Michael Lennick, Documentary Filmmaker Behind 'Rocket Science,' Dies at 61

He also co-created and co-wrote 'All Night Show' for Toronto's MTV47, which ran for 302 episodes

Michael Lennick, the documentary filmmaker whose credits included the award-winning 10-part series Rocket Science and Doctor Teller's Very Large Bomb, both of which aired on PBS, has died. He was 61.

His friend Chris Darling, one of the producers of Warner Bros.' upcoming Robert Downey Jr. film Perry Mason and The Lost Legion, told The Hollywood Reporter that Lennick died Friday in Toronto from an aggressive brain tumor that landed him in the hospital a month ago. He was surrounded by friends and family when he died Friday after being taken off life support.

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Among Lennick's other credits are The Land of Space and Time and The Highest Step in the World, which won awards at the White Sands and Houston film festivals. Lennick's films have been featured as extended material on DVDs and Blu-rays, many from Criterion.

According to Darling, who met Lennick through a mutual friend in 2001, "Michael's passing will leave a number of projects here in Hollywood unfinished as he was, simply, the irreplaceable element in each one." The duo not only developed a friendship thanks to a shared interest in science fiction and politics, but also a professional relationship, optioning many novels together and pitching projects to the studios.

Darling also described Lennick as a "friend and confidant of the leading names in the world of astronautics" whose "films featured a veritable who's who of NASA personalities and jaw-dropping footage never before seen by the general public."

Lennick was born on Dec. 4, 1952. His parents, Ben and Sylvia, worked in radio and TV, appearing in many of the Wayne & Shuster sketches featured on The Ed Sullivan Show. His mother also co-founded Canada's actors union, ACTRA.

Lennick got his start in Hollywood working as a special effects expert on films including David Cronenberg's Videodrome, The Dead Zone and The Fly.

In 1981, Lennick co-created, co-wrote and directed All Night Show for Toronto's MTV47, which ran for 302 episodes.

It was "one of the first shows to capture the very, very late night audience in a time before infomercials," says Darling. "With its wild combination of Pete Smith short films from the 1930s and hoary television episodes, interspersed with crazy stunts (such as tossing objects off the roof of the studio), All Night was hosted by the ringleader 'Chuck the Security Guard' who, according to the storyline, 'fired up the cameras when the crew of the station went home.' As portrayed by Chas Lowther, Chuck amused and amazed an entire generation of exam-cramming students and late-night workers. One of the 'hangers-on' at the station was a very young and totally unknown Jim Carrey."

Darling said All Night's influence can be felt in late-night shows hosted by the likes of David Letterman, who also featured various objects thrown off roofs.

More recently, Lennick reunited with Cronenberg for the documentary The Scanners Way, produced for Criterion's 25th anniversary edition of Cronenberg's Scanners.

Lennick is survived by his wife, Shirley Gulliford, his brother, David, and his sister, Julie.

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