David Ogden Stiers, best known for his role as Major Charles Emerson Winchester III on the hit TV comedy series MASH, died Saturday at the age of 75, Variety reports.
The Emmy-nominated actor died “peacefully at his home in Newport, Oregon after a courageous battle with bladder cancer,” his agent tweeted. “His talent was only surpassed by his heart.”
I am very sad to report that David died this morning March 3, 2018 peacefully at his home in Newport, Oregon after a courageous battle with bladder cancer.
His talent was only surpassed by his heart. pic.twitter.com/fjuGmbVYgd
— MKS Talent Agency (@MKSTalentAgency) March 3, 2018
Stiers joined the cast of MASH, which centered on Army surgeons and staffers during the Korean War, in 1977 and remained until the show’s cancellation in 1983. He was nominated for two Emmy Awards for his performance as the lovably arrogant Winchester.
Also a regular performer on Broadway, Stiers later found success voicing characters in animated movies, most notably Cogsworth in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, which he also narrates. The film’s recording earned him a shared Grammy Award. His other animated credits include The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pocahontas, and Spirited Away.
The Juilliard-trained actor’s notable live-action credits include Better Off Dead, The Dead Zone, and many Woody Allen movies such as Curse of the Jade Scorpion. He earned a third Emmy nomination for the NBC miniseries The First Olympics: Athens 1896.
Stiers came out publicly as gay in a 2009 interview. “I am [gay],” he said. “Very proud to be so.”
Then 66, Stiers said he had feared that coming out earlier would have hurt his career, particularly as a voice actor for Disney and other family films.
“I enjoy working and even though many have this idealistic belief that the entertainment industry and studios like Walt Disney are gay friendly…” he said. “For the most part they are, but that doesn’t mean for them that business does not come first. It’s a matter of economics.”
“From the late 1980s until about seven or eight years ago, you would find certain individuals coming up to you, me, and advocating the position that since we were doing family fare that it would be best were the actors to maintain a certain palatability to parents. These parties likely had heard rumors or harbored suspicions about me and wanted to make sure no embarrassing incidents were forthcoming.”
“Cogsworth, the character I did on Beauty and the Beast, could be a bit flamboyant on screen, because basically he is a cartoon,” Stiers continued. “But they didn’t want Cogsworth to become Disney’s gay character, because it got around a gay man was playing him.”
At the time of his coming out, Stiers admitted that he had not witnessed any anti-gay discrimination within the industry for a very long time. “I should say in regards to this that many of my fears were in modern times self-invented,” he explained. “I’ve been working internally on whether they were the problem, or if I just continued using them as an excuse long after the call for conservative private lives passed.”
“I wish to spend my life’s twilight being just who I am,” Stiers concluded. “I could claim noble reasons as coming out in order to move gay rights forward, but I must admit it is for far more selfish reasons. Now is the time I wish to find someone, and I do not desire to force any potential partner to live a life of extreme discretion with me.”