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What Happened to 80s Actor Eric Stoltz? Catch Up With the ‘Mask’ and ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ Star

Plus, the 80s blockbuster he almost starred in

Eric Stoltz has a face that defined the 80s — from movies like Mask (1985) to Some Kind of Wonderful (1987), to appearances on television in shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Madam Secretary, the 62-year-old actor has made quite the name for himself over the years.

Eric Stoltz early career in movies and TV

Stoltz was born in sunny California, but acting wasn’t always a part of his plan.

I sort of stumbled into it really – I was more into music,” he told Moviehole. “I studied Piano for many years as a kid, and to earn money I would play for local productions, like the musicals in Santa Barbara.”

“I remember being in the orchestra pit and looking up at the stage and realizing that the actors seemed to be having a much better time than me. So I thought, I might as well try that – it looks like fun.”

Eric Stoltz, 1980
Eric Stoltz, 1980Getty

He continued, “I started doing plays, and by the time I went to college I had done 42 plays. It was just something that I enjoyed doing, I didn’t think I ever would make a living out of it. And there were times when I was barely able to make a living out of it.”

In 1978, he got his first credit in an episode of James at 16, followed by his film debut in the TV movie, The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank (1978). He dropped out of college at the University of Southern California to pursue his acting career, and luckily for him, success came his way.

The actor had numerous guest appearances in TV shows like The Waltons, Eight Is Enough and Knots Landing before he was cast in the 1982 film, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, Lea Thompson and Craig Sheffer, Some Kind of Wonderful, 1987
Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, Lea Thompson and Craig Sheffer, Some Kind of Wonderful, 1987Getty

Throughout the remainder of the 1980s and 90s, Stoltz could be seen in numerous successful films including Mask (1985), for which he won a Golden Globe, Some Kind of Wonderful (1987), Say Anything (1989) and Pulp Fiction (1994) to name a few.

The actor almost went ‘Back to the Future’

While the actor found fame for himself without Back to the Future (1985) on his resume, the tale as old as time remains: Eric Stoltz was originally cast to play the part of Marty McFly, but was ultimately replaced by Michael J. Fox when they felt he wasn’t right for the part.

The actor in 1990
Eric Stoltz, 1990Getty

“You know, it was twenty-something years ago and I rarely look back, if at all, but in retrospect, I think just getting through that difficult period helped me realize how freeing it really was,” he told Moviehole of losing his role.

“I went back to acting school, I moved to Europe, I did some plays in New York and I actually invested in myself in a way that was much healthier for me. If I had become a massive star, I don’t know if I wouldn’t have gone into therapy. On the other hand, I would’ve been exceedingly rich which would’ve been wonderful!” he joked.

Eric Stoltz bounced back

For Stoltz, Back to the Future was a blip in an otherwise long and illustrious career. In addition to his work on the screen, he experienced success on the stage, as well as behind the camera.

The actor in 2024
Eric Stoltz, 2024Getty

His recent acting roles have been in series including The Good Fight, Madam Secretary and some of his most notable directing and producing credits of the past include episodes of Bull, Madam Secretary, How to Get Away With Murder, Glee and more.

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