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Danny Leiner, who directed the popular slacker comedies Dude, Where’s My Car? and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, has died. He was 57.
Leiner died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles after a long battle with cancer, his brother, Ken, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Leiner also helmed episodes of such series as The Sopranos, Sports Night, Strangers With Candy, Arrested Development, The Office, Felicity, Everwood, Gilmore Girls, Freaks and Geeks, The Mind of the Married Man, The Tick and Party of Five.
More recently, he directed and produced the Joshua Malina comedy Backwash at Crackle for Sony Pictures Television.
Dude, Where’s My Car? (2000), starring Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott, was lambasted by critics, yet it grossed $73 million worldwide off a budget of $13 million.
Leiner then got the gig to direct Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004), the first of the three stoner films that starred John Cho and Kal Penn. It grossed $24 million.
Leiner also helmed Balls Out: Gary the Tennis Coach (2009), starring Scott, and produced The Young Kieslowski, winner of the audience award for best narrative feature at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival.
Raised in Park Slope in Brooklyn, Leiner met future Sopranos star Edie Falco when both attended the State University of New York at Purchase.
“I had a make-believe major called Social Science Visual Arts. SSVA. I wasn’t a film student but I got to do whatever the hell I wanted. Basically I would dabble. I’d do film, I’d do art, I’d do photography and I got to just really fuck around,” he told Ain’t It Cool News in 2006. “But I got to work on a lot of movies, so I’d start working with Hal Hartley and Nick Gomez and Edie Falco and all these great actors and people who started making movies as soon as they got out of school.”
Leiner helmed a short film, Time Expired (1992), that featured Falco and John Leguizamo, then wrote and directed the feature comedy Layin’ Low (1996), starring Falco, Jeremy Piven and Louise Lasser.
The actress also was in Leiner’s 9/11 film The Great New Wonderful (2005), appearing as a favor to her friend.
In his review of the film for The New York Times, A.O. Scott said Leiner “has a good eye for the small absurdities of ordinary life and in particular for the unacknowledged (and unattractive) emotions that lie beneath the careful neutrality of everyday behavior.”
In addition to his brother, survivors include his mother, Anne; sister Karen; ex-wife Margaret Mendelson of CAA; and nephews/nieces Matt, Corrina and Luca.
A memorial will be held in Los Angeles in the coming weeks.
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