“I'm a Zen Buddhist student first, actor second. If I can't reconcile the two lives, I'll stop acting. I spend more time off screen than on.” Peter Coyote
First gaining notice in the late 1960s as the director of the controversial play “The Minstrel Show, Civil Rights in a Cracker Barrel” (with the San Francisco Actors Workshop, 1967) and the award winning play “Olive Pits,” which he also co-wrote and performed in, Peter Coyote kicked off his film career in his late 30s. He has since accumulated countless movie credits and appeared in “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” (1982), “Jagged Edge” (1985), “Outrageous Fortune” (1987), “Bitter Moon” (1992), “Sphere” (1998), “Patch Adams” (1998), “Erin Brockovich” (2000), “A Walk to Remember” (2002),”Femme Fatale” (2002) and “Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis” and ”Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave” (both 2005). On television, he played Dennis Ryland in “The 4400” (2004-2006), agent Virgil Webster in “The Inside” (2005), Warren Keaton in “Commander in Chief” (2005-2006) and Mark August in “Brothers & Sisters” (2007). He received an Emmy nomination for guest starring in “Road to Avonlea” (1991). Coyote has also had a successful side career as a narrator and won an Emmy Award for “The Pacific Century” (1992) and Western Heritage Awards for “Two for Texas” (1999) and “Seth Eastman: Painting the Dakota” (2002). In 2000, he served as the announcer for “The 72nd Annual Academy Awards.”
As for her personal life, Coyote has been married twice. He has two children with first wife Marilyn McCann (together from 1977 to 1998). He is now the husband of Stefanie Pleet.
Rachmil Pinchus Ben Mosha Cohon
Childhood and Family:
Rachmil Pinchus Ben Mosha Cohon, who would later be known as Peter Coyote, was born on October 10, 1941, in Manhattan, New York, to Morris Cohon, an investment banker who was of Sephardic Jewish lineage, and Ruth Fidler, who came from a working class Ashkenazi Jewish family. Peter was raised in Englewood, New Jersey, and on his family's farm in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the Dwight-Englewood School in Englewood in 1960, he majored in English literature at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, and earned his B.A. in 1964. In 1962 while still in college, he became a member of twelve organizers who traveled to Washington, D.C. during the Cuban Missile Crisis supporting President Kennedy's “peace race.” They were invited to the White House and talked to the President and McGeorge Bundy for several hours.
Following college graduation, Peter declined an offer to attend the Iowa Writers' Workshop and relocated to California to pursue a Master's Degree in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University in San Francisco, CA. He dropped out to begin work in theater.
On April 24, 1977, Peter married Marilyn McCann. The couple divorced in January 1998 after having been together for 21 years. The marriage produced one son and one daughter. Peter married Stefanie Pleet in 1998. Also that year, his wife was assigned Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Commission by Mayor Gavin Newsom.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Peter Coyote briefly joined the San Francisco Actors' Workshop before becoming a member of the radical political street theater the San Francisco Mime Troupe, where he directed, wrote scripts and acted in various productions. His first taste of show business came in 1967 when he directed “The Minstrel Show, Civil Rights in a Cracker Barrel.” A controversial play, the production was banned in several cities before touring the U.S. It eventually appeared off-Broadway thanks to the support of comedian Dick Gregory. He had another success with his next play, “Olive Pits,” which he co-wrote with Mime Troupe member Peter Berg, directed and acted in. It earned a Special Obie award from the New York City newspaper “Village Voice.”
After the success, Coyote became part of the San Francisco counter-culture community and a founding member of Diggers, a radical community action group of actors operating from 1966 to 1968. The Diggers (later developed into the Free Family) gave hundreds of people free food and ran a free medical clinic, a free store and a short lived free bank. He left the community in 1975.
That same year, Coyote, who had successfully dealt with his use of drugs and became a practitioner of American Zen Buddhism, resumed his acting career by appearing in a San Francisco production of Paul Sills' “Story Theatre.” He went on to act on stage and was appointed chairman of the California Arts Council in 1976 after his one year service with the state agency. Coyote was responsible for raising the Arts Council budget from $1 million to $13 million. He would remain there until 1983.
With a newfound confidence, Coyote tried his hand at film acting in 1978 when he landed a bit part in “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.” It was followed by bigger roles in Jeff Werner's comedy “Die Laughing” (1980), opposite Charles Durning, Elsa Lanchester and Bud Cort, and Lee Grant's drama “Tell Me a Riddle” (1980), starring Melvyn Douglas and Lila Kedrova. 1980 also found the actor portray Courtney Taylor in television’s “Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story” and Austin in the original production of Sam Shepard's play “True West” in San Francisco.
Coyote began gaining notice on the small screen when he was cast as George Bolen in the NBC film “The People vs. Jean Harris” (1981), which starred Ellen Burstyn and was directed by George Schaefer. The film earned two Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe nomination. He then costarred with Jean Stapleton and Richar Kiley in the CBS film “Isabel's Choice” (1981), played Staff Sergeant Crawford Poole in the Walter Hill war movie “Southern Comfort” (1981), starred as Rex in Eli Hollander's “Out” (1982) and appeared in “Breach of Contract” (1982). However, it was not until he landed the important role of a government agent named Keys in the Steven Spielberg blockbuster science fiction film “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” (1982) that the actor enjoyed widespread popularity. He costarred in the film with Henry Thomas, Dee Wallace, Robert MacNaughton and Drew Barrymore.
Throughout the reminder of the decade, Coyote acted in the Alan Rudolph science fiction thriller “Endangered Species” (1982, with Robert Urich and JoBeth Williams), “Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann” (1982, starred Fred Ward), “Cross Creek” (1983), “Strangers Kiss” (1983), Terry Bedford's “Slayground” (1983, starred as Stone), “Heartbreakers” (1984), “The Legend of Billie Jean” (1985), director Richard Marquand's “Jagged Edge” (1985, played Thomas Krasny), “Stacking” (1987), “Outrageous Fortune” (1987, played Shelley Long and Bette Midler's love object), “A Man in Love” (1987) and Matthew Chapman's “Heart of Midnight” (1988, starred Jennifer Jason Leigh). On the small screen, he could be seen in a number of TV films, including “Best Kept Secrets” (1984), “Scorned and Swindled” (1984), “The Blue Yonder” (1985), “Child's Cry” (1986), “Sworn to Silence” (1987), “Echoes in the Darkness” (1987), “Baja Oklahoma” (1988) and “Unconquered” (1989, starred as Richmond Flowers Sr.) as well as in the TV series “Act of Will” (1989), where he portrayed Miles Sutherland. He also appeared in the “The Hitchhiker” episode “Last Scene” (1986) and “The Twilight Zone” episode “Shadow Play/Grace Note” (1986). Meanwhile, Coyote also lent his voice to narrate various broadcasts or documentary films like “The Four Corners: A National Sacrifice Area” (1983, TV), “Contrary Warriors: A Film of the Crow Tribe” (1985), “Kerouac, the Movie” (1985), “A Question of Power” (1986) and “Downwind/Downstream” (1989).
Coyote next costarred with German actor Jürgen Prochnow in the independent film “The Man Inside” (1990), with Peter Berg, Vincent D'Onofrio and Noah Wyle in Michael Bortman's “Crooked Hearts” (1991) and as Peter Mandrake in “A Grande Arte” (1991) before delivering a notable turn as Emmanuelle Seigner's husband, Oscar, in the Roman Polanski drama “Bitter Moon” (1992), which also starred Hugh Grant and Kristin Scott Thomas. He then portrayed roles in the films “Kika” (1993), “That Eye, the Sky” (1994), “Unforgettable” (1996), “Terminal Justice” (1996), “Road Ends” (1997), “Top of the World” (1998), “Seeds of Doubt” (1998), “Last Call” (1999), “The Basket” (1999) and Sydney Pollack's “Random Hearts” (1999, starred Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas). He was memorable as Captain Harold C. Barnes in “Sphere” (1998), a psychological science fiction movie directed by Barry Levinson that starred Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone and Samuel L. Jackson, and as Bill Davis in the Robin Williams hit dramatic comedy “Patch Adams” (1999), which was adapted from a true life story of Hunter “Patch” Adams and the book “Gesundheit: Good Health is a Laughing Matter” by Adams and Maureen Mylander.
The actor maintained his presence on television during the 1990s by taking roles in the TV films “A Seduction in Travis County” (1991), “Living a Lie” (1991), “Keeper of the City” (1991), “Breach of Conduct” (1994), “Dalva” (1996), “Murder in My Mind” (1997), “Indiscreet” (1998), “Route 9” (1998) and “A Murder on Shadow Mountain” (1999). He also portrayed Buffalo Bill Cody in the CBS western film “Buffalo Girls” (1995, starred Anjelica Huston as Calamity Jane), Ruben Borchardt in “Seduced by Madness: The Diane Borchardt Story” (1996), Jim Bowie in the TNT movie “Two for Texas” (1998, opposite Kris Kristofferson, Scott Bairstow, Irene Bedard and Tom Skerritt), from which he picked up Western Heritage's Bronze Wrangler for Television Feature Film, and Harvey Milk in Showtime's “Execution of Justice” (1999, with Tim Daly). Coyote also made guest appearances in “Road to Avonlea” (1991), from which he netted an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, “Fallen Angels” (1995) and “Cybill” (1997).
Coyote's career as a narrator gained a boost when he received an Emmy for Outstanding Historical Program at the 1993 News & Documentary Emmy Awards after narrating the documentary “The Pacific Century” (1992), which he shared with producers Alan Poul and Peter Bull. He also narrated the PBS special “The West” (1996), the Academy Award nominated short documentary “A Place in the Land” (1998), “National Geographic: The Battle For Midway Prod” (1999), the TV miniseries “The History of Sex” (1999) and “Rome: Power & Glory” (1999), among other documentaries. Coyote also released a short story titled “Carla's Story” in 1994, which won a Pushcart Prize for Excellence. His autobiography “Sleeping Where I Fall” was released in April 1998 by Counterpoint Press.
In 2000, Coyote was chosen as the announcer on “The 72nd Annual Academy Awards.” The same year, he portrayed Kurt Potter in “Erin Brockovich,” a critically acclaimed drama directed by Steven Soderbergh that starred Julia Roberts, was cast as the father of Larisa Oleynik in Peter Gilbert's “A Time for Dancing,” starred as Dennis Burke in “Red Letters” with Nastassja Kinski, played Don Wigulow in the CBS movie “The Wednesday Woman,” opposite Meredith Baxter and John Heard, and costarred with Joe Mantegna in Michael Browning's “More Dogs Than Bones.” He also narrated the TV series “The Frontier: Decisive Battles” (2000). Next, Coyote landed roles in the Bobby Roth film “Jack the Dog” (2001), Anne Wheeler's “Suddenly Naked” (2001, with Wendy Crewson), the Lifetime movie “Midwives” (2001, opposite Sissy Spacek), Adam Shankman's adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' “A Walk to Remember” (2002, as Reverend Sullivan), “Purpose” (2002), Brian De Palma's “Femme Fatale” (2002), “Written in Blood” (2002), “Northfork” (2003), “The Hebrew Hammer” (2003, with Adam Goldberg and Andy Dick), “Bon Voyage” (2003, with Gérard Depardieu), the TV film “Phenomenon II” (2003), “The Great Role” (2004) and “Shadow of Fear” (2004). He also played Ross in two episodes of “The Division” called “Brave New World” and “Secrets, Lies and Weddings” (both 2002) and General Crook in an episode of “Deadwood” titled “Sold Under Sin” (2004). He shared a 2002 Bronze Wrangler for Western Documentary as the narrator of “Seth Eastman: Painting the Dakota” (2002).
In 2004, Coyote joined the cast of the USA Network science fiction series “The 4400” in the regular role of Dennis Ryland. He left the show in its third season in 2006 after having appeared in 12 episodes. In January 2005, he began his role of Special Agent Virgil Webster on the Fox series “The Inside,” opposite Rachel Nichols, Adam Baldwin, Katie Finneran, Nelsan Ellis and Jay Harrington. The show, however, was canceled after seven episodes. In October 2005, he joined the cast of the ABC political drama “Commander in Chief,” where he played Warren Keaton in 7 episodes until April 2006. He also guest starred as Mike LaSalle in “Law & Order: Trial by Jury” (2005).
Meanwhile on the big screen, Coyote offered a notable portrayal of Uncle Charles in the zombie film “Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis” (2005) for director Ellory Elkayem. He subsequently reprised the role in “Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave” (2005). The same year, he also costarred with Lucas Black in the thriller “Deepwater” and Forest Whitaker in “A Little Trip to Heaven” and narrated several projects, including the documentary “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” and the National Geographic produced “Guns, Germs, and Steel” (PBS). He also narrated “Lost: Revelation” and “Lost: Reckoning” in 2006 and an episode of “American Masters.”
2007 saw Coyote appear in the films “Resurrecting the Champ” and “The Sunday Man” and the TV series “Brothers & Sisters” (4 episodes) and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (1 episode). The following year, he played Hock Banyon in Dennis Fallon's “All Roads Lead Home,” opposite Jason London, President Sterling in the direct to video sequel “Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief,” Elliot Arthur in “The Lena Baker Story” (written and directed by Ralph Wilcox), Burt Kruger in Nigel Cole's drama “$5 a Day” (with Christopher Walken, Alessandro Nivola, Sharon Stone and Dean Cain), Maury Maverick in “ A Single Woman” (starred Jeanmarie Simpson), Richard in the based on play “Adopt a Sailor” and Ned Quinn in an episode of “Navy NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service” (2008). He also made his film directing debut with “Race” (2008), starring Hira Ambrosino who also wrote the script. Coyote then appeared in the Olallo Rubio dramatic film “This Is Not a Movie” (2009) and portrayed Albert Tunney in “The Harimaya Bridge” (2009), a film written and directed by Aaron Woolfolk. He next played President Dave Segovia in two episodes of “FlashForward” called “Gimme Some Truth” (2009) and “The Negotiation” (2010).
Coyote has completed filming “Di Di Hollywood” (2010), a Spanish film directed by Bigas Luna, and “Last Will” (2010), a thriller directed by Brent Huff. In addition, the actor is set to star as Thomas Morgan in the western “The Gundown” (2010), opposite Andrew W. Walker, Sheree J. Wilson and William Shockley, and Smoot Schmid in “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde” (2010).
“Nobody hires me because I look like Richard Gere. I'm not that kind of guy. I get hired basically because I'm good at what I do and I'm smart. I'm one of a number of actors who are really there to serve the script.” Peter Coyote
Western Heritage: Bronze Wrangler, Western Documentary, “Seth Eastman: Painting the Dakota,” 2002
Western Heritage: Bronze Wrangler, Television Feature Film, “Two for Texas,” 1999
News & Documentary Emmy: Emmy, Outstanding Historical Program, “The Pacific Century,” 1993