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Lights! Camera! Cigars!

Actor Michael Lerner makes certain that in his many character roles, a cigar is often at hand.
Michael Kaplan
From the Print Edition:
John Travolta, Jan/Feb 99

(continued from page 3)

Considering Lerner's intellectual curiosity, it's no surprise that he's a history buff. And that adds richness to his portrayals of real-life characters like Jack Ruby, whom he played in the 1978 TV docudrama Ruby and Oswald. Pointing out that Ruby's brother and sister served as technical advisers on the film, Lerner recalls, "I walked around Dallas with my head shaved, and they thought it was scary. Earl Ruby said, 'You look just like Jack.'" In the 1970s made-for-television movie about the Cuban missile crisis, The Missiles of October, Lerner played Pierre Salinger. After it aired, Lerner was at a Jerry Mulligan concert in New York and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis came over. "She told me that I out-Pierred Pierre. That was a compliment."

It is late afternoon, and the L.A. sky takes on a dusky quality. The time nears for Lerner's afternoon swimming, reading and smoking ritual. He sees me out the door. Walking past his black Mercedes Benz 420-E, thinking about all that his career has given him, I ask him if he ever feels cheated by his status as an actor's actor who plays character roles rather than being a leading man. Lerner thinks about that for a beat, then responds, "Every role is a character role."

Michael Kaplan is a freelance writer based in New York City.


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