MICHAEL MORIARTY Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Michael Moriarty                                                                   
Born: 5 April 1941 Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.                                             
Michael Moriarty (born April 5, 1941) is a Tony and Emmy-winning American-Canadian       
actor of stage and screen, as well as a prominent jazz musician. He is known for         
his role as Ben Stone on the long running TV series Law & Order.                         
Moriarty, an Irish American, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Elinor           
(née Paul) and George Moriarty, a police surgeon. His grandfather, George               
Moriarty, had been a third baseman, umpire and manager in the major leagues for         
nearly 40 years. He attended the University of Detroit Jesuit High School, and           
then matriculated at Dartmouth College in the class of 1963, where he was a             
theatre major. After he received his degree, he left for London, where he               
enrolled in the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, after receiving a             
Fulbright Scholarship.                                                                   
In 1973, Moriarty was cast to play the egocentric Henry Wiggen in Bang the Drum         
Slowly, a film about friendship between two unlikely baseball teammates (the             
second being Robert De Niro, a slow thinking catcher who becomes terminally ill).       
In the same year, Moriarty starred in a TV movie adaptation of Tennessee                 
Williams' The Glass Menagerie with Katharine Hepburn. Coincidentally, the film           
also featured Sam Waterston (who replaced Moriarty as the Executive Assistant           
District Attorney on Law & Order in 1994). Moriarty's role in Menagerie won him         
an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor of the Year. In 1986 he starred in a             
fantasy science fiction movie "Troll" playing the role of Harry Potter Sr. (no           
relation to the famous boy wizard).                                                     
He won a Tony Award in 1974 for his work in Find Your Way Home. Moriarty's               
career on the screen was slow to develop, while his theatre career was                   
flourishing. He starred as a Nazi bureaucrat who degenerates into a coldblooded         
murderer in the television miniseries Holocaust (which earned him another Emmy).         
Through the 1980s, Moriarty starred in such Larry Cohen movies as Q, The Stuff,         
It's Alive 3, and A Return to Salem's Lot (much later, he appeared in Cohen's           
Masters of Horror episode "Pick Me Up"), as well as Clint Eastwood's Pale Rider         
and Hanoi Hilton.                                                                       
From 1990 to 1994, Moriarty starred as Ben Stone on Law & Order. He left the             
show in 1994, alleging that his departure was a result of his threatening a             
lawsuit against then-Attorney General Janet Reno, who had cited Law & Order as           
offensively violent. Moriarty criticized Reno's comment, and claimed that not           
only did she want to censor shows like Law and Order but also such fare as               
Murder, She Wrote. He later accused Law & Order executive producer Dick Wolf of         
not taking his concerns seriously, and claimed that Wolf and other network               
executives were "caving in" to Reno's "demands" on the issue of TV violence.             
Moriarty published a full page advertisement in a Hollywood trade magazine,             
calling upon fellow artists to stand up with him against attempts to censor TV           
show content. He subsequently wrote and published The Gift of Stern Angels, his         
account of this time in his life. (Moriarty, Michael (1997).                             
Wolf and others working on Law & Order tell a different story, however. On               
November 18, 1993, Moriarty and Wolf, along with other television executives,           
met with Reno to dissuade her from supporting any law that would censor the show.       
Wolf said that Moriarty overreacted to any effect the law was likely to have on         
the show. Law & Order producers claim they were forced to remove Moriarty from           
the series because of "erratic behavior". One example reportedly happened during         
the filming of the episode "Breeder" when, according to the episode's director,         
Arthur Forney, Moriarty was unable to deliver his lines with a straight face.           
Series and network officials deny any connection to his departure and Janet Reno.       
Wolf also denies that the show has become less violent, graphic or controversial         
since 1994.                                                                             
Shortly after leaving Law & Order, Moriarty moved to Canada, declaring himself a         
political exile. He lived for a time in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he was               
granted Canadian citizenship, and Toronto, Ontario before settling in Vancouver,         
British Columbia. He performed in Courage Under Fire, Along Came a Spider,               
Shiloh, Emily of New Moon and James Dean, for which he won his third Emmy.               
In addition to his acting career, Moriarty is a semi-professional jazz pianist           
and singer, as well as a classical composer. He has recorded three jazz albums (though   
the first, Reaching Out, went unreleased), and has performed live regularly in           
both New York and Vancouver, with a jazz trio and quintet. In a 1990 concert             
review, New York Times reviewer Stephen Holden called Moriarty "a jazz pianist           
of considerable skill, an oddball singer with more than one vocal personality,           
and a writer of eccentric, jivey jazz songs".