Eric Stoltz has appeared in a number of major and minor features and on television. While growing up, the pale, slender, and red-haired Stoltz spent time in American Samoa. His interest in acting began in high school where he not only acted in productions, but also occasionally accompanied them on piano. While attending U.S.C., Stoltz studied theater arts but left the program to study under Stella Adler, William Taylor, and Peggy Feury. Afterward, Stoltz spent a season in Edinburgh performing with an American repertory company.
Upon his return stateside, Stoltz appeared in the television movie version of humorist Erma Bombeck's novel The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank (1978). He would appear in three more television films before making his film debut in Amy Heckerling's Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) alongside such other would-be stars as Sean Penn, Anthony Edwards, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. From there, Stoltz appeared in a series of low-budget films such as Running Hot (1982) and Surf 2 (1984), and he might well have remained at that level had he not been cast as Rocky Dennis in Peter Bogdanovich's Mask (1986). Playing a young teen suffering from lionitis, a terminal disease that drastically deforms the skull, Stoltz had to wear pounds of makeup and prosthetics (the makeup won Oscars for designers Zoltan Elek and Michael Westmore) that left him with only his voice, his eyes, and his body with which to convey emotions. Starring opposite Cher, who played his drug-addicted biker-chick mother, Stoltz gave a moving performance that earned him critical and audience acclaim. But though it made Stoltz popular, full-fledged stardom eluded him and he continued appearing in moderately successful and low-budget films, including John Hughes' romantic drama Some Kind of Wonderful (1987).
In addition to his film work, Stoltz has had a busy Broadway career that began in 1988 with a Tony-nominated starring role in a revival of Thornton Wilder's Our Town, and a sporadic television career making guest appearances on such series as Mad About You and in TV movies. Stoltz has occasionally produced films such as Mr. Jealousy (1997). In 2002 Stoltz reteamed with Killing Zoe director Rogery Avery for the pitch-black college comedy The Rules of Attraction, and the following decade found him increasingly active on the small screen with roles in Will & Grace, Close to Home, Grey's Anatomy, and the 2009 Battlestar Galactica spin-off Capricia. Meanwhile, back on the silver screen, Stoltz earned accolades for his leading role as a conflicted barber of German heritage forced to suppress his American patriotism after moving his family to a post-World War II military base which houses a German POW camp.