Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne died on March 6 at age 84. Osborne never revealed much about his private life, but his partner, David Staller, came forward in the Los Angeles Times’ obituary.
Osborne’s family said in his obituary that he died after a long battle with kidney disease.
TCM announced that it is hosting a 48-hour tribute to Osborne between Saturday, March 18 and Sunday, March 19. The network will air interviews Osborne conducted with stars, as well as his first-ever introduction on TCM, which was for Gone With The Wind.
Staller is a New York theater director and producer with a love of George Bernard Shaw’s works that mirrored Osborne’s love of classic movies.
Here’s a look at Staller’s life and career.
1. Staller Confirmed Osborne’s Death
Staller confirmed Osborne’s death in a brief interview with the Los Angeles Times. He said that Osborne died in his sleep from natural causes at his New York City home.
“It’s difficult to imagine a planet without him,” Staller said. “He made the choice to call it a day, and he wants everyone to know that he’ll see them at the after party.”
Staller and Osborne had been together for 20 years. Osborne did not talk publicly about their relationship, but they were seen together at some events. In 2010, Broadway World published photos of them together at the Gingold Theatrical Group’s St. Patrick’s Day Gala. Other photos from that event can be seen here.
2. Staller Is a Member of The Actors Company Theatre
Staller has been a member of The Actors Company Theatre since the 1995-1996 season. His bio also notes that he was a staff script writer for Turner Entertainment.
As a director for TACT, Staller helmed its 2015-2016 production of Widowers’ Houses. He has also acted in productions of The Matchmaker, Androcles and the Lion, The Beauty Party and The Madwoman of Chaillot.
3. He’s the Founding Artistic Director of a Group Dedicated to George Bernard Shaw
Staller is such a fan of George Bernard Shaw’s work that he is the Founding Artistic Director of the Gingold Group. He’s directed several off-Broadway productions of Shaw’s work for their Shaw New York Festival. A few of the productions were filmed by the New York Public Library of Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.
Staller has become a “go-to speaker” on subjects related to George Bernard Shaw’s work. He founded the Gingold Group in January 2006.
According to the group’s website, their goal is to present “works celebrating human rights and free speech using the outspoken humanitarian precepts of George Bernard Shaw as its platform to entertain, enlighten and enrich.” The group is named after the late actress Hermione Gingold, who was a friend of Staller’s.
This year’s Project Shaw 2017 includes productions of You Never Can Tell, Captain Bassbount’s Conversion, Press Cuttings and Candida.
In an interview with Criterion.com in 2010, Staller explained how he became obsessed with Gorge Bernard Shaw:
I was about nine or ten, and I was in England, and I heard a special broadcast about Shaw on the radio. And I heard his voice. It was an amusing-sounding voice, almost pixieish. I had no idea who Shaw was, and I was just enchanted by the sound of him. Then I heard the speaker quote him, saying “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” At that age, that idea had never occurred to me. I began exploring who this guy was, and one of the ways I was able to do that was through these films that you’re rereleasing—when possible, on television or at revival houses. It’s really thrilling to me that you’re making this work accessible to people. It sort of epitomizes what Shaw’s fascination with film was, which was the wider audience.
4. He Studied Acting Under Lee Strasberg
According to his Gingold Group bio, Staller studied acting with Lee Strasberg in Los Angeles and at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. In New York, he studied with Stella Adler and Uta Hagen.
According to Broadway World‘s bio page, Staller was born in Glencoe, Illinois.
In an interview with Broadway World, Staller explained how Shaw influenced his work.
“When I was about 10, I heard an old recording of Shaw from a radio broadcast saying, ‘Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself,'” Staller explained to the site. “It fascinated me, particularly since everyone I knew seemed to be in therapy. The notion of not allowing others to define whom we wish to be resonated and I began exploring his work. He’d given his life to fighting for humanitarian causes, standing up for the disenfranchised in the world; and, face it, that’s all of us. The more I read, the more intrigued by his work and his life I became.”
5. He Studied at USC & Became a Script Doctor
His resume also includes a stint as a “script doctor” while he studied at the University of Southern California. He also studied cello there.
After graduating, he headed back to New York, where he appeared in nearly 50 off-Broadway plays and even on a “Distinguished performer” Drama League citation for a production of Gaslight. In 1993, he performed a one-man show called Noel&Cole at Carnegie Hall.
According to his LinkedIn page, Staller earned a bachelor’s degree at USC in 1977. He also studied theatre and dance at New York University from 1973 to 1974.