Lee Strasberg (born Israel Strassberg; November 17, 1901 – February 17, 1982) was an American actor, director and acting teacher born in a part of Galicia, Austrian Poland in what is now Ukraine.
He co-founded, with directors Harold Clurman and Cheryl Crawford, the Group Theatre in 1931, which was hailed as “America’s first true theatrical collective”. In 1951, he became director of the non-profit Actors Studio, in New York City, considered “the nation’s most prestigious acting school”, and in 1966, was involved in the creation of Actors Studio West in Los Angeles.
Kazan, in his autobiography, wrote, “He carried with him the aura of a prophet, a magician, a witch doctor, a psychoanalyst, and a feared father of a Jewish home…. [H]e was the force that held the thirty-odd members of the theatre together, and made them ‘permanent’.” Today, Ellen Burstyn, Al Pacino, and Harvey Keitel lead this nonprofit studio dedicated to the development of actors, playwrights, and directors.
As an actor, Strasberg is probably best known for his supporting role as gangster Hyman Roth alongside his former student Al Pacino in The Godfather Part II (1974), a role he took at Pacino’s suggestion, and which earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He also appeared in …And Justice for All (1979).