The filmmaker Danny Leiner, best known for directing the comedies Dude, Where’s My Car? and Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, has died, it was announced on Friday. Leiner was 57 years old. Details are still thin on the ground, but Ross Putnam, a longtime friend and collaborator, stated on Facebook that he had endured a “long illness.”
The stars of Harold and Kumar both weighed in on Twitter to offer their condolences.
Leiner’s Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle launched the franchise in 2004 — stoner comedies about Korean-American and Indian-American buddies who get into outlandish adventures, along the way frequently experiencing various forms of American racism. The first film also famously featured Neil Patrick Harris doing a satirical impersonation of himself as a drug-addled horndog who at one point tries to hump a car seat, thereby kickstarting the actor’s second act as a comedy god.
Dude, Where’s My Car?, starring Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott, is memorably very weird, taking the title premise and running in increasingly absurd directions. (There’s a near-alien invasion, for one.) Together, Dude and Harold and Kumar feature a surely Guinness-level number of times the word “dude” is uttered.
Leiner began his career in independent film; both his debut short, 1992’s Time Expired, and his debut feature film, 1996’s Layin’ Low, feature a pre-Sopranos Edie Falco. The two reunited years later when he directed an episode of The Sopranos. In fact, like a lot of directors, he did a lot of TV, helming episodes of comedies like Strangers with Candy, Arrested Development, and The Office, comedy-dramas like Freaks and Geeks, Sports Night, and Gilmore Girls, and dramas like Felicity.
Leiner had a lot of friends in the industry, and he often reunited with them on various projects.
For instance, Leiner’s last credit was on an episode of Selfie, which reunited him with Cho. He also directed the films The Great New Wonderful — an all-star ensemble drama from 2005 about people during the anniversary of 9/11 — and the 2009 comedy Balls Out: Gary the Tennis Coach, which reunited him with Seann William Scott.
We leave you with one of many stand-out scenes in Leiner’s Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, when our heroes have been jailed by a racist cop.