Although he is best known for his role as anal-retentive psychiatrist extraordinaire Niles Crane on the celebrated sitcom Frasier, David Hyde Pierce has also done considerable work on the stage and screen. Fair, birdlike, and bearing an uncanny resemblance to Frasier co-star Kelsey Grammer, Pierce is one of the entertainment business' finest purveyors of a certain kind of blue-blooded neuroticism, and, in the eyes of some viewers, has even gone so far as to make insecurity perversely sexy.
Born in Saratoga Springs, New York, on April 3, 1959, Pierce was raised in what he has described as a "very run-of-the-mill, middle-class" household. When he was eight, he began taking piano lessons, and he decided to pursue a career as a concert pianist. He continued to train until he got to Yale University, where he realized that he was better suited to the acting profession. Following graduation, Pierce moved to New York and did a brief stint as a tie salesman at Bloomingdale's before being cast in a Broadway play. Although the production was a flop, Pierce continued to work on the stage in New York and Chicago for several years and was eventually cast as a suicidal congressman on the short-lived sitcom The Powers That Be in 1992. His work on the show, coupled with his resemblance to Kelsey Grammer, led to his casting on Frasier the following year.
Frasier proved to be the turning point in Pierce's career. His portrayal of Niles, aside from winning him a slew of awards, including an Emmy, also provided a number of opportunities for the actor on the big screen. Pierce, who had been acting sporadically in films since the early '80s, could be seen in supporting roles in such '90s films as Sleepless in Seattle (1993), Nixon (1995), in which he played John Dean, and the animated A Bug's Life (1998), for which he provided the voice of a stick insect.
As the first decade of the 21st century opened, Pierce began appearing in more and more feature films, selecting an eclectic array of roles that utitlized his strengths without resorting to rehashing the Niles Crane character. Diverse in their genre and theme, the projects also ranged in their levels of success and acclaim. The 2000 comedy Isn't She Great was an abysmal failure, while the indie films Wet Hot American Summer and Full Frontal both left audiences and critics fiercely split. Pierce also continued to flex his voice skills in the animated features Osmosis Jones and Treasure Planet.
One of Pierce's best-received roles came in 2003, when he costarred in the tongue-in-cheek comedy Down With Love. While not much of a box-office hit, the film managed to charm many critics with its wall-to-wall homages to 1960s sex-comedies. A year later, Pierce again showed up sans-body, providing the voice of Abe Sapien in the comic-book adaptation Hellboy. He reunited with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola's animated comic adaptation The Amazing Screw-On Head to voice the role of the dreaded Emperor Zombie in 2006, and joined the cast of The Perfect Host in 2010 for a leading role as Warwick Wilson, whose genteel façade hides a deep rage and mental instability.