Michael Lerner, Oscar nominee for Barton Fink, dead at 81

Michael Lerner, a prolific character actor with credits that include Eight Men Out, Barton Fink and X-Men: Days of Future Past, is dead at 81.

Michael Lerner dead

If you’re a fan of eighties and nineties movies, you most likely recognize Michael Lerner. While never a leading man, the character actor had plenty of solid roles under his belt, most memorably playing a sadistic studio boss in the Coen Bros’ classic Barton Fink. Sadly, Michael Lerner passed away over the weekend at 81 years old. His nephew, Sam Lerner, who stars on The Goldbergsbroke the news via Instagram:

Lerner, who has hundreds of credits going all the way back to the sixties, had some pretty sizeable roles in a bunch of beloved movies. In addition to Barton Finkhe played the infamous gambler/ gangster Arnold Rothstein in John Sayles’ Eight Men Outanother gangster in Eddie Murphy’s Harlem Nightsand a New York Mayor that was based on Roger Ebert in Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla (he was even named Mayor Ebert). Other credits include X-Men: Days of Future Past, Newsies, elf, Blank Checkand many TV roles, including a recurring gig on Glee.

As for me, the role I’ll always remember Lerner for was playing the evil warden in Best Movie You Never Saw fave No Escape, opposite the late Ray Liotta. He was memorable in that film, and it’s a shame the film itself isn’t better known. Lerner was nominated for one Oscar for his scene-stealing turn as studio head Jack Lipnik in Barton Fink, with the role being based on former MGM studio head Louis B. Meyer. Apparently, Lerner actually played Meyer again in a 2022 Russian film called Pervy Oskar. In the US, most recently, he had acted opposite David Harbor in Netflix’s Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monstera mockumentary short film that came out back in 2019.

While never a household name, Lerner certainly contributed a lot to a wide variety of movies and TV shows, and he’ll be missed.