It’s fine that Len Lesser, who died yesterday of cancer-related pneumonia, is being primarily remembered now for “Seinfeld,” on which he played Jerry’s Uncle Leo. It was a good, memorable role. But I prefer to think of him as the cinema owning twins Manny and Mort Goldberg from Mario Van Peebles’ “Baadasssss!” (aka “How to Get the Man’s Foot Outta Your Ass” and “Gettin’ the Man’s Foot Outta Your Baadasssss!” and just “Badass”).
You can see Lesser doing double duty in the photo up above. I apologize for the low quality, but it’s actually hard to find materials from this film, which is a shame since it’s really quite good. Part biopic and part faux documentary (and real documentary, during the closing credits), it depicts the story of the making of Melvin Van Peebles’ pioneering blaxploitation flick “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” in which Mario appeared as a young man for a very controversial sex scene.
The Goldberg brothers owned and operated Detroit’s Grand Circus Theatre (now the Detroit Opera House, I think), which was one of two cinemas to premiere “Sweetback.” The weird thing, though, is that the Goldbergs were named Irving and Adolph. And looked nothing like Lesser. So it’s not like Van Peebles couldn’t simply find a set of acting twins. Check out a photo of the real Goldbergs, from around the time the film opened, after the jump.
For authenticity, they could have gone with Seymour Cassel.
Given the lack of necessity of special effects for this role — unlike the way Armie Hammer was too perfect for the role of the Winklevoss twins in “The Social Network” to let it be played by real twins — it’s a good question why Lesser was cast as both characters. I’m also unaware of what form of trickery was employed for the side-by-side scenes. “Baadasssss!” came out nearly a decade ago, and I highly doubt any high-cost computer imaging was utilized, a la Hammer’s Winklevi portrayal. Looks more like old-fashioned “Parent Trap” stuff. Here are some more bad images of Lesser as the Goldberg twins:
Now, if you’ve never seen “Baadasssss!” and want to see a good film about filmmaking, rent the DVD asap.