Silver, Ron: Actor Dies at 62 of Cancer

March 15, 2009–Ron Silver, who won a Tony Award as a Hollywood producer in David Mamet's “Speed-the-Plow” and changend from a Democrat to Republican after the Sept. 11 attacks, died Sunday at the age of 62, after
fighting esophageal cancer for two years.

Silver, an Emmy nominee for a recurring role as a slick strategist for liberal President Jed Bartlet on “The West Wing,” had a long history of balancing acting with left-leaning social and political causes. But after the 2001 terrorist attacks, longtime Democrat Silver turned heads in Hollywood with outspoken support of President George W. Bush over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Besides “The West Wing,” Silver was a regular or had recurring roles on such TV shows as “Veronica's Closet,” 'Chicago Hope” and “Wiseguy.” He directed and costarred in the 1993 TV movie “Lifepod,” a science-fiction update of Alfred Hitchcock's “Lifeboat.”

Silver's Tony for “Speed-the-Plow” in 1988, was a year after he earned his first Emmy nomination, for the murder thriller “Billionaire Boys Club.”

Silver found work despite his conservative shift, appearing in episodes of “Law & Order” and “Crossing Jordan” and such movies as “Find Me Guilty” and the Ten Commandments comedy “The Ten.”  He continued his recurring role on “The West Wing.” Often when I walked onto the set of 'The West Wing' some of my colleagues would greet me with a chanting of 'Ron, Ron, the neo-con.' It was all done in fun but it had an edge,” Silver wrote in a November 15, 2007, entry of his blog on the Pajamas Media Web site. “Since speaking in support of George Bush at the 2004 Republican convention I've become increasingly disadmired by members of my profession as well as many others.”

Silver narrated in 2004's “Fahrenhype 9/11,” about Michael Moore's Bush-bashing hit documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11.”  “Michael Moore and that faction of the party was one of the factors that did not let me support the Democratic nominee this year,” Silver told the AP in 2004. “He is a charlatan in a clown suit.”

Silver described his politics as a “little bit to the right of the left of center” and said that his opinions on U.S. foreign policy “haven't changed very much from what they've always been — what I would call revolutionary liberalism.  “I have always resisted reactionaries from the left or right, Democrat or Republican. At the moment, the reactionary forces on the left are more fearful to me than the traditional reactionary forces of the extreme right. And the Democratic Party seems to be listening to them.”

On screen, Silver's roles spanned the political gamut, from ultraconservative Henry Kissinger in the 1995 TV movie “Kissinger and Nixon” to ultraliberal Alan Dershowitz in 1990's “Reversal of Fortune.”

Born July 2, 1946, in New York City, he was the son of Irving and May Silver. His father worked in New York's garment industry and his mother was a teacher.  Earning a bachelor's degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a master's degree in Chinese history from St. John's University, Silver also studied drama at the Herbert Berghof Studio and the Actors Studio. In the 1970s, he gradually moved from theater work in New York City into television and film, his early credits including “The Mac Davis Show,” 'Rhoda” and “The Stockard Channing Show.” Silver and ex-wife Lynne Miller had a son, Adam, and daughter, Alexandra.

Besides founding the Creative Coalition, Silver served as president of the Actor's Equity Association, was appointed in the late 1990s by then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to head New York City's Millennium Committee and was appointed by Bush to the board of directors for the U.S. Institute of Peace.