Michael Lerner, ‘Barton Fink’ Actor, Dead at 81
Michael Lerner — the actor who appeared in numerous stage, film and TV roles and whose portrayal of movie mogul Jack Lipnick in Barton Fink earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination — died on Saturday. He was 81.
Lerner’s nephew and The Goldbergs actor Sam Lerner confirmed his uncle’s death in a tribute he penned via Instagram on Sunday. A cause of death was not immediately available.
“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 Lerner 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. 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,” he concluded. “RIP Michael, enjoy your unlimited Cuban cigars, comfy chairs and endless movie marathon.”
Michael Lerner was born in 1941 in Brooklyn. He attended Brooklyn College where he appeared in a production of Death of a Salesman. He went on to UC Berkeley where he received his master’s degree. Lerner also accepted a Fullbright Scholarship to study theater for two years in London. It was there where he shared a home with Yoko Ono and he appeared in one of her experimental movies, alongside other projects.
In the late Sixties he acted at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, before moving to Los Angeles where he appeared in a production of Little Murders.
His television acting credits include supporting roles in M*A*S*H, The Rockford Files, Starsky & Hutch, and Hill Street Blues. On the big screen, he starred in films including Elf, Godzilla, and X-Men: Days of Future Past. But it was his performance as unrelenting movie mogul Jack Lipnick, who bossed around John Turturro’s titular screenwriter character in the Coen Brothers’ 1991 classic Barton Fink that earned him an Oscar nomination (Jack Palance won for his role in City Slickers).
Lerner also starred in the films Eight Men Out, Harlem Nights, Newsies, Celebrity, and The Mod Squad.
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