Michael Lerner: Elf and Barton Fink actor dies age 81 - what did Sam Lerner say on Instagram

Lerner’s nephew, The Goldbergs actor Sam Lerner, made the announcement of his passing on Instagram

Actor Michael Lerner arrives at Relativity Media’s “Mirror Mirror” Los Angeles premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on March 17, 2012 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images For Relativity Media)Actor Michael Lerner arrives at Relativity Media’s “Mirror Mirror” Los Angeles premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on March 17, 2012 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images For Relativity Media)
Actor Michael Lerner arrives at Relativity Media’s “Mirror Mirror” Los Angeles premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on March 17, 2012 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images For Relativity Media)

Oscar-nominated actor Michael Lerner has died aged 81, his nephew has announced in a tribute shared on Instagram.

Lerner, originally from Brooklyn, New York City, was known for starring in television shows such as Clueless and Glee as well as big-budget films such as Elf and X-Men: Days Of Future Past. He earned his Academy Award nomination for his performance as film producer Jack Lipnick in the Coen brothers’ psychological thriller Barton Fink.

In the 1991 film Lerner starred alongside John Turturro (Severance, The Batman), who played a renowned New York playwright who is enticed to California to write for the movies with disastrous consequences.

Who was Michael Lerner - what was he in?

Lerner was an American actor who was born on 22 June 1941 in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from Brooklyn College, where he studied acting, Lerner received a scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley, where he obtained his master’s degree.

He later received a Fulbright Scholarship to study theatre in London for two years, at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art - it was during this time that he lived with John Lennon of the Beatles and Yoko Ono.

In 1968, Lerner starred in one of Ono’s experimental short films called Smile.

Speaking about Smile, Lerner said: “She made a movie comprised of bare asses walking on a treadmill. I’m in it and so is Paul McCartney. Plus I’m doing narration about censorship and all that crap.”

Actor Michael Lerner of the film "Yonkers Joe" poses for a portrait at the Amex Insider's Center during the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival on April 24, 2008 in New York City.  (Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)Actor Michael Lerner of the film "Yonkers Joe" poses for a portrait at the Amex Insider's Center during the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival on April 24, 2008 in New York City.  (Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
Actor Michael Lerner of the film "Yonkers Joe" poses for a portrait at the Amex Insider's Center during the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival on April 24, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

Lerner returned to the US that year and joined the American Conservatory Theatre. In 1970, he made his film debut in the movie Alex in Wonderland, before going on to appear in a number of supporting roles in Hollywood movies, including The Candidate, St Ives, The Postman Always Rings Twice and Harlem Nights.

One of his best known roles was that of Jack Lipnick in Barton Fink, which led to him receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Other roles that fans of Lerner may recognise him from include starring in the TV series Clueless, the Will Ferrell (Spirited, Anchorman) Christmas comedy Elf, Poster Boy, Godzilla, A Serious Man, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Entourage and Glee.

When did he die?

Lerner died on Saturday (8 April) evening, his nephew, The Goldbergs actor Sam Lerner, said in a tribute on Instagram.

Posting a photo of his uncle, he wrote: “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. 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.”

In the comments of the Instagram post, Canadian actor Nolan Gerard Funk, who appeared in Glee as Hunter Clarington, wrote: “I’m so sorry Sam.”

The Goldbergs actress Wendi McLendon-Covey added: “I’m so sorry! Sending love to you and your family.”

Tributes for Michael Lerner

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