Lev Mailer Dies: Former SAG Vice President Was 88

Lev Mailer, former 11th vice president of the Screen Actors Guild, has died at 88. He died Feb. 24 of a bacterial infection at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Mailer, who served on SAG’s national board in the 1990s, chaired the Screen Actors Guild Conservatory for 10 years.

“He was a union man,” his wife Paula told Deadline. “He loved the Screen Actors Guild and he loved actors. He really cared that they were recognized and that they were given their fair share.”

A framed poster celebrating SAG’s 50th anniversary still hangs in their living room in Edina, MN. “We had it in our townhouse in Studio City, and we brought it with us when we moved here in 2000,” Paula recalled. “He was very proud of SAG. He really believed in the union and in justice for actors. He was really driven about it. He thought it was a wonderful union.”

Mailer worked for more than 35 years as an actor and voice artist in film, theater, television and commercials in Hollywood and New York. His many TV credits include the original Star Trek series, the original Mission Impossible series, The Lucy Show, Hogan’s Heroes, Dallas, and Quincey, M.E. On stage, he appeared in Julius Caesar, The Diary of Anne Frank and Oedipus at Colonus.

A well-known acting teacher, he taught at the American Film Institute and at the SAG Conservatory. In Minnesota, he taught at the Lundstrum Performing Arts in Minneapolis, and with Paula ran the Lev Mailer Actors Studio for 18 years.

Mailer was a longtime friend and neighbor of former SAG president Ed Asner, and they reunited when Asner came back to Minnesota in 2020 as the honored guest at the inaugural Spring Grove International Film Festival. “We him at the St. Paul Hotel,” Paula recalled. “They talked about actors and they got into a big conversation about SAG and unions. They were both justice seekers, so they always got along very well.” Asner died last August.

Mailer was performing right up until the time of his death. “He was doing Shakespeare monologues for the doctors and nurses, and they would gather around and listen,” Paula said. “He did Shakespeare monologues for me every day right up until the day before he died.” They were together for 32 years.

Russell McConnell, a former SAG national board member and Lev’s longtime friend, recalled that Mailer fought for the rights of all members, including the oft-overlooked background performers. “I will be forever grateful for his intelligent insight and suggestions, his support, his dedicated service, and his egalitarianism on so many issues affecting all actors,” McConnell said. “I’m certain I’m not alone in feeling this way.”

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