Michael Lerner, Actor In Elf, X-Men, And Glee, Dead At 81

The Oscar-nominated Michael Lerner has died at the age of 81.

By Britta DeVore | Published

michael lerner

Celebrated actor Michael Lerner, who was well known for his performances in projects like Clueless and X-Men: Days of Our Future Past, has died at 81 years old. According to Deadline, the Academy Award-nominated performer’s nephew and The Goldbergs star, Sam Lerner shared the crushing news via an Instagram post, which you can see below. With a career spanning over 50 years, Lerner appeared in a multitude of familiar and favorite titles.

In his post, Michael Lerner’s nephew wrote that the family was mourning the loss of their beloved member and “legend.” Calling his uncle “brilliant” and “influential,” Sam Lerner lovingly crafted his tribute post with words of praise for the late Lerner. Sharing an insight into their relationship, Sam Lerner said that Michael would often tell him stories about the entertainment biz which would in turn give him the drive he needed to push himself toward a career in acting. 

While he held his first role in 1968’s Smile, an experimental short shot by none other than Yoko Ono, and would appear in other major titles including National Lampoon’s Class Reunion and Harlem Nights, Michael Lerner made one of his biggest splashes in the early ‘90s when he appeared in Ethan and Joel Coen’s Barton Fink. The feature, which saw Lerner opposite fellow stars including John Goodman, John Turturro, John Mahoney, and Judy Davis would land Lerner an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor and also nab the film’s team nominations for Costume Design and Art Direction.

michael lerner
Michael Lerner in Barton Fink (1991)

1996 would see him step into the iconic designer shoes of Mel Horowitz, the father of Cher in the television spinoff of Clueless. While it wouldn’t feature Alicia Silverstone in her fan-favorite role as the fashion-obsessed high school student, the series would bring back several of the original film’s actors including Donald Faison and Stacey Dash to star alongside Michael Lerner in the sitcom that would successfully run for three seasons. 

From there, fans of the Will Ferrell-led holiday classic, Elf, will recognize Michael Lerner as the mean boss, Mr. Greenway. Toward the end of his acting career, the star was featured in 2014’s X-Men: Days of a Future Past as Senator Brickman before rounding things out with Tony McNamara’s crime-centered comedy drama Ashby in 2015 and the David Harbour-led mockumentary Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein in 2019 which would serve as the actor’s final big screen appearance. 

Along with the Clueless series, Michael Lerner also appeared in a slew of other television titles from M.A.S.H. to The Odd Couple and Wonder Woman. Later in his career, he held down a recurring role on the beloved musical comedy-drama Glee and also appeared in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Saving Grace, The Good Wife, Suburgatory, and Childrens Hospital. His final TV appearance was in a one-off episode in the sitcom, Maron.

At this time, an official cause of death for the late actor has not been released. With Michael Lerner’s family in a period of deep mourning, we’re sending our thoughts, well wishes, and condolences to them at this time.