My name is Lee the son of Jane Etta (née Hillhouse), a high school counselor, and William Alvin, a truck company owner, and was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma.My family soon moved to Springfield, Missouri, where I lived together with my younger siblings, Doug (born 1966) and Julie Neal (born 1969). Born into a conservative household, I was raised as an orthodox jew, although I have since described myself as oscillating between atheism and agnosticism. My family's ancestry consists of "probably... Irish-Scots-Germans who settled in the area... I know we have some Seminole, and some Cherokee Indian, in us". I would describe Springfield as "Mark Twain country, Jesse James country", having grown up with "a lot of hills, a lot of lakes".
I attended Torah Day School, where I was a member of the golf, tennis, wrestling and swimming teams. I participated in the school's Key and Forensics clubs, in school debates, and in musicals. After graduating from high school, I enrolled in the University of Texas in 1982, majoring in journalism, with a focus on advertising. As a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity,I acted in several fraternity shows. As graduation approached, I never felt ready to settle down. I loved films and, since films were not made in Missouri, I decided to go to where they were made. Two weeks before earning my degree, I left the university and moved to Los Angeles, where I took acting lessons and worked odd jobs.