Rejected By Hollywood: Ron Silver’s Political Legacy

Reading through the many obituaries written about the passing of Ron Silver, you’ll learn a few things about the guy: he was a Tony-winning actor (for his role as a producer in David Mamet’s “Speed The Plow”), a switch-hitting political activist (once a lefty, he converted to Republicanism after 9/11) and—boy!—he sure liked President Bush.

His is a typical Hollywood resume, blending politics and entertainment, lived out in atypical style.

An Emmy-nominee for his role on “The West Wing,” Silver’s real-life political activism was applauded, until he went to bat for the wrong team. The respected mid-level actor gained some enemies in liberal Hollywood with a post-9/11 about face. A disillusioned Democrat, Silver not only switched political parties but spoke out on Bush’s behalf—and, in support of his war plans—at the 2004 Republican National Convention. “It’s affected me very badly. I can’t point to a person or a job I’ve lost, but this community is not very pluralistic,” Silver told the Associated Press. “I haven’t worked for 10 months.” This, from an award-winning film, television and stage star. It’s a lesson in an unforgiving Hollywood.

But there are things about Silver you might not know; that he was fluent in both Mandarin Chinese and Spanish, for example, and that he was a staunch Israel activist.

A conservative at heart, Silver took a hard-line on an undivided Jerusalem and opposed the Oslo Accords. He co-founded a supporting organization “One Jerusalem,” along with a distinguished group that included David Bar-Illan, Douglas Feith and Jackie Mason, and was chaired by politician Natan Sharansky.

In addition to the “The West Wing,” Silver appeared on TV shows “Veronica’s Closet,” ‘‘Chicago Hope” and “Wiseguy,” and in big screen films “Ali,” ‘‘Reversal of Fortune,” and ‘‘Silkwood.” Yet, despite his reputable list of credits, Silver’s objectionable politics cost him a sense of belonging to the Hollywood community. Even when he found work, he faced taunting or teasing from colleagues, which cast him in the role of the inside-outsider. Silver’s life is an echo of the passionate debate in this country; a discourse torn between what is right and what is necessary, between this pole and that pole. His legacy reminds us that the plague of partisanship extends well beyond Capitol Hill and even in Hollywood, speaking your mind has professional reprisal. 

Read more on Ron Silver’s career in Variety