In 1985, Stoltz was picked to portray Marty McFly in the movie Back to the Future. Five weeks after filming had begun, Stoltz was fired and replaced by Michael J. Fox. Scenes that had already been filmed were shot again featuring Fox.
In 2010, he portrayed Daniel Graystone in the science fiction television series Caprica, and became a regular director on the television series Glee.
Stoltz was born in Whittier, California, the son of Evelyn B. (née Vawter), a violinist and schoolteacher, and Jack Stoltz, an elementary school teacher. He has two sisters, Catherine, an opera singer, and Susan, a writer.
Stoltz was raised in both American Samoa and Santa Barbara, California, where as a child he once earned money playing piano for local musical theatre productions. He attended the University of Southern California, but dropped out after his junior year. He moved to New York in 1981 and studied with Stella Adler and Peggy Feury
In the 1970s Stoltz joined a repertory company that performed ten plays at the Edinburgh Festival. He returned to the United States in 1979, when he entered USC as a drama student, but subsequently dropped out to pursue film and TV roles.
In 1978, he was cast as Steve Benson in the TV adaptation of Erma Bombeck's The Grass Is Always Greener over the Septic Tank.
Director Cameron Crowe and Stoltz became friends while making Stoltz's first feature film, Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), which Crowe wrote and in which Stoltz had a minor role. According to Stoltz, Crowe promised Stoltz a role in all of his future films.
Originally cast as Marty McFly for Back to the Future in late 1984, he was replaced after about a month of filming when Michael J. Fox (the director's first choice for the role) agreed to divide time between the movie and his television sitcom Family Ties. The director, Robert Zemeckis, said that while Stoltz provided an admirable performance, it lacked the precise comedic sense that Zemeckis was seeking. Some of the original footage, where Stoltz does not appear but was on set, was used in the film. Stoltz playing the character was referenced in the 2010 episode of Fringe titled "Peter" when, in a parallel universe, a theater marquee reads "Back to the Future starring Eric Stoltz".
In 1985, Stoltz garnered attention with a Golden Globe nomination starring as Rocky Dennis in Mask. Among other roles in the 1980s, he appeared in the 1987 hit Some Kind of Wonderful, written and produced by John Hughes.
During the 1990s, Stoltz went back and forth between stage, film, and television, appearing in studio and independent films such as Pulp Fiction (1994) and The Waterdance (1992). He also produced the films Bodies, Rest & Motion in 1993, Sleep with Me in 1994, and Mr. Jealousy in 1997.
He continued to appear on the New York stage, both on Broadway (Three Sisters, Two Shakespearean Actors, Arms and the Man) and off-Broadway (The Importance of Being Earnest, The Glass Menagerie, Sly Fox and Our Town). He was nominated for a Tony Award as Featured Actor for his performance as George Gibbs in the 1989 Broadway revival of Thornton Wilder's Our Town.
A performance of this production was featured on Great Performances: Live from Lincoln Center, which received a 1989 Emmy nomination.
On television, he had a recurring role as Helen Hunt's character's ex-boyfriend on Mad About You (five episodes, 1994–1998), spent a year on Chicago Hope (1994), and did some TV and cable movies such as Inside (1996) (directed by Arthur Penn) and The Passion of Ayn Rand (1999), with Helen Mirren. Stoltz received the Indie Sup(Y)port Award at the 1998 Los Angeles Film Festival.
During the first part of the 2000s, he starred with Gillian Anderson in The House of Mirth (2000), based on the novel by Edith Wharton. From 2001 to 2002, he had a recurring role as the English teacher-poet August Dimitri in ABC's Once and Again, wherein Julia Whelan's character, a teenager, fell in love with his character. He directed an episode of the show in 2002.
In 2003, he played his first leading TV role in Out of Order, which was canceled after five episodes. In 2004, he appeared in The Butterfly Effect as a child molester; the following year, he guest-starred in the NBC sitcom Will & Grace as Debra Messing's love interest. He was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for his direction of the cable movie My Horrible Year! (2001). He also directed a short film entitled The Bulls as well as the highest rated episode of Law & Order in 2005, entitled "Tombstone". He appeared in the music video of The Residents' "Give It to Someone Else", featured on The Commercial DVD.
He has contributed essays to the books City Secrets—New York as well as Life Interrupted by Spalding Gray and appears on the children's CD Philadelphia Chickens.
Beginning in 2007, Stoltz directed episodes of the drama series Quarterlife, which began airing as webisodes and were then picked up to air on the NBC network in 2008. Stoltz played a serial killer in need of medical attention in three episodes of the fifth season of Grey's Anatomy. He has also directed two episodes of Grey's Anatomy.
Stoltz starred as Daniel Graystone, inventor of the Cylons, in the science fiction television series Caprica, a prequel set 58 years before the Battlestar Galactica series.
He became a regular director of Glee, directing a total of 12 episodes, including "Nationals", in which the Glee club finally wins the championship.
In 2011 Stoltz was seen back on the silver screen with the film Fort McCoy; he earned accolades for his leading role as a conflicted barber of German heritage forced to suppress his American patriotism after moving his family to a post–World War II military base housing a German POW camp.
Starting in 2014, Stoltz became the producing director of the CBS political drama series Madam Secretary. The following year he became one of its four executive producers, alongside Morgan Freeman and Barbara Hall, and has directed more than ten episodes, as well as starring alongside Tea Leoni in several episodes as her brother, Will Adams.
|1982||Fast Times at Ridgemont High||Stoner Bud|
|1984||Running Hot||Danny Hicks|
|1984||The Wild Life||Bill Conrad|
|1985||The New Kids||Mark|
|1985||Mask||Rocky Dennis||Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture|
|1985||Code Name: Emerald||Lt. Andy Wheeler|
|1987||Some Kind of Wonderful||Keith Nelson|
|1987||Sister, Sister||Matt Rutledge|
|1988||Greasy Lake||The Narrator||Direct-to-video|
|1988||Haunted Summer||Percy Shelley|
|1989||The Fly II||Martin Brundle|
|1990||Memphis Belle||Sgt. Danny "Danny Boy" Daly|
|1992||The Waterdance||Joel Garcia|
|1993||Bodies, Rest & Motion||Sid||Producer|
|1993||Naked in New York||Jake Briggs|
|1994||Pulp Fiction||Lance||Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male|
|1994||Sleep with Me||Joseph||Producer|
|1994||Little Women||John Brooke|
|1995||Killing Time||Stop N Start Manager||Short film|
|1995||Rob Roy||Alan MacDonald|
|1995||Never Say Goodbye Aids Benefit by Yoko Ono||Man From Hamptons||Direct-to-video short film|
|1995||Kicking and Screaming||Chet|
|1996||Grace of My Heart||Howard Cazsatt|
|1996||2 Days in the Valley||Wes Taylor|
|1996||Keys to Tulsa||Richter Boudreau|
|1996||Jerry Maguire||Ethan Valhere|
|1997||Anaconda||Dr. Steven Cale|
|1997||Mr. Jealousy||Lester Grimm, aka Vince||Executive producer|
|1998||The Rocking Horse Winner||Uncle Joe||Short film|
|1998||A Murder of Crows||Thurman Parks III|
|1999||Hercules: Zero to Hero||Theseus (voice)/The Grim Avenger (voice)||Direct-to-video|
|2000||It's a Shame About Ray||Mr. Stoltz||Short film|
|2000||Jesus & Hutch||Jesus||Short film|
|2000||The Simian Line||Sam Donovan|
|2000||The House of Mirth||Lawrence Selden|
|2001||Things Behind the Sun||Dan|
|2001||Harvard Man||Teddy Carter|
|2002||The Rules of Attraction||Mr. Lawson|
|2003||When Zachary Beaver Came to Town||Otto|
|2004||The Butterfly Effect||Mr. Miller|
|2005||The Honeymooners||William Davis|
|2006||The Lather Effect||Mickey|
|2007||The Grand Design||Josh||Short film (executive producer)|
|2011||Fort McCoy||Frank Stirn||Producer|
|2014||5 to 7||Galassi|
|2015||Larry Gaye: Renegade Male Flight Attendant||Russ Peterson|
|1978||James at 15||Jack||Episode: "Hunter Country"|
|1978||The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank||Steve Benson||TV movie|
|1979||A New Kind of Family||Burt||Episode: “Invasion of Privacy’’|
|1979||The Seekers||First Boy||TV movie|
|1980||The Waltons||Sr. Boy #1||Episode: "The Valediction"|
|1980||Eight Is Enough||Kurt Harper||Episode: "Finally Grad Night"|
|1981||Walking Tall||David Coombs||Episode: "The Killing of McNeal County's Children"|
|1981||Knots Landing||Luke||Episode: "Man of the Hour"|
|1981||The Violation of Sarah McDavid||Pete Brady||TV movie|
|1982||Paper Dolls||Steve||TV movie|
|1982||Seven Brides for Seven Brothers||Kevin||Episode: "Challenges"|
|1983||The Fall Guy||Little Juice Atkins||Episode: "One Hundred Miles a Gallon"|
|1983||Love, Sidney||Rick||Episode: "The Movie"|
|1983||A Killer in the Family||Ricky Tison||TV movie|
|1983||St. Elsewhere||Eddie Carson|| Episodes: |
"All About Eve"
|1984||Things Are Looking Up||Neil 'Trout' Troutman||TV movie|
|1989||Great Performances||George Gibbs||Episode: "Our Town"|
|1990||American Playhouse||Younger Edward||Episode: "Sensibility and Sense"|
|1991||A Woman at War||Franz Bueller||TV movie|
|1992||The Heart of Justice||David Leader||TV movie|
|1993||Foreign Affairs||Fred Turner||TV movie|
|1993||Frasier||Don (voice)||Episode: "Miracle On Third Or Fourth Street"|
|1994||Roomates||Bill Thomas||TV movie|
|1994–1998||Mad About You||Alan Tofsky||6 episodes|
|1995||Fallen Angels||Nick Ballestier||Episode: "A Dime a Dance"|
|1995||Partners||Cameron||Episode: "How Long Does It Take to Cook a 22-Pound Turkey?"|
|1996||Don't Look Back||Jesse Parish||TV movie|
|1996||Inside||Marty Strydom||TV movie|
|1997||Homicide: Life on the Street||Drew Kellerman||Episode: "Wu's on First?"|
|1998||Blackout Effect||John Dantley||TV movie|
|1998–1999||Hercules||Theseus (voice)/The Grim Avenger (voice)|| Episodes: |
"Hercules and the Minotaur"
"Hercules and the Grim Avenger"
|1998–1999||Chicago Hope||Dr. Robert Yeats||Series regular|
|1999||The Passion of Ayn Rand||Nathaniel Branden||TV movie|
|1999||Our Guys: Outrage at Glen Ridge||Prosecutor Bob Laurino||TV movie|
|2000||Common Ground||Johnny Burroughs||TV movie|
|2000||One Kill||Capt. Wallker Randall||TV movie|
|2000||The Last Dance||Todd Cope||TV movie|
|2001||My Horrible Year!||Uncle Charlie||TV movie (director)|
|2001–2002||Once and Again||August Dimitri||7 episodes (directed Episode 3.13 "Falling in Place")|
|2002||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Father Michael Sweeney||Episode: "Silence"|
|2003||Out of Order||Mark Colm||TV mini-series|
|2005||Will & Grace||Tom Cassidy|| Episodes: |
"Friends with Benefits"
"Kiss and Tell"
|2005||The Triangle||Howard Thomas|| Episodes: |
|2007||Medium||Sonny Troyer||Episode: "We Had a Dream"|
|2007||Close to Home||Det. Chris Veeder|| Episodes: |
"Drink the Cup"
"Fall from Grace"
|2008||Blank Slate||Sean Sullivan||TV movie|
|2009||Grey's Anatomy||William Dunn|| Episodes: |
"Wish You Were Here"
"Sympathy for the Devil"
"Stairway to Heaven"
|2009–2010||Caprica||Daniel Graystone||Lead role (directed "Unvanquished")|
|2011||Leverage||Alan Scott||Episode: "The Long Way Down Job"|
|2014||Blue||Arthur||WIGS Original Series|
|2014–2019||Madam Secretary||Will Adams|| Episodes: |
"Catch and Release"
"Invasive Species" (uncredited)
|2005||The Bulls||Short film|
|2007||The Grand Design||Short film|
|2017||Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk||Independent film|
|2016||Class Rank||Independent film|
|2001||My Horrible Year!||TV movie|
|2002||Once and Again||Episode: "Falling in Place"|
|2005||Law & Order||Episode: "Tombstone"|
|2007||Boston Legal|| Episodes: |
"The Object of My Affection"
|2008||Quarterlife|| Episodes: |
"Home Sweet Home"
|2008||Grey's Anatomy|| Episodes: |
"Brave New World"
"These Ties That Bind"
|2009||Nip/Tuck||Episode: "Lola Wlodkowski"|
|2009–2011||Private Practice|| Episodes: |
"Do the Right Thing"
"Eyes Wide Open"
"If You Don't Know Me By Now"
|2010||Huge||Episode: "Talent Night"|
|2010–2014||Glee|| Episodes: |
"Blame It on the Alcohol"
"The Purple Piano Project"
|2011||Off the Map||Episode: "On the Mean Streets of San Miguel"|
|2012||Californication||Episode: "Love Song"|
|2012||White Collar||Episode: "Ice Breaker"|
|2013||Nashville|| Episodes: |
"There'll Be No Teardrops Tonight"
"Take These Chains from My Heart"
|2014||How to Get Away with Murder|| Episodes: |
"He deserved to die"
|2014–2016||Madam Secretary|| Episodes: |
"Just Another Normal Day"
"Whisper of the Ax"
"There But For the Grace of God"
"The Doability Doctrine"
"The Greater Good"
He has directed many shows on The Learning Channel, TLC Network.
|1993||Bodies, Rest & Motion|
|1994||Sleep with Me|
|1997||Mr. Jealousy||Executive producer|
|2005||The Bulls||Short film (executive producer)|
|2006||The Lather Effect||Associate producer|
|2007||The Grand Design||Short film (executive producer)|
- Eric Stoltz on IMDb