Lee Arenberg (born July 18, 1962) is an American actor. He had the remarkable ability to morph himself into frightening aliens, twisted psychotherapists, lascivious entertainment executives and everything in between. Most frequently referred to as a character actor, Arenberg maintained a flourishing acting career—over 20 years spanning television, stage and film. One of his best known roles was a recurring role as the dwarf Grumpy in the television series Once Upon a Time (which also featured Robbie Kay).
Lee Arenberg portrayed Pintel in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. He reprised the role on several occasions, whether it's lending his voice to video games or appearing in advertisements. Additionally, at the request of both Disney and director Gore Verbinski, Arenberg also wrote, directed, and starred in his own Pirates DVD featurettes.
A native Angeleno, Lee Arenberg was graduate of Santa Monica high school in 1980. He attended the school with "brat packers" Sean Penn, Robert Downey Jr. and Emilio Estevez and co-wrote a play with Estevez which was directed by Penn. Arenberg’s first professional job was in 1986 at the Mark Taper Forum in Ghetto, a play directed by Gordon Davidson. Within weeks, he was cast in three films, including Tapeheads opposite Tim Robbins and John Cusack. Arenberg found success early in his career playing scene-stealing roles in such famous TV shows like Tales from the Crypt, as well as a role on ARLI$$. He also played the recurring role of bookie Mike Moffit in two episodes of Seinfeld. In 1992 Lee appeared on the TV series Night Court. Arenberg credits much of his development as an actor to his participation in the Actors' Gang, one of Los Angeles' oldest theater companies, which he founded in 1981 with Tim Robbins and other friends from UCLA.
Among his many guest roles, Arenberg appeared in several different roles on all the Star Trek spin-offs Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise. His first appearance was in the eleventh episode of the first season of Deep Space Nine, playing the Ferengi Gral. Coincidentally, he played another unrelated character named Gral on Enterprise, that one a Tellarite. Arenberg can also be seen in the role of the notoriously arrogant studio head Bobby G. in the controversial syndicated Fox comedy Action, opposite series star Jay Mohr and Ileana Douglas. He also guest starred in the fifth season of Friends in an episode titled "The One with the Inappropriate Sister". He guest starred on an episode of Brotherly Love entitled "Motherly Love".
Arenberg had appeared in more than 30 movies, including Cradle Will Rock, Waterworld, Bob Roberts, and The Apocalypse. He had worked with such stars as Johnny Depp, Susan Sarandon, Jeremy Irons, Kevin Costner, Bill Murray, John Cusack and Tim Robbins. He had a part as a bumbling Hold-up Man in RoboCop 3. Lee also played Dr. Moyer in the Scrubs episode "My Own American Girl". He also starred as the dwarf Elwood Gutworthy in the fantasy-adventure feature Dungeons and Dragons, and guest starred as "Hair Plugs" in Grounded for Life. Arenberg's most well-known roles was as Pintel in the Pirates of the Caribbean series and as the regular character "Grumpy/Leroy" on the hit ABC television series Once Upon a Time.
After 20 years as an actor in the group, Lee Arenberg made his writing and directing debut with Foursome, a play about golf, sex and witchcraft. In his leisure time, Arenberg enjoyed golf, cooking, blues harmonica, video games and pitching for his softball team Bubblin' Crude, which was made up of other actors, many of whom are friends from high school. He was involved with St. Jude's Children's Hospital and other children's health causes and animal rights organizations, participating regularly in fund-raising efforts on behalf of those charitable causes.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Lee Arenberg was selected to portray the bumbling yet intimidating pirate Pintel opposite Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow, Geoffrey Rush's Captain Barbossa, Orlando Bloom's Will Turner, and Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Swann in the 2003 worldwide blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Because of the film being hugely successful, Arenberg reprised his popular starring role as Pintel in two back-to-back sequels, Dead Man's Chest and At World's End, as well as voicing the character in the At World's End video game and appearing a series of advertisements. Additionally, at the request of Disney and director Gore Verbinski, Arenberg also wrote, directed, and starred in his own Pirates of the Caribbean DVD featurettes.
The Curse of the Black Pearl
For the first film, Lee Arenberg was cast into the role of Pintel, who then was a member of Barbossa's cursed crew. Arenberg would work alongside Mackenzie Crook, who portrayed Pintel's cohort, Ragetti. Director Gore Verbinski stated, "Pintel and Ragetti are Laurel and Hardy on acid; they're dangerous villains, but you like them because they're funny." In dressing up as Pintel, Arenberg was given long hair and was bald on top, so that he got a lot of exposed skull up top.
Disney invited Lee Arenberg to keep a video journal his experiences on the movie, which he titled "Diary of a Pirate", displaying footage from a camcorder he carried around on location. Many other members of the cast and crew make appearances to smile for the camera. The diary chronicled one of the "last big days", as Arenberg put it, as well as a "Pirates Day Off" in St. Vincent and a day of filming on the Black Pearl built on a barge. Appearances include director Gore Verbinski, make-up artist Joel Harlow, propmaster Chuck Stewart, actors Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Kevin McNally, David Bailie, Mackenzie Crook, Angus Barnett, and Vince Lozano.
Initially viewed as a risky venture - as it was based on a Disney ride, and the first movie about pirates in decades - The Curse of the Black Pearl turned out to be one of the biggest blockbusters in years.
Dead Man's Chest and At World's End
In 2005, because of the unexpected success of The Curse of the Black Pearl, production began on two back-to-back sequels: Dead Man's Chest and At World's End. Lee Arenberg and Mackenzie Crook returned as eternally bickering and philosophizing piratical best mates Pintel and Ragetti—who endeared themselves to audiences as a sublime comedic pairing in The Curse of the Black Pearl. "Pintel and Ragetti are marvelous characters to begin with," says producer Jerry Bruckheimer, "but Lee and Mackenzie did a brilliant job of taking something that was on the page and amping it to the nth degree." True to their roles, the U.S.-born Arenberg and British native Crook genuinely hit it off during the filming of the first Pirates film, inseparable off as well as on screen. "We sort of stick together like some sort of 18th-century piratical Laurel and Hardy," notes Arenberg. "I always say that the luckiest thing that happened to me is that they couldn't find short, bald and crazy in London who was the right match for Mackenzie. So they had an audition for short, bald and crazy guys in Hollywood, and that was a little bit of Kismet for me."
Like the majority of the cast and crew, Arenberg spent nearly eight tough but rewarding weeks of filming on the island of Dominica. On the Sunset, which now portrayed the Black Pearl, Arenberg said the physical filming on the ship was more exciting, as they were on a seaworthy craft rather than the barge that "sort of bobbed in the water and would take forever to line up." Knowing the bar was raised in Dead Man's Chest, Lee Arenberg also gave kinds words about Jerry Bruckheimer, saying he was "one of a kind."
For such grizzled Pirates veterans as Lee Arenberg and Mackenzie Crook, who play the tagteam duo of Pintel and Ragetti, At World's End presented another opportunity to expand their characters. "We were funny bad guys in the first movie and funny good guys in the second one," says Arenberg. "And from here on out we're funny good guys no matter which team we're on. We certainly don't gain any intelligence. I always say that Pintel and Ragetti still share half a brain." Everyone was also glad to have spent another large chunk of their lives in the world of a Jerry Bruckheimer film. Says Lee Arenberg, "Jerry is the last true Hollywood producer/storyteller in that he allows his filmmakers to go for it. He's like the best poker player in the world, who holds all the cards, but knows when to use them."
Dead Man's Chest, which scored even higher numbers at the box office, though critics gave the film a solid drubbing for its convoluted plot. At World's End was originally the proposed end of the Pirates of the Caribbean series, though most in the industry felt that such a money-making engine could not be shut down so easily.
After the Pirates trilogy
After making At World's End, despite that Pintel and Ragetti were considered for the story, Lee Arenberg did not return for the fourth film On Stranger Tides. On May 19, 2011, Lee Arenberg was one of the special guest stars that made an appearance at the Pirates Marathon at the El Capitan Theatre. It was during this event that Arenberg revealed that Pirates was a big and special part of his life.
When speaking at the Farpoint Star Trek Convention in Timonium, Maryland, Arenberg revealed that he was sad that he couldn't return for the fourth Pirates film. Lee Arenberg also expressed interest in returning for a fifth Pirates film, having said he missed it. As of 2014, Arenberg said multiple times he "hoped" his character would appear in the fifth film.
Other Pirates work
Because of his role was popular, Lee Arenberg reprised the role of Pintel for several aspects of the Pirates franchise. He voiced the character in the At World's End video game, appeared in a series of advertisements, as well as starring in several videos (along with Martin Klebba as Marty) to promote Pirates of the Caribbean Online. Lee Arenberg also lent his voice in the game Disney INFINITY.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl - Pintel
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - Pintel
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End - Pintel
Notes and references
- Pirates of the Carribean presskit, accessed Dec 9, 2006
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl - "Diary of a Pirate"
- POTC2 Presskit
- POTC3 Presskit
- 3 of 4 - Pirates Marathon! El Capitan Theatre Celebrates Pirates of the Caribbean 4
- Farpoint Coverage pt2: Lee Arenberg | The Lancast Podcast
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