Theater, film and television writer-director Robert Allan Ackerman died Jan. 10. He was 77.
Nominated twice for Golden Globes and five times for Emmys, Ackerman also received numerous theater directing awards.
Ackerman started out directing at the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theatre. In the 1980s his theater productions included Martin Sherman’s Tony nominated “Bent,” starring Richard Gere and David Dukes; John Byrne’s “Slab Boys,” starring Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon and Val Kilmer and William Mastrosimone’s “Extremities” starring Susan Sarandon. He went on to direct Peter Allen in “Legs Diamond” and Al Pacino in Oscar Wilde’s “Salome.”
When reached for comment, Al Pacino said, “I love Bob. I loved being around him, his aurora, his steady peace. To work with him was joyous. He understood the language of theater art and communicated it with such ease. His gift was intangible and there’s no way of understanding how he created. When an artist has that special gift it is unexplainable, it just happens. When he stopped directing, he started writing again and his writing also had that same magic. He will be missed.”
Moving into film and television, Ackerman directed the Emmy-nominated mini-series “Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows,” starring Judy Davis and Victor Garber. He received his second Emmy nomination for Tennessee Williams’ “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone,” starring Anne Bancroft and Helen Mirren.
His other credits include “David’s Mother” with Kirstie Alley, “The Reagans” with James Brolin and Judy Davis, “Forget Me Never” with Mia Farrow and “Double Platinum” with Diana Ross and Brandy.
He also served as executive producer of HBO’s “My House in Umbria,” starring Maggie Smith, for which he won a Producer’s Guild Award.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Ackerman started acting at his family’s resort, Ackermans. He taught in Harlem for seven years before turning to directing in his thirties.
After Joseph Papp saw his production of Thomas Babe’s “A Prayer for My Daughter,” he hired him to direct it at the Public Theatre, which garnered him an Obie award. He went on to direct several new works by Babe including “Taken in Marriage” starring Meryl Streep and Colleen Dewhurst and “Fathers and Sons” starring Richard Chamberlain and Dixie Carter at The Public.
Ackerman lived for many years in London and traveled frequently to Japan. In London, he directed West End shows including “Extremities,” “Torch Song Trilogy,” “Our Town” and “When She Danced.” In Japan, he brought controversial Western works to the stage including Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America.”
He is survived his son Nicholas, a visual artist and musician with the band The Virgins, his partner Franco Zavani, his sister Suzanne Ackerman and his niece Jennifer Lehman Cashman.
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