Born in California in 1961, Eric Stoltz made his film debut in the 1982 comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High. After earning a Golden Globe nomination for Mask (1985), the actor starred in the teen favorite Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) and drew praise for his work in Waterdance (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994). Stoltz turned to directing in later years, helming multiple short films and episodes of such popular TV programs as Glee and Madam Secretary.
Early Years and Career
Eric Cameron Stoltz was born on September 30, 1961, in Whittier, California. His parents, both teachers, moved the family to American Samoa a few years later, before resettling in Santa Barbara, California, when Stoltz was eight.
A talented musician, Stoltz began playing piano for local productions. Eventually his interests shifted to acting, and by the time he graduated from San Marcos High School he had performed in more than 40 plays. He also found early professional success, nabbing a role in the 1978 TV movie The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank.
After enrolling at the University of Southern California in 1979, Stoltz added to his television credits with appearances on The Waltons and Eight Is Enough. He dropped out of USC in 1981, and spent time performing repertory at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, before returning to the U.S.
Eric Stoltz's film career was launched with a part in the popular comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982). He soon landed a starring role opposite Cher in Mask, as a teen coping with a facial deformity, and was tapped for the headlining part of Marty McFly in Back to the Future. However, Stoltz was fired from the production (and replaced by Michael J. Fox) in early 1985 due to his serious tone in what was meant to be a fun comedy. The setback was tempered when Mask was released that year to strong reviews and later earned the young actor a Golden Globe nomination.
With his boyish good looks, Stoltz was ripe for the part of Keith Nelson in John Hughes' 1987 teen romance Some Kind of Wonderful. He also continued to feed his thirst for stage work, making his New York debut in 1987 via Widow Claire. The following year he began his run in a revival of Our Town, for which he earned a Tony Award nomination.
After headlining the little-seen fantasy adventure Lionheart (1987), Stoltz turned to horror with The Fly II (1989). He then returned to all-American-type fare with roles in the romantic comedy Say Anything (1989) and the World War II epic Memphis Belle (1990).
Although he had previously tackled roles that required more than a pretty face, Eric Stoltz seemingly established himself as a more mature actor with Waterdance. The drama, in which Stoltz plays a paraplegic, was an audience favorite at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival.
After earning his first producer credit with Bodies, Rest & Motion (1993), Stoltz starred in the violent bank heist flick Killing Zoe (1994). That same year, he won praise for his small but memorable role as a drug dealer in Pulp Fiction.
Stoltz went on to appear in a variety of features, including the historical epic Rob Roy (1995), the adventure horror Anaconda (1997) and the romantic comedy Mr. Jealousy (1997). He also returned to the small screen with a recurring part in Mad About You, leading to his first full-fledged television role as Dr. Yeats during the 1998-99 season of Chicago Hope.
Following his turn in The House of Mirth (2000), Stoltz again pursued darker fare with Things Behind the Sun (2001), The Rules of Attraction (2002) and The Butterfly Effect (2004). He took a step back from acting after the miniseries The Triangle (2005), later surfacing in the lone season of the Battlestar Galactica prequel Caprica and the World War II drama Fort McCoy (2011).
Behind the Camera
Having developed an interest in behind-the-scenes production work, Eric Stoltz made his directing debut with the TV movie My Horrible Year! in 2001. The family comedy-drama was well received, garnering a Daytime Emmy nomination.
After directing an episode of and starring in ABC's Once and Again and directing the highest rated episode of Law & Order, Stoltz all but abandoned his acting efforts to pursue his new interest. He directed the short films The Bulls (2005) and The Grand Design (2007), and helmed episodes of Grey's Anatomy, Glee and Madam Secretary, among other programs. In late 2015, he began shooting the independent comedy Class Rank.
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