The son of a Manhattan clothing manufacturer, Ron Leibman defied his family's wishes by dropping out of Wesleyan University to study at the Actor's Studio. Appearing in off-Broadway productions from 1959, Leibman made his Broadway debut in 1963's Dear Me, the Sky is Falling. He won an Obie Award for his work in Transfers, and a New York Drama Desk Award for We Bombed in New Haven. An undeniably major talent, Leibman's explosive temper and entrenched insistence upon integrity at all costs has lost him more jobs than he'd probably care to count (There are some who say that much of Leibman's fabled contentiousness was incorporated into Dustin Hoffman's character in Tootsie).
After resisting series TV for many years, Leibman accepted the role of Martin Kazinksi, ex-con turned lawyer, in the 1978 weekly Kaz; the show died after a single season, but not before he won an Emmy Award (At the time, he insisted he'd never do another series; in 1991, however, he could be seen as Detective Al Burkhardt on the weekly Pacific Station, and earlier had been one of the candidates for the starring role in the TV sitcom Coach). In films, Leibman seems to relish wildly extroverted roles: The relentless stalker of Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five (1971), gonzo NYPD troubleshooter "Batman" in The Super Cops (1973), the out-of-town union organizer in Norma Rae (1979), the lithping Cathtillian heavy in Zorro the Gay Blade (1981), abrasive racing promoter Dave Davis in Phar Lap (1984), and Dolly Parton's greasy agent in Rhinestone (1985) (he was starred in Mad Presents Up the Academy, but had a falling out with the producers and insisted that his name be removed from the credits). Returning to Broadway in 1993, Leibman won a Tony Award for Angels in America. Once married to actress Linda Lavin, Ron Leibman is currently wed to actress Jessica Walter.