In 1976, Kline left The Acting Company and settled in New York City, doing a brief stint as the character "Woody Reed" in the now-defunct soap opera Search for Tomorrow. He followed this with a return to the stage 1978 in the small role of "Bruce Granit", a matinée idol caricature, in Hal Prince's On The Twentieth Century, for which he won his first Tony Award. In 1981, Kline paired up with rock diva Linda Ronstadt and singer Rex Smith in the New York Shakespeare Festival's Central Park production of The Pirates of Penzance, winning another Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical, for his comically dashing portrayal of the Pirate King. In 1983, he played the role in a film version of the musical, also with Ronstadt and Smith, which had a limited theatrical release.
In the ensuing years, Kline appeared many times in New York Shakespeare Festival productions of Shakespeare, including starring roles in Richard III, Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V, two productions of Hamlet (one of which he also directed) and a Tony-nominated Falstaff in a production that combined the two parts of Shakespeare's Henry IV. Dubbed "the American Olivier" by New York Times theater critic Frank Rich for his stage acting, Kline finally ventured into film in 1982, winning the coveted role of the tormented and mercurial Nathan opposite Meryl Streep in Alan Pakula's Sophie's Choice. Streep won an Academy Award for her performance in the film, and Kline was nominated for a Golden Globe and BAFTA Award for best debut performance.
During the 1980s and early-1990s, Kline made several films with director Lawrence Kasdan, including The Big Chill, Silverado, Grand Canyon, I Love You To Death, and French Kiss. In the mid-1990s, he was supposed to star as Mandrake the Magician in the movie of the same name, but the film never got off the ground. In 1989, Kline won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the British comedy A Fish Called Wanda, in which he played a caricature of a painfully stupid American ex-CIA thug opposite John Cleese's genteel British barrister and Jamie Lee Curtis' femme fatale/con woman. In 2000, the American Film Institute ranked the film twenty-first on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs.
Though he has been offered many roles that could have boosted him to box-office stardom, Kline has kept a wary distance from the Hollywood star-making machine and developed a reputation for picking parts with discrimination (such as strong roles in Grand Canyon and Life as a House), leading to the industry nickname "Kevin Decline". Other awards have included Drama Desk Awards, Golden Globe awards, a Gotham Award, a Hasty Pudding Theatricals Man of the Year Award, and a St. Louis International Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award. He also has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
Film reviewers have widely praised his talent. Newsday said Kline "has proved himself to be one of the most talented and versatile American actors of his generation. But critics, mostly college-age reviewers, do occasionally appear, like the University of Texas newspaper writer that said his portrayal of a police officer in "Trade" was "half-hearted and horrific", and the young blogger who wrote that Kline's Hamlet was comically overblown.
Most recently, he played the title role in King Lear at the Public Theatre, and has played the lead role in a Broadway production of Cyrano de Bergerac opposite Jennifer Garner. That production was forced to close temporarily after only eleven performances as a result of the Broadway stagehands' strike, but subsequently reopened. Cyrano is reportedly currently being filmed for showing on PBS later in 2008.
On January 27, 2008, Kline won a Screen Actors Guild award for his portrayal of Jaques in Kenneth Branagh's film As You Like It, adapted from Shakespeare's play. The film premiered theatrically in 2006 in Europe, but bypassed theatres and was sent straight to HBO in the U.S., where it was shown on August 21, 2007.
In December 2004 Kline became the 2,272nd recipient of a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame, located at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard.
The Kevin Kline Awards honor theater professionals in St. Louis in a wide array of categories, which include best actor and actress, set design, choreography, and original play. The first awards ceremony took place on March 20, 2006.
|1982||Sophie's Choice||Nathan Landau||Nominated - BAFTA Award; Nominated - Golden Globe|
|1983||The Pirates of Penzance||The Pirate King|
|The Big Chill||Harold Cooper|
|1986||Violets Are Blue||Henry Squires|
|1987||Cry Freedom||Donald Woods|
|1988||A Fish Called Wanda||Otto West||Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor; Nominated - BAFTA Award|
|1989||The January Man||Nick Starkey|
|1990||I Love You to Death||Joey Boca|
|1991||Soapdish||Jeffery Anderson/Dr. Rod Randall||Nominated - Golden Globe|
|1992||Consenting Adults||Richard Parker|
|1993||Dave||Dave Kovic/President William Harrison Mitchell||Nominated - Golden Globe|
|1995||French Kiss||Luc Teyssier|
|1996||The Hunchback of Notre Dame||Captain Phoebus||voice|
|1997||The Ice Storm||Ben Hood|
|Fierce Creatures||Vince McCain/Rod McCain|
|In & Out||Howard Brackett||Nominated - Golden Globe|
|1999||A Midsummer Night's Dream||Nick Bottom|
|Wild Wild West||U.S. Marshal Artemus 'Artie' Gordon/President Ulysses S. Grant|
|2000||The Road to El Dorado||Tulio||voice|
|2001||The Anniversary Party||Cal Gold|
|Life as a House||George Monroe|
|2002||Orange County||Marcus Skinner||uncredited|
|The Hunchback of Notre Dame II||Captain Phoebus||voice|
|The Emperor's Club||William Hundert|
|2004||De-Lovely||Cole Porter||Nominated - Golden Globe|
|2006||The Pink Panther||Chief Inspector Dreyfus|
|A Prairie Home Companion||Guy Noir|
|As You Like It||Jaques||winner Screen Actors Guild Award|
|2008||Definitely, Maybe||Hampton Roth|
|The Tale of Despereaux||Andre - voice||post-production|
|Cyrano de Bergerac||Cyrano||post-production|