Playing a succession of bespectacled, soft-spoken, yet vaguely superior characters, Bob Balaban carved himself a niche as a reliable character actor in the last quarter of the 20th century, while also getting the occasional opportunity to write and direct for the screen.
The nephew and cousin of industry personages, Balaban got the acting bug at Colgate University and N.Y.U., inspiring him to study with Uta Hagen and Viola Spolin. After some exposure on and off-Broadway in the late 1960s, Balaban made his film debut in Midnight Cowboy (1969), playing the high school student who meets Jon Voight in the movie theater for a tryst. Working sporadically through the '70s, more in theater and TV than film, Balaban developed a more familiar face with such roles as the cartographer and French translator from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1978) and the attorney hired to help Richard Dreyfuss' quadriplegic choose to die in Whose Life Is It Anyway? (1981).