Michael Lerner, the 'Glee' and 'Barton Fink' Oscar-nominated actor, dies at 81

Michael Lerner
Michael Lerner Copyright Getty Images - Tribeca Film Festival
Copyright Getty Images - Tribeca Film Festival
By Laiba MubasharAgencies
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The Oscar-nominated actor, Michael Lerner, whose acting career in Hollywood spans several decades, has appeared in "Elf", "Clueless", "X-Men: Days of Future Past", and "Harlem Nights".


Academy Award-nominated American actor Michael Lerner has died at the age of 81.

His death was confirmed by his nephew and The Goldbergs actor Sam Lerner in a tribute post on Instagram.

“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,” Sam wrote. “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.”

The 81-year-old late actor was best known for his role as the film producer, Jack Lipnick, in Barton Fink (1991) which earned him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards.

He has also starred and appeared in other films and series: The Warden in No Escape (1994), Mel Horowitz on the television series Clueless (1996-97), Jerry Miller in The Beautician and the Beast(1997), Mayor Ebert in Roland Emmerich's Godzilla (1998), Mr. Greenway in Elf (2003), and Senator Brickman in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). His last feature credit came in 2015 with the comedy-drama Ashby.

Lerner was of Romanian-Jewish descent, born in Brooklyn, New York City, on 22 June 1941. He made his first television appearance as a “quiz kid” on a local television program at age 13. Although he contemplated whether to be an English professor or an actor, he went on to study acting at Brooklyn College followed by a master's degree at the University of California, Berkeley. 

After receiving a Fullbright Scholarship, Lerner moved to London to study theatre at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art for two years during which he shared a flat with John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

He relocated to Los Angeles in 1969 to pursue a career as a television actor before making his first film debut in 1970 with Alex in Wonderland.

In 1991, he co-starred in Harlem Nights and went on to play Jack Lipnick in Barton Fink. From 1996-97, Lerner played Mel Horowitz in the television series Clueless, followed by his roles as Mr. Greenway in Elf (2003) and Jack Kray in Poster Boy (2004).

Along with his acting career, Lerner was also a collector of rare books, an aficionado of Cuban cigars, and a passionate poker player.

“RIP Michael, enjoy your unlimited Cuban cigars, comfy chairs, and endless movie marathon,” Sam Lerner’s tribute post on Instagram added. 

Salvador Litvak, director of When Do We Eat? also commented on Lerner’s post before dedicating a post to the late actor himself. “I had the honour to direct Michael in his starring role as Ira Stuckman - opposite Max Greenfield, Jack Klugman Lesly Ann Warren, and Ben Feldman - in When Do We Eat?” 

“He was a huge talent, hilarious on-screen and off, a gentleman, a friend, and a powerhouse at our poker table. And his timing was impeccable to the end!! May his memory always be for a blessing!” he added.

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