Ron Silver

Active - 1976 - 2021  |   Born - Jul 2, 1946 in New York, New York, United States  |   Died - Mar 15, 2009   |   Genres - Drama, Thriller, Comedy, Comedy Drama, Action

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

Ron Silver was known for his extraordinary stage presence and high-energy portrayals of a variety of offbeat characters in films and on television. A native New Yorker, Silver studied Chinese at State University of New York at Buffalo and drama at the Herbert Berghof Studio and the Actors Studio. After receiving his bachelor's from S.U.N.Y., Silver earned a master's degree in Chinese history at the College of Chinese Culture in Taiwan and then returned to New York to study at the aforementioned acting studios. 1976 was a big year for Silver who debuted as a comedian in feature films (Tunnelvision), television (The Mac Davis Show), and theater (El Grande de Coca-Cola). He was also a regular cast member between 1976 and 1978 on the sitcom Rhoda, and then appeared in several made-for-television movies before appearing in Semi-Tough (1977). His feature film career picked up in the early '80s, but he did not get his first big break until he starred opposite Anne Bancroft in Sidney Lumet's Garbo Talks (1984). Silver earned critical acclaim in 1989 for starring in Philip Saville's Fellow Traveler as a Hollywood screenwriter forced to flee his family and friends to avoid getting blacklisted during the early '50s. That same year, Silver won a Tony and a Drama Desk Award for starring in David Mamet's Speed-The-Plow and scored a second film coup in Paul Mazursky's adaptation of author Isaac Bashevis Singer's Enemies, A Love Story. In the years to follow,, the busy Silver, who juggled his time between the three entertainment forms, became a respected mid-range star who could be counted on to deliver consistently strong, fine performances. As the '90s progressed, he moved into more lead roles playing everything from psychopaths (Blue Steel [1990]), senators (Time Cop [1994]), sleazy lawyers (in the TV medical drama Chicago Hope [1994- ]), and scientists (The Arrival [1996]). Silver died of esophageal cancer in 2009 at the age of 62.

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  • Majored in Spanish and Chinese in college and considered employing his language skills in a career in the State Department or the CIA.
  • Taught high-school Spanish and dabbled in social work before pursuing acting full-time off-Broadway, making his stage debut in Kasper in 1971.
  • Made his film debut in 1976 in Tunnelvision. Later that year he landed his first regular TV role, playing Gary Levy on Rhoda.
  • Star turn came in 1988 when he won both the Drama Desk Award and the Tony for his portrayal of film producer Charlie Fox in David Mamet's Broadway smash Speed-the-Plow.
  • Portrayed numerous real-life characters, including Henry Kissinger, attorney Alan Dershowitz, Muhammad Ali's cornerman Angelo Dundee, tennis player Bobby Riggs and Grateful Dead concert promoter Bill Graham.
  • Founding member of both the Creative Coalition (a political-advocacy group) and One Jerusalem (an educational foundation), as well as serving as president of the Actor' Equity Association for nine years.
  • Primarily politically liberal for most of his life, he opted out of the Democratic party after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and endorsed President George W. Bush and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.