A Glimpse of Tiger. Filming was abandoned after four days of shooting, following rumours that Gould was addicted to drugs, something the actor has strenuously denied.
Gould and his producing partner helped make Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) (1972), later selling it to United Artists. He was reportedly offered the lead role in Pocket Money (1972), but turned it down because he did not want to work with director Stuart Rosenberg again after his experience making Move.
Comeback: The Long Goodbye, California Split
Gould reemerged with one of his most iconic roles in 1973's The Long Goodbye, Robert Altman's adaptation of Raymond Chandler's novel. Gould starred as detective Philip Marlowe, a role which had previously been played by Humphrey Bogart and Dick Powell. By comparison, Gould's performance was more naturalistic, with the screenplay by Leigh Brackett (who had previously adapted The Big Sleep for Howard Hawks and Bogart) updating the setting to contemporary Los Angeles. Although not a major hit, the film was later regarded as one of Gould's best.
He followed it with another Altman film, California Split (1974), an acclaimed gambling dramedy that co-starred George Segal. Additionally, Gould made a brief cameo appearance as himself in the Altman film Nashville (1975).
He soon made two more "buddy" movies: Busting (1974), a cop movie with Robert Blake, directed by Peter Hyams; and S*P*Y*S (1975), a spy spoof which reunited him with Sutherland. Neither were particularly popular.
Returning to comedy, he played the lead in two films for Brut Productions, both comedies: Whiffs (1975) and then opposite Diane Keaton in I Will, I Will... for Now (1976). He and Keaton also starred in Harry and Walter Go to New York (1976) with James Caan and Michael Caine. All flopped at the box office.
He joined the ensemble cast of A Bridge Too Far in 1977 and played the lead in boxing kangaroo comedy Matilda the year after.
During this period Gould hosted Saturday Night Live six times, his final time being the first episode of the disastrous Jean Doumanian season (season 6) in November 1980, where he was shocked to find that the original cast and producer Lorne Michaels were gone and had been replaced. Although he never hosted SNL again, he did appear in a season 16 (1990–1991) episode hosted by Tom Hanks where Hanks is welcomed into the Five-Timers club, a society for celebrities who have hosted the show five times.
Gould returned to mainstream success with Capricorn One (1978), directed by Peter Hyams. The film was financed by producer Lew Grade, who later arranged Gould's guest appearances in The Muppets and its movie spin-offs. After making Capricorn One Gould was announced to direct A New Life from a novel by Bernard Malamud with Robert Altman producing but the film was not made.
Gould went to Canada to star in the highly regarded thriller The Silent Partner (1978), before working again with Grade on Escape to Athena (1979).
He starred in the much-maligned remake of The Lady Vanishes (1979). Another flop came with Falling in Love Again (1980), co-starring Susannah York. Gould also made two films for Disney, The Last Flight of Noah's Ark (1980) and The Devil and Max Devlin (1982). He made his return to Broadway with The Guys in the Truck in 1983.
Gould transitioned to television acting with the sitcom E/R which aired from 1984 til 1985, followed by roles in the TV movies such as Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8 (1987) and Frog (1988), and the Australian miniseries Act of Betrayal (1988). He continued to act in film, though his roles tended to be less impactful than those from preceding decades: he had leading roles in films such as Inside Out (1986) and Dangerous Love (1988) and he played a supporting role to Whoopi Goldberg in The Telephone (1988).
Over time, Gould began to act more frequently in supporting roles. He received critical praise for his performance as an aging mobster in Warren Beatty's 1991 film Bugsy and once again performed as cameo as "himself" in Robert Altman's The Player (1992).
He became known to a new generation of viewers thanks to a recurring role as Jack Geller, the father of Courteney Cox and David Schwimmer's characters Monica and Ross, on the NBC sitcom Friends, first appearing in 1993 and in twenty total episodes over the course of the show’s run. Around the same time he took a more dramatic role, as the boyfriend of the protagonist's mother, in the controversial drama American History X (1998). He co-starred in Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven, a 2001 remake of the classic Rat Pack caper film. He reprised the role for its sequels, Ocean's Twelve in 2004 and Ocean's Thirteen in 2007, as well as its spin-off Ocean's 8 in 2018. He had another supporting turn in Soderbergh's Contagion (2011), followed by Ruby Sparks in 2012. More recently, he co-starred with Jemaine Clement in the human comedy Humor Me (2017).
In 2005 he guest starred in a feature-length episode of the UK TV series Poirot, subsequently appearing in similar one-off or small roles in television series including Law & Order and CSI, and a more significant role in Showtime's Ray Donovan from 2013 to 2016. He has loaned his voice to several animated series, including the Disney Channel animated series Kim Possible, and the 2006 video game Scarface: The World Is Yours.
Gould has said that he has a "very deep Jewish identity". He has been married three times, twice to the same woman:
- Barbra Streisand (March 21, 1963 – July 9, 1971; divorced; one child, actor Jason Gould)
- Jennifer Bogart (December 8, 1973 – 1975; June 9, 1978 – 1982). They were divorced twice. The couple had two children. Jennifer's father was director Paul Bogart.
Gould currently serves on the Screen Actors Guild National Board of Directors. He became one of the many celebrity producers of The 1 Second Film collaboration in June 2009 and is known for his association to charitable causes such as Save Ellis Island.