Was a quick study at fencing, and became the first freshman to ever win the All-School Fencing Championship at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Later worked as a fencing instructor and as a fencing choreographer.
In the early 1960s, he joined the Actors Studio and landed his first Broadway role in The Complaisant Lover.
Made his film debut in Bonnie and Clyde (1967).
While performing in the Broadway production of Mother Courage and Her Children, he met Mel Brooks, who offered him a part in the musical The Producers (1968).