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Michael Lerner, 'Barton Fink' and 'Elf' actor, dead at 81

Michael Lerner
Posted at 7:21 PM, Apr 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-09 19:23:01-04

(CNN) — Michael Lerner, a veteran character actor who received an Oscar nomination for his performance as an overbearing studio head in the 1991 film "Barton Fink," has died, his nephew, actor Sam Lerner, announced in a post on social media. He was 81.

"We lost a legend last night," Sam Lerner wrote in an Instagram post on Sunday. "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."

No further details on Lerner's death were given. CNN has reached out to representatives for Michael and Sam Lerner for further comment.

With film and television credits dating back to the 1960's, Lerner's career in Hollywood spanned decades. His earliest work throughout the '60's and '70's included appearances on television shows like "The Doris Day Show," "The Bob Newhart Show" and "M*A*S*H."

His first film came in 1970 as the character Leo in "Alex in Wonderland" alongside Donald Sutherland and Ellen Burstyn. Lerner went on to appear in films such as "The Ski Bum," "The Candidate," and "Outlaw Blues."

The actor appeared in multiple episodes of "Hill Street Blues" and "Melba" in the mid '80s before he starred in "Barton Fink" in 1991. His performance as studio executive Jack Lipnick, for which he starred alongside John Turturro, John Goodman and Judy Davis, earned him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.