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West Wing star Silver dies at 62

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Award-winning actor Ron Silver, who played political strategist Bruno Gianelli in The West Wing, has died of cancer at 62.

Silver had been fighting oesophageal cancer for two years.

He was Emmy-nominated for his West Wing role and won a Tony in 1988 for his work in the play Speed the Plow.

"Ron Silver died peacefully in his sleep with his family around him," said Robin Bronk of the Creative Coalition, a charity which Silver helped found.

The organisation, which educates and campaigns for free speech, was established in 1989.

Other founder members include Alec Baldwin and Susan Sarandon.

'9/11 Republican'

Born and raised in New York City, Silver's father worked in the garment industry and his mother was a teacher.

He earned a master's degree in Chinese history from St. John's University in New York and studied drama at the Actors Studio.

After several TV cameos in shows like Rhoda and The Rockford Files, he made his big screen debut in a 1976 comedy ensemble film, Tunnel Vision, alongside Chevy Chase and John Candy.

He remained in demand as a character actor and earned an Emmy nomination for the murder thriller Billionaire Boys Club. He also had roles in Timecop, Chicago Hope and Veronica's Closet.

A long-time liberal activist, Silver became an outspoken supporter of President Bush after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.

He was a featured speaker at the 2004 Republican National Convention, and sometimes called himself a "9/11 Republican".

The actor said his shift in politics cost him jobs in Hollywood.

In 2001, he joined Will Smith in the Muhammad Ali biopic, Ali, playing the boxing legend's equally legendary trainer, Angelo Dundee.

But it was his portrayal of the brilliant but volatile campaign adviser Gianelli on The West Wing that he became best known for in recent years.

"He was a talented actor, a scholar and a great believer in participatory democracy," said Bronk.

"He was an activist who became a great artist and his contributions will never be forgotten."

Silver leaves his ex-wife Lynne Miller, with whom he had a son and a daughter.

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