Mike Schank Dies: Musician and ‘American Movie’ Star Was 53

Mike Schank
Sony Pictures/American Movie/YouTube

Mike Schank, a musician best known for his appearance in the cult favorite documentary film American Movie, has died. He was 53.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Schank passed away on Thursday, October 13. His close friend, Jackie Bogenberger, revealed that Schank had been battling cancer in recent months. A celebration of life is set to be held on November 12 at the Milwaukee Alano Club, where Schank volunteered for two decades.

Schank was close friends with independent filmmaker Mark Borchardt and helped Borchardt make the 1997 short horror film Coven. He later appeared in the 1999 documentary film about the making of Coven, which showed him acting in and assisting with the production, as well as providing music for the movie.

The documentary was a critical success, winning the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize for Documentary in 1999. Schank, in particular, received much praise for his part in the feature. The Boston Globe‘s Betsy Sherman called him “the movie’s inadvertent scene-stealer” and Drake Bentley and Piet Levy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote that Schank’s “deadpan humor and quiet sweetness in [American] Movie made him a beloved, unforgettable figure.”

Following the documentary’s success, Schank received a number of opportunities, including a role in the 2001 film Storytelling and a voice cameo as himself on Family Guy. He also appeared as himself on the Fox puppet-based sitcom Greg the Bunny in 2006.

“RIP Mike Schank, the sweet funny soul at the heart of the extraordinary doc ‘American Movie’,” tweeted Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright. “Me, Simon [Pegg] & Nick [Frost] were obsessed with it and since they included Mike’s home number on the DVD extras, we called him from London one night. If you’ve never seen it, please do immediately.”

Our Flag Means Death star and director Taika Waititi shared similar sentiments, writing, “RIP Mike Schank. I didn’t know this guy but man was he a cool friend. Let’s all watch #AmericanMovie this weekend – one of the all time great docs and super inspiring if you love film-making and film-makers.”

Check out more tributes below.