Ron Silver was an American actor and activist, who was considered one of the most politically aware personalities in Hollywood. He was also a champion of human rights, environmental activism and anti-nuclear campaigns. In his acting career, he is remembered for playing the lead roles in the Oscar-nominated film ‘Enemies, A Love Story’, the satirical play ‘Speed-the-Plow’ and the political drama series ‘The West Wing’. In 1989, he co-founded the ‘Creative Coalition’, a nonprofit and nonpartisan group for the politically and socially conscious individuals of the entertainment industry. He was a lifelong Democrat but after the 9/11 attacks, he became a strong supporter of President George W. Bush, who was quite unpopular in Hollywood. Ron’s shift in politics cost him several jobs in the liberal-minded Hollywood. However, the scholar cum actor had no dearth of good roles, as his skills as a character actor always remained sought after. Ron was a member of the ‘Council on Foreign Relations’ and the program committee of the ‘Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’. He was also a founding member of the board of directors for New York City Public/Private Initiatives Inc. He served as the president of the ‘Actors Equity Association’, a union that represents actors and stage managers, between 1991 and 2000. Apart from being an award-winning actor, he maintained an interest in politics, international affairs and social causes throughout his life.
Ron Silver majored in Spanish and Chinese in college, and was planning to utilize his language skills in his career. He worked as a high school teacher for a brief period before beginning his stint as a social worker for the ‘Department of Social Studies’. He initially studied acting at the ‘Herbert Berghof Studio’ and then attended the ‘Actor's Studio’. In 1971, Ron made his New York stage debut in the play ‘Kaspar’ before being seen in ‘Public Insult’. His acting in the 1974 production of the ‘El Grande de Coca-Cola’ was highly appreciated. After working on stage for four years, he moved to Los Angeles where he was discovered by Hollywood film agents. He made his film debut in the 1976 movie ‘Tunnel Vision’ and in the same year, he was roped in as a series regular on the American sitcom ‘Rhoda’ (1976-1978).
Some of his initial films were ‘The Entity’ (1983), ‘Garbo Talks’ (1984) and ‘Eat and Run’ (1986). He also remained active on stage in the 1980s, winning the ‘Tony Award for Best Actor’ for his Broadway performance in David Mamet’s 1988 play ‘Speed-the-Plow’. In 1989, Ron played the lead role in the Oscar-nominated film ‘Enemies, A Love Story’. A year later, he received acclaim for his role as a defense attorney in the drama movie ‘Reversal of Fortune’. He then played the role of a villain in the science fiction action movie ‘Timecop’ (1994) before again being seen as a defense attorney in the 2000 film ‘American Tragedy’, which was based on O.J. Simpson’s public trial. It was not the only movie in which he essayed a real-life character, as he had done several films based on true stories throughout his career.
He portrayed former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger in the 1995 TV movie ‘Kissinger and Nixon’, tennis player Bobby Riggs in ‘When Billie Beat Bobby’ (2001) and Mohammed Ali's boxing trainer in ‘Ali’ (2001). He did the recurring role of presidential campaign adviser Bruno Gianellion on the political drama series ‘The West Wing’ from 2001 to 2002, and again from 2005 to 2006. Ron also received an ‘Emmy’ nomination for his role on the show. In February 2008, he hosted the ‘Ron Silver Show’, which focused on the political climate and public affairs in the US. His last film role was as Sam Dunbar in ‘A Secret Promise’ (2009).
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Ron Silver was one of the few Hollywood actors who were actively involved in politics. In 1989, he co-founded the ‘Creative Coalition’, a political advocacy organization for people working in the entertainment industry. In 2000, he co-created ‘One Jerusalem’, a group that opposed the ‘Oslo Peace Agreement’. Ron was a lifelong Democrat, but became a Republican supporter later on. He supported President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks and enthusiastically endorsed him in his address at the Republican National Convention in 2004. His shift in politics cost him a few jobs in Hollywood, but he remained sought after for his skills as a character actor. On October 7, 2005, he was nominated by President Bush as a member of Board of Directors of the United States Institute of Peace.
Family & Personal Life
Ronald Arthur Silver was born on July 2, 1946, in New York City, New York to Jewish immigrant parents. His father Irving Roy Silver worked as a clothing sales executive, while his mother May Silver was a teacher. Ron grew up in the Lower East side of Manhattan and attended ‘Stuyvesant High School’. He graduated from the ‘State University of New York’ at Buffalo with a bachelor's degree in Spanish and Chinese. He later earned a master’s degree in Chinese history from the ‘St. John's University’ in New York and the ‘Chinese Culture University’ in Taiwan. In the late 1960s, he travelled to more than 30 countries, including Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Japan and the Soviet Union on a work-study program. He fluently spoke in Spanish, Chinese and Mandarin and also considered making a career out of his language skills.
For a short time, he worked as a high school teacher and social worker. Ron then attended the Columbia University’s ‘Graduate School of International Affairs’. Around this time, he also studied acting at the ‘Herbert Berghof Studio’ before further polishing his skills at the ‘Actor's Studio’. He then moved to Los Angeles and started working in television productions and films.
Ron Silver married Lynne Miller on December 24, 1975. They had two children; Adam Silver, born in 1979, and Alexandra Silver, born in 1983. The couple divorced in 1997 after staying together for over two decades. Throughout his life, Ron remained actively involved in politics, international affairs and social causes. He was also an activist for causes, such as environmental conservation and artistic freedom. A longtime smoker, Ron battled esophageal cancer for two years before succumbing to it on March 15, 2009, in New York City.