A gifted comic actor who also won acclaim as a writer and director, Eugene Levy was born on December 17, 1946, in Hamilton, Ontario, the home of McMaster University, where he enrolled after graduating from Westdale High School in the same city. Levy studied film at McMaster, and, in 1967, became vice president of the McMaster Film Board, a student film group where he met fellow aspiring moviemaker Ivan Reitman. (Other McMaster students at the time included Martin Short and Dave Thomas.) In 1970, Reitman began work on a low-budget horror movie called Cannibal Girls and cast Levy as Clifford Sturges. One of his co-stars was a struggling actress named Andrea Martin, who would later work alongside Levy's old pals Short and Thomas -- as well as John Candy and Joe Flaherty -- on the short-lived Canadian sitcom The David Steinberg Show. Levy and Martin's paths crossed again when they were cast in the Toronto production of the musical Godspell; the cast also included Gilda Radner and Paul Shaffer, in addition to Short, Candy, and Thomas. After Godspell closed in 1973 (just in time for the long-delayed Cannibal Girls to finally hit the grind-house circuit), Levy joined the Toronto company of the famed improvisational Second City comedy troupe, in which Candy and Flaherty were already cast members.
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After two years as a part of Second City, Levy, Candy, and Flaherty decided to move to California to try their luck in the States; they didn't fare well at first, but their idea for a television series about a ramshackle, low-budget television station eventually blossomed into Second City TV, or (SCTV, for short). While the show, ironically, brought Levy and his friend's back to Toronto (where it was shot), it also became a solid hit in Canada and developed a loyal cult following in the U.S., and, moreover, launched the careers of Levy, Flaherty, Thomas, Candy, Short, Martin, and Catherine O'Hara in America. (After SCTV's initial run ended in 1981, NBC brought the show back in an extended version called SCTV Network 90, which featured a higher budget, more guest stars, and ran until 1983. Levy also won two Emmy awards as a member of the show's writing staff.) Levy and Candy also created an acclaimed spin-off from the show based around their characters of polka musicians Stan and Yosh Shmenge, a 1984 cable special entitled The Last Polka.
By the mid-'80s, Levy had become a familiar face on both episodic television and in movies, albeit almost always in comic supporting roles. In 1989, he began working behind the camera again, directing a special for his old partner Martin Short, and, in 1992, made his feature directorial debut with the John Candy/Jim Belushi comedy Once Upon a Crime. In 1996, however, Levy scored a bigger breakthrough when he and Christopher Guest began writing a screenplay for a mockumentary about a small town theater troupe. Waiting for Guffman became a surprise hit and gave Levy a meaty comic role as stage-struck dentist Allan Pearl. In 1999, the actor won another high-profile success with the blockbuster hit American Pie, in which he played the understanding but terminally non-hip father of hormonally charged teenager Jim (Jason Biggs); Levy reprised the role in the 2001 sequel American Pie 2 and again in 2003's American Wedding. Levy and Guest teamed up again in 2000 for the comedy, Best in Show, for which the two received a Best Screenplay nomination from the Writers Guild of America. He and Guest also co-wrote and starred in another 2003 mockumentary, A Mighty Wind, a parody about '60s folk musicians who reunite for a tribute concert several years after their heyday.
For a few years after, it began to look as if Levy's primary occupation was reprising his role as Jim's dad in a series of lackluster, straight-to-video American Pie sequels -- with appearances in high profile films like A Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian and Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock becoming few and far between. In 2011, however, the comedy veteran received the prestigious distinction of being appointed a Member of the Order of Canada -- one of the nation's highest civilian honors -- before rejoining his former SCTV castmates in the made-for-television movie I, Martin Short, Goes Home, serving up a slice of nostalgia in American Reunion, and appearing opposite Tyler Perry in the 2012 comedy Madea's Witness Protection. ~ Rovi