Michael Lerner, the American actor who was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Barton Fink, has died at the age of 81.
His nephew, actor Sam Lerner, broke the news on Instagram with a long statement honoring his uncle’s legacy. An actor with a 60-year career, Lerner has been seen in shows as diverse as The Brady Bunch to Harlem Nights, as well as more recent fare like Entourage and Elf.
Michael Lerner Dies At 81
Sam has posted that Michael Lerner passed away on April 8, 2023, but no more information regarding his passing has been made public at this time. The veteran actor’s nephew posted photos of the star on Instagram.
Sam Lerner wrote that a legend was lost the previous night. He found it difficult to describe how brilliant his uncle was and how much of an influence he had on him. Michael’s stories always served as inspiration and ignited his passion for acting. Sam considered Michael to be the most confident, talented, and coolest guy, and it was always special for him to have Michael as his blood relative.
“We lost a legend last night. It’s hard to put into words how brilliant my uncle Michael was, and how influential he was to me. His stories always inspired me and made me fall in love with acting. He was the coolest, most confident, talented guy, and the fact that he was my blood will always make me feel special.”
According to Lerner, anyone who knew Michael could attest to how insanely talented he was, and he was fortunate to have spent so much time with him. Michael’s work will continue to inspire and entertain people for eternity. Lerner wished Michael to rest in peace and enjoy unlimited Cuban cigars, comfortable chairs, and endless movie marathons.
“Everyone that knows him knows how insane he was — in the best way. I’m so lucky I got to spend so much time with him, and we’re all lucky we can continue to watch his work for the rest of time. RIP Michael, enjoy your unlimited Cuban cigars, comfy chairs, and endless movie marathon.”
Michael Lerner’s Early Life
Michael Lerner was born on June 22, 1941, in Brooklyn, New York. The sports fan made his Television show debut as a “quiz kid” when he was only 13 years old. He received a bachelor’s degree in acting from Brooklyn College, a master’s degree in theatre from UC Berkeley, and a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
While he was in London, he shacked up with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and he even had an appearance in Ono’s avant-garde short film Smile (1968).
Lerner made his television debut on an episode of Dr. Kildare in 1963, but Smile was his first picture. In 1970, he directed the more commercial Alex in Wonderland, which starred Donald Sutherland and Ellen Burstyn.
More About Michael Lerner
His performance as Jack Lipnick in the 1991 picture Barton Fink earned him an Academy Award nomination. “It was very bizarre. Very strange. I went back to my house at 6 a.m. and I went to watch the nominations with a friend of mine, who was this great actor, and his wife, and when I got nominated it was a lot of fun. I drove back to my house and there were like 20 reporters there,” in 2016, Lerner mentioned this to AV Club. He was reportedly an avid collector of rare books, a poker player, and a lover of Cuban cigars.
In the early 1970s, Lerner appeared on a wide variety of television series, including The Brady Bunch as a guest star in 1969 and The Doris Day Show, That Girl, The Bob Newhart Show, M.A.S.H., and The Odd Couple, among many others. Meanwhile, in 1972, he received an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his role as Robert Redford’s speechwriter in the satire The Candidate.
Lerner maintained a busy decade in cinema and television, culminating with 1981’s The Postman Always Rings Twice adaptation, in which he starred opposite Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange. In the 1983 TV drama, Rita Hayworth: The Love Goddess, Wonder Woman actress Lynda Carter portrayed the iconic film siren, while Lerner played famed studio boss and ornery sonuvabitch Harry Cohn. Years later, he and the Coen brothers would return in a similar vein.
With the exception of his portrayal as Cher’s father Mel Horowitz in the TV version of Clueless, Lerner seldom had recurrent parts on television.
In addition to his work on the original Newsies, The Beautician and the Beast, Entourage, Elf, and Glee, Lerner also reunited with the Coen Brothers for 2009’s A Serious Man. For one of his last film performances, as Louis B. Mayer in 2022’s Pervyy Oskar, Lerner went back to his roots.