Michael Lerner (actor)

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Michael Lerner
Michael Lerner in Barton Fink
Michael Charles Lerner

(1941-06-22)June 22, 1941
DiedApril 8, 2023(2023-04-08) (aged 81)
Alma materLondon Academy of Music and Dramatic Art
Years active1954–2019
RelativesKen Lerner (brother)
Sam Lerner (nephew)

Michael Charles Lerner (June 22, 1941 – April 8, 2023) was an American actor. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Jack Lipnick in Barton Fink (1991). Lerner also played Arnold Rothstein in Eight Men Out (1988), Phil Gillman in Amos & Andrew (1993), The Warden in No Escape (1994), Mel Horowitz on the television series Clueless, 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).

Early life[edit]

Michael Charles Lerner was born on June 22, 1941,[1] in Brooklyn, New York City, of Romanian-Jewish descent, the second of three sons to Blanche and George Lerner; according to Lerner, his father "liked to think he was an antiques dealer, but in all actuality he was a junk dealer."[2][3] He was raised in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and in Solon, Ohio. His younger brother Ken, nephew Sam, and niece Jenny are also actors.[3][4] His older brother, Arnold, died in 2004.[1]


Lerner made his first television appearance at the age of 13, as a "quiz kid" on a television program hosted by a local sportscaster. He played Willy Loman in a production of Death of a Salesman at Brooklyn College, where Joel Zwick was a classmate. The experience convinced him that he wanted to be an actor, rather than an English professor. He also appeared as Sir Toby Belch in a production of Twelfth Night directed by David Mamet in Greenwich Village; William H. Macy was also in that production.[5] After graduating from Brooklyn College, where he studied acting, he received a scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a master's degree in English drama.[1] Although his then-wife still thought he should become an English professor, Lerner still wanted to be an actor;[5] he received a Fulbright Scholarship to study theater in London for two years, at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. While there, he lived in a flat with Yoko Ono and John Lennon. In 1968, he appeared in Ono's short experimental film Smile, among other projects.[citation needed] "She made a movie comprised of bare asses walking on a treadmill", he once said. "I’m in it and so is Paul McCartney. Plus I’m doing narration about censorship and all that crap."[3]

In 1968, Lerner returned to the San Francisco Bay Area and joined the American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.).[3] At the age of 24 he appeared as "Hieronymous the Miser" in a KPFA radio production of Michel de Ghelderode's Breugelesque play, Red Magic.[citation needed]

Lerner moved to Los Angeles in 1969, where he appeared in a production of Little Murders, a play by Jules Feiffer that was later adapted into a film by Alan Arkin. He also began making guest appearances in television shows such as The Brady Bunch, The Odd Couple, M*A*S*H, Banacek and The Rockford Files. In 1974, he appeared in the teleplay The Missiles of October, playing Pierre Salinger.[3]

In 1970, Lerner made his film debut in Alex in Wonderland; director Paul Mazursky had seen his production of Little Murders and enjoyed his performance.[3] He then went on to appear in supporting roles in various Hollywood movies such as The Candidate, St. Ives and the 1981 remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice. In 1991, after co-starring in Harlem Nights, Lerner played film producer Jack Lipnick in Barton Fink, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He based the character in part on legendary film mogul Louis B. Mayer; according to his brother Ken, he was working on a screenplay about Mayer when he died.[1][3]

From 1996 to 1997, Lerner played Mel Horowitz on the television series Clueless. In 1997, he would play Joy Miller's father Jerry in The Beautician and the Beast. Lerner's later projects include the Christmas comedy Elf (2003) and Poster Boy (2004), as well as television programs such as Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and Entourage.[citation needed]

In 2010, he appeared in the West End production of Up for Grabs with Madonna. He also appeared on BBC Radio Four in 2008 as a member of the cast of David Quantick's Radio Four's series One. He portrayed Senator Brickman in the Marvel Comics/Twentieth Century Fox film, X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). In 2013, Lerner appeared in a Season 4 episode of Glee as Sidney Greene, an investor in the revival of Broadway musical Funny Girl. His character is on the panel of judges, watching the Rachel Berry character audition for the lead role. He reprised his role as Sidney in Season 5 in several New York-based episodes of the series, as Funny Girl opens on Broadway.[6]

Personal life[edit]

In addition to his acting career, Lerner was a collector of rare books, an aficionado of Cuban cigars, and—by his own account—a very good poker player.[3][5] He was missing the tip of one index finger, due to an injury suffered while cutting a tongue sandwich while working at a deli in New York City.[1]


Lerner died of complications from brain seizures at a hospital in Burbank, California, on April 8, 2023, at the age of 81.[1][3]

Selected filmography[edit]


Year Title Role Notes
1968 Smile Short experimental film directed by Yoko Ono
1970 Alex in Wonderland Leo
1971 The Ski Bum Rod
1972 The Candidate Paul Corliss
1974 Busting Marvin Royce
Newman's Law Frank Acker
Hangup Fred Richards
1976 St. Ives Myron Green
1977 The Other Side of Midnight Barbet
Outlaw Blues Hatch
1979 Goldengirl Sternberg
1980 The Baltimore Bullet Paulie
Coast to Coast Dr. Frederick Froll
Borderline Henry Lydell
1981 The Postman Always Rings Twice Mr. Katz
Threshold Henry de Vici
1982 National Lampoon's Class Reunion Dr. Robert Young
1983 Strange Invaders Willie Collings
1985 Movers & Shakers Arnie
1987 Anguish John Pressman
1988 Vibes Burt Wilder
Eight Men Out Arnold Rothstein
1989 Harlem Nights Bugsy Calhoune
1990 Maniac Cop 2 Deputy Commissioner Edward Doyle
Any Man's Death Herb Denner
1991 Omen IV: The Awakening Earl Knight
1991 Barton Fink Jack Lipnick Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated—Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor[citation needed]
1992 Newsies Weasel
The Comrades of Summer George
1993 Amos & Andrew Phil Gillman
1994 Blank Check Biderman
Radioland Murders Lieutenant Cross
The Road to Wellville Goodloe Bender
No Escape The Warden
1995 No Way Back Frank Serlano
A Pyromaniac's Love Story Perry
Girl in the Cadillac Pal
1997 The Beautician and the Beast Jerry Miller
For Richer or Poorer Phillip Kleinman
1998 Godzilla Mayor Ebert
Safe Men Big Fat Bernie Gayle
Celebrity Dr. Lupus
Tale of the Mummy Professor Marcus
Desperation Boulevard Manny Green
1999 The Mod Squad Howard
My Favorite Martian Mr. Channing
2001 Mockingbird Don't Sing Dr. Stan York
2002 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure Producer Voice
2003 Elf Mr. Greenway
2004 The Calcium Kid Artie Cohen
Larceny Pete
Poster Boy Jack Kray
2005 When Do We Eat? Ira Stuckman
2006 Love and Other Disasters Marvin Bernstein
Art School Confidential Art Dealer
The Last Time Leguzza
2007 A Dennis the Menace Christmas Mr. Souse
Slipstream Big Mikey
2008 Yonkers Joe Stanley
2009 A Serious Man Solomon Schlutz
Life During Wartime Harvey Wiener
2010 Pete Smalls Is Dead Leonard Proval
Wax On, F*ck Off Cy Rosenthal Short film
2011 Atlas Shrugged: Part I Wesley Mouch
2012 Mirror Mirror Baron
2014 X-Men: Days of Future Past Senator Brickman
2015 Ashby Entwhistle
2019 Frankenstein's Monster's Monster, Frankenstein Bobby Fox Final performance before death


Year Title Role Notes
1963 Dr. Kildare Dr. Brown 1 episode
1969 The Good Guys Arthur 2 episodes
Three's a Crowd Sid Bagby Television film
The Brady Bunch Johnny 1 episode
1970 The Young Lawyers Anthony Maroni
The Doris Day Show Mr. Murray 2 episodes
1971 That Girl Charlie 1 episode
The D.A. Mark Warren
What's a Nice Girl Like You...? Fats Detroit Television film
1972 The Bold Ones: The New Doctors Jack Watson 1 episode
Ironside Adrian Father
Night Gallery Dr. Burgess
The Delphi Bureau Cy Turrell
Banacek Bartender
The Streets of San Francisco Lou Watkins
1973 Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice Dr. Nasserman
Firehouse Ernie Bush Television film
The Bob Newhart Show Mr. Carolla 1 episode
Emergency! Martin Noble
Love Story Lou Graham
The New Perry Mason Derek Stocker
1974 M*A*S*H Captain Bernie Futterman
The Rockford Files Dr. Ruben Steelman
Arnold Love 2 episodes
Love, American Style Karatz 1 episode
Chase Cupid
The Odd Couple Sgt. Chomsky
Reflections of Murder Jerry Steele Television film
The Missiles of October Pierre Salinger
1975 Sarah T. – Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic Dr. Marvin Kittredge
The Dream Makers Mike
A Cry for Help Philip Conover
Starsky & Hutch Fat Rolly 2 episodes
Lucas Tanner Artie 1 episode
Rhoda Ralph Bentley
1976 Jigsaw John Arthur Devore
Harry O Wilt Kane
Police Woman Guidera
The Rockford Files Murray Rosner
1978 Ruby and Oswald Jack Ruby Television film
Kojak Dr. Samuel Fine 1 episode
Vegas Nate Stephenson - pilot episode: 'High Roller'
Wonder Woman Ashton Ripley
1979 Hart to Hart Poker Player
1980 Barnaby Jones Albert Kruger
This Year's Blonde Jack L. Warner Television film
1982 Hart to Hart Art Radner 1 episode
1983 Hill Street Blues Rollie Simone 4 episodes
Blood Feud Eddie Cheyfitz Television film
Rita Hayworth: The Love Goddess Harry Cohn
1985 Hollywood Beat Pilot Pilot episode
MacGyver Gartner
The A-Team Jerry 1 episode
1987 Amazing Stories Mr. Marvin
Hands of a Stranger Capt. Cirrillo Television film
The King of Love Nat Goldberg
1988 Great Performances Oscar Hammerstein 1 episode
The Equalizer Amar
1991 Omen IV: The Awakening Earl Knight Television film
1992 The Comrades of Summer George
1993 Tales from the Crypt Mr. Byrd 1 episode
1995 Picture Windows Maestro
Courthouse Judge Myron Winkleman 11 episodes
1996–97 Clueless Mel Horowitz 18 episodes
1998–99 Godzilla: The Series Mayor Ebert Voice, 3 episodes
2000 Murder at the Cannes Film Festival Morrie Borelli Television film
2001 Third Watch Seymour Morgenstern 1 episode
2003–06 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Morty Berger 2 episodes
2004 Kingdom Hospital Sheldon Fleischer 3 episodes
2007 Entourage Joe Roberts 1 episode
2008 Dirty Sexy Money Martin
2009 Saving Grace Rebbe Jory Quecksilber
2010 The Bannen Way The Mensch Web series;

16 episodes

2012 The Good Wife Judge Dwight Sobel 1 episode
Suburgatory Aaron Laynberg
2013–14 Glee Sidney Greene 5 episodes
2015 Comedy Bang! Bang! Darren Schlepping 1 episode
Childrens Hospital Pop
2016 Maron Ralph


  1. ^ a b c d e f McCarthy, Lauren (April 10, 2023). "Michael Lerner, 'Elf' and 'Barton Fink' Actor, Dies at 81". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 10, 2023. Retrieved April 10, 2023.
  2. ^ Kaplan, Michael (January 1999). "Interview with Michael Lerner". Cigar Aficionado. Archived from the original on March 10, 2010. Retrieved November 23, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Michael Lerner, Actor in 'Barton Fink,' 'Harlem Nights' and 'Eight Men Out,' Dies at 81". The Hollywood Reporter. April 9, 2023. Retrieved April 9, 2023.
  4. ^ "Michael Lerner Biography". Yahoo! Movies. Archived from the original on May 22, 2011. Retrieved August 23, 2014.
  5. ^ a b c "Michael Lerner on Eddie Murphy, Barton Fink, and Woody Allen's worst movie". The A.V. Club. April 28, 2016. Retrieved April 9, 2023.
  6. ^ "Lea Michele and Michael Lerner". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on May 19, 2014. Retrieved August 23, 2014. Lea Michele and Michael Lerner on the set of "Glee" on March 16, 2014, in New York City.

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