David Legrant, an acting teacher whose students including Tobey Maguire, Danny Glover, Carol Burnett, Bernadette Peters, Steve Martin, Walton Goggins, Alyson Hannigan and Sara Gilbert, died Thursday in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He was 87. The cause of death is not yet known.
Legrant was born in Los Angeles to a father who a carpenter in the movie industry. After serving as a flight engineer in the Army Air Corps during WWII, he studied acting thanks to the G.I. Bill and landed a few small movie roles. In the late 1940s, he relocated to New York to seek work onstage. While performing at a Borscht Belt resort, he met singer-actress Barbara Cook. They married in 1952 and hit the road together for a national tour of “Oklahoma” together the following year. Legrant also continued his study of acting, this time at the Actors Studio with Lee Strasberg; a fellow student there was Marilyn Monroe.
It was Cook who urged Legrant to begin teaching actors to others, after he had coached her, their son Adam Legrant recently told Backstage West magazine.
Dedicated to his profession, David Legrant would often coach via phone or in person long into the night.
Bernadette Peters told Backstage about what she considered the most important advice he gave: “Never copy anyone. The best thing you have to offer is your originality. If they already have a Robert De Niro or Meryl Streep, why would they need another one?”
Legrant returned to Los Angeles in 1978, continuing to teach there and founding his Studio for Acting.
Legrant always focused on the need for naturalness. “If you make it believable for yourself, you will make it believable for the audience,” he told Backstage West.
Legrant’s Studio for Acting will continue to operate, with longtime coach Eddie Singleterry in a key role.
In addition to Adam, Legrant is survived by another son, Jacob.