In contrast to the insufferably intellectual characters he has played so often and so well, David Ogden Stiers wasn't much of a student while growing up in Eugene, Oregon. Like many another "underachiever," Stiers excelled at the things he was truly interested in, such as music (he played piano and french horn) and acting. After flunking out of the University of Oregon, Stiers stepped up his amateur-theatrical activities, and at age 20 was hired by the California Shakespeare Festival at Santa Clara, where he spent the next seven years performing the Classics. After briefly working with the famous San Francisco improv group The Committee, Stiers attended Juilliard, in hopes of improving his vocal delivery. Evidently his training paid off: in 1974, Stiers co-starred with Zero Mostel in the Broadway production Ulysses in Nighttown, then went on to appear opposite Doug Henning in the long-running musical The Magic Show. Despite his success, Stiers detested New York, and at the first opportunity he "ran screaming" back to the West Coast. He was cast in the short-lived sitcom Doc in 1975, and the following year played an important role in the 90-minute pilot for Charlie's Angels, though he passed when offered a regular assignment in the Angels series proper. Stiers' performance as a stuttering TV executive in a 1976 Mary Tyler Moore Show episode led to his being cast as the overbearing Major Charles Emerson Winchester on the ever-popular M*A*S*H; at first signed to a two-year contract, Stiers remained with the series until its final episode in February of 1983. Before, during and after his tenure on M*A*S*H, Stiers kept busy in made-for-TV films, lending his patented authoritativeness to such real-life characters as Dr. Charles Mayo (in 1977's A Love Affair: The Eleanor and Lou Gehrig Story), critic and social arbiter Cleveland Amory (1984's Anatomy of an Illness) and President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1987's J. Edgar Hoover). He was also seen as pontificating DA Michael Reston in several of the Perry Mason TV-movies of the late 1980s. Disney animation devotees will remember Stiers for his voiceover work as Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast (1988) and Lord Ratcliffe in Pocahontas (1995). Stiers continued his work in film, voiceover work and television, appearing in projects like Woody Allen's The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001), voicing Jumba in Lilo & Stitch (2002) and playing the recurring role of Oberoth on Stargate Atlantis in 2007. Parlaying his lifelong love of classical music into a second career, David Ogden Stiers has served as guest conductor for over 70 major U.S. symphony orchestras.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Attended first two years of high school in Urbana, IL, and coedited a science-fiction newspaper with Roger Ebert.
- Received a scar on his chin in a bicycle accident in his mid-30s.
- Frequent narrator for PBS documentaries.
- Charter member of John Houseman's Acting Company, which also consisted of Kevin Kline and Patti LuPone.
- Conducted symphony and pop orchestras.
- Frequently collaborated with Woody Allen, beginning with 1988's Another Woman.
- Did voice-over work in several Disney movies, including Cogsworth in Beauty & the Beast (1991), Governor Ratcliffe in Pocahontas (1995) and Dr. Jumba Jookiba in Lilo & Stitch (2002).