Ben Stein Biography

Actor, Economist, Lawyer (1944–)
Actor and lawyer Ben Stein was a speech writer for Richard Nixon, but is best known as the economics teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.


Ben Stein studied economics and law, and worked at the Federal Trade Commission. During the Watergate scandal, he became a speech writer for Richard Nixon. Throughout this time, Stein also had a foot in Hollywood, and in 1986 he got a bit part in Ferris Bueller's Day Off as an economics teacher droning attendance. Stein received more movie roles and hosted a game show, Win Ben Stein's Money.

Early Life and Career

Benjamin Jeremy Stein was born on November 25, 1944, in Washington, D.C. The only son of Mildred and Herbert Stein (a respected economist and chairman of the President's Council on Economic Advisors), Ben Stein developed an interest in politics at an early age. From 1962 to 1966, he attended New York City's Columbia University, where he majored in economics.

Stein briefly worked as an economist for the Department of Commerce before enrolling at Yale Law School in 1968. While earning his law degree, he also studied drama and vehemently protested the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War.

Working with the FTC and Nixon Administration

After being elected valedictorian of his graduating class, Ben Stein briefly worked as an attorney with the Federal Trade Commission. He then moved to California, where he taught film and law classes at the University of California at Santa Cruz, but returned to Washington, D.C. and his job at the FTC in 1973.

As the Watergate scandal unfolded, Stein wrote editorials in defense of President Richard Nixon. When the articles caught the attention of the Nixon administration, he was recruited by Pat Buchanan to become a speechwriter. Over the next few months, Stein worked tirelessly to control the damage being done by The Washington Post's investigative reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (a boyhood friend of Stein).

Writing for Film and TV

Following Nixon's resignation, Stein worked for Gerald Ford's administration, but left shortly thereafter to focus his attention on the entertainment industry. In 1974, he became a film and television critic for The Wall Street Journal. Stein's writing caught the attention of producer Norman Lear, who commissioned him to write the TV pilot for Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.

During the early 1980s, Stein lived in Hollywood, California, where he contributed to a number of screenplays and wrote numerous books with topics ranging from his experiences in Hollywood to complex economic issues.

'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' and Subsequent On-Screen Career

In 1986, Ben Stein began his unlikely road to stardom when director John Hughes cast him as the numbingly dull economics teacher in the urban comedy Ferris Bueller's Day Off, starring Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck and Mia Sarah.

Throughout the late 1980s and early '90s, Stein made a name for himself as a character actor in a number of popular comedies, including Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987), Honeymoon in Vegas (1992), The Mask (1994) and Miami Rhapsody (1995).

With his distinctive vocal delivery and eccentric presence, Stein achieved tremendous success with the Emmy Award-winning game show Win Ben Stein's Money (1997). Airing on Comedy Central, the trivia show pitted Stein against contestants who tried to outwit him and ultimately win the $5,000 salary he earned for each show.

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