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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Musician Mike Schank, best known for his good guy role in the award-winning documentary film “American Movie,” has died, according to a close friend. He was 53.

Jackie Bogenberger said Schank had been battling cancer in recent months and died Thursday.

“American Movie” won best documentary at the Sundance Film Festival and became a cult favorite over the years. The 1999 film chronicled the making of the horror short “Coven” by independent filmmaker Mark Borchardt, with Schank — Borchardt’s best friend — shown in the film supporting Borchardt’s filmmaking dream through various challenges.

Schank’s deadpan humor and quiet sweetness in “Movie” — including his honesty about his struggles with alcoholism and gambling addiction — made him a beloved, unforgettable figure. He hilariously provided a bloodcurdling scream for “Coven” and also composed its music. The 1999’s documentary’s success led to several opportunities, including a role in the 2001 film “Storytelling” and a voice cameo as himself on the animated sitcom “Family Guy.”

Bogenberger said that throughout his battles with addiction and cancer, Schank remained “one of the most kind and selfless human beings this earth was ever blessed with.”

Family, friends and others paid tribute on Twitter.

“Lord of the Rings” star Elijah Wood called Schank a “legend,” adding “Mike Schank forever.” Comedian Patton Oswalt tweeted a simple “RIP.” Actor Rainn Wilson tweeted, “This is sad. LOVED this wonderful human.”

Schank’s best friend, Borchardt, simply tweeted: “Stay strong forever, Mike…”.

In August, Schank announced on Twitter that he was 27 years sober.

Roughly three months before Schank’s announcement, he began to tell friends and family that he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, according to Bogenberger.

Bogenberger said a celebration of life will be held Nov. 12 at the Milwaukee Alano Club, where Schank volunteered for two decades.


This story was updated to correct that Schank was 53 years old, not 56, when he died and that he died on Thursday, not Wednesday.