Michael Lerner, ‘Barton Fink’ Oscar nominee, dies at 81

April 10, 2023  -Michael Lerner, the Brooklyn-born character actor who played a myriad of imposing figures in his 60 years in the business, including monologuing movie mogul Jack Lipnick in “Barton Fink,” the crooked club owner Bugsy Calhoun in “Harlem Nights” and an angry publishing executive in “Elf” has died. He was 81.

His nephew, actor Sam Lerner, announced his death in an Instagram post Sunday. Sam Lerner wrote that his uncle died Saturday but did not provide further details. Neither his nor Michael Lerner’s representatives immediately responded to requests for further comment.

“He was the coolest, most confident, talented guy,” Sam Lerner wrote. “Everyone that knows him knows how insane he was — in the best way…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.”

Born in 1941 to Romanian-Jewish parents and raised in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood, Michael Lerner began acting locally as a teen and into his days at Brooklyn College, where he got the chance to play Willie Loman in “Death of a Salesman.” His ambitions to pursue acting professionally crystalized when he received a Fulbright Scholarship and chose to study theater at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, where he lived in an apartment with Yoko Ono for a time, appearing in her short film “Smile.” His brother, Ken Lerner, also became an actor.

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