As far as Iâ€™m concerned, Ron Silverâ€™s passing deserves much more than a squat news article alongside whatever â€˜â€™Thorâ€™â€™ casting rumour weâ€™re running at the moment and so, my note on the esteemed actorâ€™s bereavement is relegated to my column here. Itâ€™s not just an issue of space, itâ€™s the fact that Iâ€™d love to vent about the man – he was a fuckinâ€™ phenomenal actor, and his performances â€“ ridicule me like an African American at a Michael Richards concert, if you feel the need! â€“ have rocked me just as much as any of, dare I say, Marty Sheenâ€™s, Mandy Patinkinâ€™s, Angelica Hustonâ€™s performances â€“ to name but a few of the actors Silver worked with over his illustrious career. I plan to waffle a little here (yeah, something different) – but in a good way. And yes, backslappingâ€™s going to undoubtedly take place. And so it should.
Whatâ€™s sad is that the world never really got to know Ron Silver. Yes, we movie buffs knew he was, but the everyday Joe wouldnâ€™t be able to pick him out in a line-up â€“ let alone a YouTube video taken backstage at The Emmyâ€™s. In some respects, the guy probably liked that he could live his lie out of the spotlight, merely tinkering in his craft when it pleased him, but that doesnâ€™t mean he didnâ€™t deserve a little more recognition. Alas, thatâ€™s always the fucking way â€“ itâ€™s the pasty untalented â€˜productsâ€™ that get the attention, whilst the hard-working, always-dependable artists (I could roll off names all day â€“ Bill Pullman, William Sadler, Robert Davi, Bill Paxton, John Ashton, Keith Carradine, Eric Roberts, Scott Glenn; to name but a few) are rarely blinded by a floodlight shun in their direction.
Silver was merely one of those dependable actors whose face most recognized but would be pressed thinking of his name or even a few credits in his back catalogue â€“ or if they do know him from something itâ€™s a Van Damme movie. Yeah, he was in â€œTimeCopâ€ â€“ which is OK, because it was one of Jean Claudeâ€™s better movies, but still, a little sad. Silver did much more than just chase Jean Claude Van Dammeâ€™s oversexed rump through space, time continuum.
One of my favourite turns from Silver was actually on Television â€“ and no, it wasnâ€™t his recurring stint as Bruno Gianelli on â€œThe West Wingâ€ (though he was good in the part – even won an Emmy for his performance). It was actually as Christine Lahtiâ€™s suave ex-husband on 90s hospital-soap â€œChicago Hopeâ€. Like Silver, the show never got the attention it deserved (Personally, I preferred it over â€œE.Râ€) but I tell ya, it produced some damn fine performers. Silver had done a few movies at that stage, largely â€œEnemies, A Love Storyâ€ (which critics adored), but was still an unknown commodity for the most part. Silver was terrific in the role of smarmy Tommy Wilmette . He ended up getting custody of their on-screen daughter (Mae Whitman), and she ends up kidnapping her. He had to endure some pretty ridiculous (ly fun) storylines, but added such credibility to both the character he played and the show as a whole. Eric Stoltz and Peter Berg have both said that to me over the years.
Though Iâ€™m too young (man that feels good to say!) to remember his earliest performances on shows like â€œRhodaâ€, â€œMcMillan & Sonâ€ and â€œThe Rockford Filesâ€, I do remember seeing Silver in quite a few movies in the early 80s. I believe he was Vlada in the Burt Reynolds pic â€œSemi-Toughâ€, and had a fairly showy role in Sidney Furiesâ€™â€™ â€œThe Entityâ€. And if my memory serves me correct, he had a small role in Chuck Norrisâ€™ â€œSilent Rageâ€.
It goes without saying that Silver has never been too picky. So long as the part is good, he never gave two shits whether the film was any good. Power to him. He was thinking of himself. Not to say he didnâ€™t do some great movies in the 80s and 90s, he did â€“ â€œSilkwoodâ€, â€œGarbo Talksâ€, â€œMr. Saturday Nightâ€ – but did just as many films that most other actors wouldâ€™ve shied away from. Like â€œChicago Hopeâ€ though, Silverâ€™s presence in all those rotten applesâ€™ added something to the respective movies â€“ to the point where something like â€œBlue Steelâ€ graduated from being merely tolerable to, dare I say, entertaining thanks to his credible performance (in that case, as a baddie).
â€œEnemies, A Love Storyâ€, and shortly after â€œReversal of Fortuneâ€, were Silverâ€™s two biggies. Those were the films that should have turned him into a huge star. For some reason, that didnâ€™t happen. Maybe it was bad management, maybe it was Silverâ€™s old â€˜character first, movie secondâ€™ rule, or maybe the man just went with his gut â€“ and sometimes, the gut lied.
Silver worked a lot in the 90s and, despite some of the films, did some terrific work. Check out the telemovie â€œKissinger and Nixonâ€, in which he plays the former, heâ€™s brilliant in it. And though it ainâ€™t much of a movie, Silver is typically solid in the science-fiction film â€œThe Arrivalâ€, which failed mostly because of its lead, Charlie Sheen. You might also remember he played Alec on â€œVeronicaâ€™s Closetâ€ opposite Kirstie Alley. He was great on that show â€“ very funny; his chemistry with Alley was outstanding. Should he have done a sitcom? No, probably not, he was better than that. But again, he seemed to be an actor who was determined to take the road less travelled or quite simply, suit himself.
He shot a very amusing pilot, with Owen Wilson and Jack Black, that was never picked up called “Heat Vision and Jack” sometime in the 90s. In it, he played… himself! It was bloody genius. Rob Schrab, writer of the pilot, said on his official site that “Mr. Silver was such a big part of my life. He was such a prize, such a treasure to have on the set of Heat Vision and Jack. 62 is too young. He was a great actor, full of power and charisma. It was an honor to work with him for the little time I did. I remember watching him in Mr. Saturday Night thinking -â€this movie sucks but shit, heâ€™s good.â€ Then he fucked everybody up in TIME COP. What a man! The scene in THE ARRIVAL where he said to Sheen â€…and now your deadâ€ made Harmon and love him so much.”
In more recent years, Silverâ€™s mostly done TV â€“ and probably for the sheer fact that itâ€™s a regular paying job and is a lot more of a comfort blanket that the fickle world of film. In addition to â€œWest Wingâ€, heâ€™s been on â€œSkinâ€ (regular actually), â€œLaw & Orderâ€ and â€œCrossing Jordanâ€. I believe the last film I saw him in was â€œFind Me Guiltyâ€, the Sidney Lumet thing with Vin Diesel; a movie that, although featuring an admirable and rather brave turn by Diesel, was a mixed-bag all up. Silver was aptly cast as the take-no-shit judge.
Of late, Silverâ€™s been actively involved in politics (even hosting a political radio show on Sirius). He was an activist that had long advocated for left-wing causes as president of Actorsâ€™ Equity, the stage-actors union, and as a co-founder of the Creative Coalition, which advocates First Amendment rights. I mightnâ€™t have agreed with political stance to back George W. Bush at every turn (and many didnâ€™t) but I can respect the man for his choices. They were, after all, his to fuckinâ€™ make. And he was passionate about those choicesâ€¦ beliefs.
“I have said things that have angered both partiesâ€, Silver told David Frost in 2008, â€œ… I am socially and economically still a Democrat and always was. If gay people want to get married, God bless them. I try to warn them that along with marriage comes divorce, but they don’t listen to me, so good luck. On things like healthcare, I am to the left of most people….”
Silverâ€™s brother Mitchell told The New York Times: “Ronâ€™s politics, as far as I know, were not shared by anyone he knew, except for the people he knew because of his politics. He told me that he did vote for Barack Obama in the end.”
Silver died from oesophageal cancer. Heâ€™d been battling it for a couple of years â€“ which is why we hadnâ€™t seen him on the big screen in a while. (I believe Silver had committed to a movie called â€œThe Fonder Heartâ€, which wouldâ€™ve teamed him with Burt Reynolds and Daryl Hannah, but his role, sadly, will have to be recast).
Ron Silver was 62 – and leaves a big fat fuckinâ€™ gaping hole in the world of TV and film.
Thank you Sir.