February 26, 2024
R.I.P. Mike Schank, Unlikely Star of American Movie Dead 56

Mike Schank, who was immortalized as a good guy and a great friend in the award-winning documentary American Movie, has died at the age of 56.

His passing was announced by his friend Jackie Bogenberger on social media and confirmed by the Milwaukee Record. On October 13th, she wrote that he “passed away early this morning in his mother’s arms. He immediately went on to meet his father and sister who he has missed for a very long time. He was very uncomfortable these last few days, and is in a much better place now.”

She told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he had recently been diagnosed with cancer.

Schank became an unlikely icon after American Movie premiered at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Grand Jury Prize for documentary. The film chronicles the attempts by Wisconsin director Mark Borchardt to film his horror short Coven as the shoot edged into disaster. Poor planning, lack of financing, the less-than-talented friends and family serving as cast and crew, and Borchardt’s abuse of alcohol all prove to be nearly insurmountable — nearly, except for Schank’s steady presence.

Schank acted in Coven, wrote music for the soundtrack, contributed a memorable scream, and served as Borchardt’s assistant on set and in the editing room. In no small part due to his charms, American Movie achieved a fervent cult following. Schank went on to appear as himself on Family Guy, and he had acting parts in Storytelling (2001) and Hamlet A.D.D. (2014).

His passing was mourned throughout the entertainment industry. Mark Duplass wrote, “RIP Mike Schank. Watch him in AMERICAN MOVIE and learn how to be a good friend.” Elijah Wood added, “Mike Schank forever.”

Edgar Wright said, “RIP Mike Schank, the sweet funny soul at the heart of the extraordinary doc ‘American Movie’. Me, Simon & Nick 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.” He added that he “Had a long-ish conversation with him. Very sweet, funny guy. I remember we said ‘If you’re ever in London, we’d love to take you out for a beer’ and he replied ‘Thanks… I don’t think I will be.’”

Check out a selection of tributes below.

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