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Famous Like Me > Actor > C > Peter Coyote

Profile of Peter Coyote on Famous Like Me

Name: Peter Coyote  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 10th October 1942
Place of Birth: Colver, Pennsylvania, USA
Profession: Actor
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
Peter Coyote

Peter Coyote (born Robert Peter Cohon October 10, 1941 in New York City) is the cofounder, with Emmett Grogan, of the San Francisco Diggers and veteran of the San Francisco Mime Troupe. Coyote became a member, and later Chairman, of the California State Arts Council from 1975 to 1983. He shifted from acting on stage to acting in films in the late 1970s.

Coyote is best known for his role as "Keys" in ET. He has acted in over 70 films and has narrated many documentaries and audio books. His voice work includes narrarating the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah with Glenn Close.


Coyote was born to Morris Cohon, a businessman of Sephardic Jewish descent, and Ruth Fidler, who came from a middle-class Jewish family. After graduating from Grinnell College with a BA in English Literature in 1964, and despite having been accepted at the prestigious Writer's Workshops in Iowa, Peter Coyote moved to the West Coast to pursue a Master's Degree in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University. After a short apprenticeship at the San Francisco Actor's Workshop, he joined the San Francisco Mime Troupe, a radical political street theater which had recently been arrested for performing in the City's parks without permits.

In the Mime Troupe, Coyote was soon acting, writing, and directing. He directed the first cross-country tour of "The Minstrel Show, Civil Rights in a Cracker Barrel," a highly controversial play closed by authorities in several cities. The cast was arrested several times before a tour of eastern colleges and universities, ending triumphantly in New York City, where they were invited and sponsored by comedian Dick Gregory. The following year, a play, "Olive Pits," that Coyote co-wrote, directed and performed in, won a Special OBIE from New York's Village Voice newspaper.

From 1967 to 1975, Coyote took off to "do the sixties" where he became a prominent member of the San Francisco counter-culture community and founding member of the Diggers, an anarchistic group who supplied free food, free housing and free medical aid to the hordes of runaways who appeared during the Summer of Love. The Diggers evolved into a group known as the Free Family, which established chains of communes around the Pacific Northwest and Southwest. Many of the stories from that period are included in Coyote's memoir, Sleeping Where I Fall, published by Counterpoint Press in April of 1998. One of the stories incorporated into his book is "Carla's Story," which was awarded the 1993-1994 Pushcart Prize, a national prize for excellence in writing, published by a non-commercial literary magazine.

From 1975 to 1983 Coyote was a member of the California State Arts Council, the State agency which determines art policy. After his first year, Coyote was elected Chairman by his peers three years in a row, and during his tenure as Chairman, the Council's overhead expenses dropped from 50% to 15%, the lowest in the State, and the Arts Council budget rose from $1 million to $14 million. It has never been higher since.

These political victories, among others, fostered Coyote's decision to re-enter acting. In 1978, he began to work at San Francisco's award-winning Magic Theater doing plays continously "to shake out the rust" and to get his unused skills back in working order. While playing the lead in the World Premiere of Sam Shepard's "True West," he was spotted by a Hollywood agent who asked to represent him.

A younger Peter Coyote.

Peter's film career began in 1980's Die Laughing, choosing his screen name because of a healing spiritual encounter with a coyote. After supporting roles in Tell Me a Riddle, The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper, and 1981's Southern Comfort, Coyote snagged his signature role: the mysterious scientist billed as "Keys" in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982). It was hardly a star-making characterization, though, and Coyote continued his screen career in low key. However, his acting ability (and the duality of his screen presence) eventually won him a number of interesting roles -- some leads, some supporting parts. As Leonard Maltin once wrote, "Coyote's no rubber-stamp leading man," but he seems comfortable with that. "I'm a Zen Buddhist student first, actor second," Coyote has said. "If I can't reconcile the two lives, I'll stop acting. I spend more time off-screen than on." In addition to his movie work in recent films such as Sphere, A Walk To Remember, and Erin Brockovich, Coyote has also appeared in many made-for-TV movies and miniseries, and does commercial voice-overs.

Recently, Coyote has landed lead roles on several television series: 2004's The 4400, and The Inside in 2005. After The Inside was cancelled, Coyote returned to The 4400 as a special guest star for their two-part season finale, then joined the cast of ABC's series Commander-in-Chief as a Vice-Presidential nominee, where he'll work with Geena Davis and Donald Sutherland.

As a writer he has a mythopoetic style reminiscent of Michael Ventura, the product of years of self-examination.

Peter Coyote's left-wing politics are evident in his articles for Mother Jones magazine some of which he wrote as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and his disagreements with David Horowitz in his autobiography Sleeping Where I Fall.


  • He was one of the organizers of a group of twelve students who traveled to Washington, D.C. during the Cuban Missile Crisis supporting U.S. President John F. Kennedy's "peace race." Kennedy invited the group into the White House (the first time protesters had ever been so recognized) and they met for several hours with McGeorge Bundy.
  • His first starring role was in the Sci-Fi-Adventure Timerider.


  • The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz, Peter Coyote (Narrator) Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  • The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter
  • The Breathtaker by Alice Blanchard,
  • The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Castaneda Reading
  • Sleeping Where I Fall: A Chronicle autobiography by Peter Coyote 1998 ISBN 158243011X
  • Ringolevio: A Life Played for Keeps by Emmett Grogan, Peter Coyote (Illustrator) 1990
  • In the Light of Reverence- narrator (2001)

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Peter Coyote