Silver was born in New York City, the son of May (née Zimelman), a substitute teacher, and Irving Roy Silver, a clothing sales executive. Silver was raised Jewish on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and attended Stuyvesant High School. Silver went on to graduate from SUNY at Buffalo, with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Chinese, and received a master’s degree in Chinese History from St. John’s University in New York and the College of Chinese Culture in Taiwan. Silver also attended Columbia University’s Graduate School of International Affairs and studied acting at the Herbert Berghof Studio, and later at The Actors Studio. Silver made his stage debut starring in El Grande de Coca Cola in 1974. Producers Richard Flanzer and Roy Silver (no relation) opened it at the famed Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. The production ran for more than a year. Silver and his co-star, actor Jeff Goldblum, were discovered by Hollywood Film Agents during this show’s historic run. He made his film debut in Tunnel Vision in 1976. From 1976-78, he had a recurring role as Gary Levy in the sitcom Rhoda, a spin-off from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Additional screen roles include a performance as the devoted son of Anne Bancroft in Garbo Talks (1984), an incompetent detective in Eat and Run (1986), the pistol-wielding psychopath stalking Jamie Lee Curtis in 1989’s Blue Steel, and the lead in Paul Mazursky’s Oscar-nominated Enemies: A Love Story (1989). He starred as Jerry Lewis’s character’s son in the episode “Garment District Arc” of the crime show Wiseguy (1988). He portrayed defense attorney Alan Dershowitz in the true story Reversal of Fortune (1990), based on the trial of Claus von Bülow. From 1991-2000, Silver served as president of the Actors’ Equity Association. He played a film producer in Best Friends opposite Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn and a film director in Mr. Saturday Night (1992). Silver portrayed a corrupt, rogue senator in the 1994 Jean-Claude Van Damme sci-fi thriller Timecop.
In 1998, he starred opposite Kirstie Alley for season two of her TV comedy series Veronica’s Closet. Silver portrayed real life attorney Robert Shapiro in American Tragedy (2000), the story of the O.J. Simpson trial. He portrayed tennis player Bobby Riggs in the TV docudrama When Billie Beat Bobby (2001), about Riggs’ real-life exhibition tennis match against Billie Jean King, which Riggs lost. Silver was featured as Muhammad Ali’s boxing trainer and cornerman Angelo Dundee in the biopic Ali (2001), directed by Michael Mann. From 2001-02 and again from 2005–06, he had a recurring role as presidential campaign advisor Bruno Gianelli on the NBC series The West Wing. Silver provided the narration for the 2004 political documentary film FahrenHYPE 9/11 that was produced as a conservative political response to the award-winning and controversial Michael Moore documentary film, Fahrenheit 9/11. One of his final film performances was as a judge in another true story, 2006’s Find Me Guilty, directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Vin Diesel. In February 2008, Silver began hosting The Ron Silver Show on Sirius Satellite Radio, which focused on politics and public affairs. The show aired live from 9–11am ET, on Indie Talk, Sirius 110.
Silver travelled to more than 30 countries and spoke fluent Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. He taught at the high school level and was a Social Worker for the Department of Social Services. In 1975, he married another Social Worker, later Self magazine editor, Lynne Miller. The marriage lasted until 1997. He was a co-founder in 1989 of the entertainment industry political advocacy organization the Creative Coalition. Silver was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2000, he co-founded the organization One Jerusalem to oppose the Oslo Peace Agreement. Its purpose is to maintain “a united Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.” Silver, a Democrat for many years, left the party and became an independent and a supporter of President George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks, citing those attacks and Democratic policies regarding terrorism as reasons. He spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention, continued to support President Bush, and was appointed Chairman for the Millennium Committee by New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Silver and some of his friends said that, following his endorsement of President Bush, he was ostracized by erstwhile friends and one-time colleagues. In Silver’s blog on the PJ Media website, he also remarked that his colleagues on the set of The West Wing referred to him as “Ron, Ron, the Neo-Con”.
On October 7, 2005, Silver was nominated by President Bush to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the United States Institute of Peace. On September 8, 2006, it was announced that Silver had joined an advisory committee to the Lewis Libby Legal Defense Trust. President George W. Bush appointed Silver to serve on the Honorary Delegation to accompany him to Jerusalem for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel in May 2008. In one of his last televised interviews, he told Sky News that Senator John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his Vice-Presidential candidate in the 2008 Presidential Election was a “brilliant political choice” but that a part of him wished to “see an African American become president in my lifetime.” According to the obituary printed by The New York Times, his brother, Mitchell Silver, noted that “He told me that he did vote for Barack Obama in the end.” Silver, a long-time smoker, died on March 15, 2009, of esophageal cancer, which had been diagnosed two years earlier. He was 62 years old. Silver is survived by both parents, brothers Mitchell and Keith, son Adam, and daughter Alexandra. His remains were interred at Westchester Hills Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.
- July, 02, 1946
- Manhattan, New York
- March, 15, 2009
- Manhattan, New York
Cause of Death
- esophageal cancer
- Westchester Hills Cemetery
- Hastings-on-Hudson, New York