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John Lithgow

John Lithgow

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Also Known As: John Arthur Lithgow Died:
Born: October 19, 1945 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Rochester, New York, USA Profession: actor, songwriter, director, singer, musician, playwright

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A versatile character player who was a familiar face in theater, film and on television, actor John Lithgow proved adept with a wide range of material spanning drama, comedy, science-fiction, family fare and thrillers. With a vast array of talents from which to draw, Lithgow ironically had difficulty translating his acting versatility into stardom. He had his start in the theater, performing in numerous Shakespeare productions before making the jump to features in the early 1970s; most notably as a relentless assassin in the Brian De Palma thriller "Blow Out" (1981). But it was his Oscar-nominated performance as a former football player-turned-transvestite in "The World According to Garp" (1982) that propelled him into the limelight, as well as his follow-up performance of the married but still needy lover of an also married Debra Winger in James L. Brooks' Oscar-winning tearjerker, "Terms of Endearment" (1983). Since that time, Lithgow moved smoothly from stage to screen, performing in a variety of different roles, though he occasionally was typecast as an all-too-evil villain in thrillers like "Ricochet" (1991) and "Cliffhanger" (1993). He became a surprise hit on television with the acclaimed...

A versatile character player who was a familiar face in theater, film and on television, actor John Lithgow proved adept with a wide range of material spanning drama, comedy, science-fiction, family fare and thrillers. With a vast array of talents from which to draw, Lithgow ironically had difficulty translating his acting versatility into stardom. He had his start in the theater, performing in numerous Shakespeare productions before making the jump to features in the early 1970s; most notably as a relentless assassin in the Brian De Palma thriller "Blow Out" (1981). But it was his Oscar-nominated performance as a former football player-turned-transvestite in "The World According to Garp" (1982) that propelled him into the limelight, as well as his follow-up performance of the married but still needy lover of an also married Debra Winger in James L. Brooks' Oscar-winning tearjerker, "Terms of Endearment" (1983). Since that time, Lithgow moved smoothly from stage to screen, performing in a variety of different roles, though he occasionally was typecast as an all-too-evil villain in thrillers like "Ricochet" (1991) and "Cliffhanger" (1993). He became a surprise hit on television with the acclaimed sitcom "3rd Rock from the Sun" (NBC, 1996-2001), which earned the actor three Emmy awards and a lifetime of recognition. By the time he delivered his award-winning turn as a hard-to-catch serial killer on the acclaimed series "Dexter" (Showtime, 2006- ), Lithgow was considered to be one of the most esteemed and respected actors working in the business.

Born on Oct. 19, 1945 in Rochester, NY, Lithgow was raised in a theatrical home by his father, Arthur, a director and actor who managed the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ, and his mother, Sarah Jane, a teacher and former actress. Because his father ran the Anitoch Shakespeare Festival, among a few others, Lithgow was exposed to the theater from an early age. When he was six, he made his performing debut in "Henry VI, Part III" (1951), then continued to appear periodically in productions of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Henry V" throughout his youth. After graduating Princeton High School in Princeton, NJ, Lithgow attended Harvard University where he was president of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, graduated magna cum laude, and lived in the same dorm as roommates Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to attend the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, where he fully delved into the study of his craft. Upon his return to the states, he began his stage career in earnest, directing productions at the McCarter Theatre, then made his feature film in the long-forgotten drug comedy, "Dealing: or the Berkley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues" (1972), playing a drug dealer who entices a straight-laced Harvard student (Robert F. Lyons) to smuggle marijuana from California to Boston.

In 1973, Lithgow made his Broadway debut in "The Changing Room," playwright David Storey's drama about a group of working-class men who play semi-professional rugby. Lithgow won both a Drama Desk Award and a Tony Award for Best Actor, establishing him as a young performer worthy of note. He next starred opposite Lynn Redgrave in Charles Laurence's "My Fat Friend" (1974) on Broadway, then paired up with Meryl Streep for Arthur Miller's "A Memory of Two Mondays" (1976) at the Playhouse Theatre. Lithgow co-starred in Brian De Palma's feature thriller, "Obsession" (1976), playing the friend and business partner of a man (Cliff Robertson) trying to put his tortured past behind him. Following his off-Broadway one-man show, "Kaufman at Large" (1976), Lithgow co-starred with Richard Dreyfuss in the gumsh comedy, "The Big Fix" (1978) before appearing in Bob Fosse's glitzy musical, "All That Jazz" (1979). After co-starring in the coming-of-age drama "Rich Kids" (1979), as well as appearing on small screen fare like "The Oldest Living Graduate" (NBC, 1980) and "Mom, the Wolfman and Me" (Syndicated, 1980), Lithgow began a long series of playing villains, beginning with "Blow Out" (1981), in which he portrayed a cold blooded assassin being pursued by a sound technician (John Travolta) enamored with a prostitute (Nancy Allen) caught up in the murder of Pennsylvania's governor.

Lithgow emerged from being an unknown supporting player to a widely recognized performer with his next project, "The World According to Garp" (1981) - undoubtedly his breakthrough film. Though one of several offbeat supporting players, Lithgow stole the show from the entire cast - which included Robin Williams and Glenn Close - in playing Roberta Muldoon, a former tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles-turned- transvestite who finds a new life and family when he befriends an unwitting feminist leader (Close) and her author son (Williams). Lithgow earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor - his first such honor from the Academy. Following an Oscar-nominated turn in as Debra Winger's befuddled paramour in "Terms of Endearment" (1983) and a role in the post-nuclear war drama "The Day After" (ABC, 1983), he was a crew member on the joint U.S-Russian spaceflight in "2010" (1984), then made an indelible impression as a reverend trying to keep the teenagers in his small town from dancing and rock music in "Footloose" (1984). Lithgow received a Tony Award nomination for the Broadway production of Rod Serling's "Requiem for a Heavyweight" (1985), then played an evil businessman under investigation for making shoddy toys in "Santa Claus: The Movie" (1985).

Thanks to success in the early 1980s, Lithgow's career blossomed throughout the rest of the decade and continued fill tilt into the next. He played a doctor at a research facility where secret plutonium experiments are conducted in "The Manhattan Project" (1986), then was amiable and endearing as the father who befriends a Bigfoot-like monster in the family favorite, "Harry and the Hendersons" (1987). Though he attempted to break free from the confines of playing the villain in less melodramatic fare like "Distant Thunder" (1988) and "Traveling Man" (1989), his efforts went largely unnoticed. He returned to the stage for the Tony-nominated role of Rene Gallimard, who falls in love with a beautiful Chinese opera singer who is really a man, in "M. Butterfly" (1988). After a small role in the ensemble "Memphis Belle" (1990), Lithgow was over-the-top evil as an escaped convict who wants revenge on the cop (Denzel Washington) who sent him to prison in the often ridiculous thriller, "Ricochet" (1991). In "At Play in the Fields of the Lord" (1991), Lithgow starred as an evangelist missionary who helps two Americans (Tom Berenger and Tom Waits) stranded in the Amazon jungle.

Lithgow was borderline campy in, "Raising Cain" (1992), a Jekyll & Hyde-like thriller directed by Brian De Palma, which the actor followed by playing an over-the-top fugitive battling the leader of a mountain rescue team (Sylvester Stallone) in "Cliffhanger" (1993). Lithgow starred in a string of film and television projects, including "The Wrong Man" (Showtime, 1993), the forgettable feature drama "A Good Man in Africa" (1994) and "My Brother's Keeper" (CBS, 1995), which earned him his first Emmy Award nod, before starring in his first sitcom as a regular, "3rd Rock From the Sun." As the arrogant, self-absorbed and sometimes foolish leader of a group of aliens who have been sent to observe life on Earth - particularly on how to understand the human condition - Lithgow displayed surefire comic timing while doing anything for a laugh, including wearing a dress. Though not exactly a ratings-getter, "3rd Rock" was hailed by critics and earned several awards, including three Emmys for Lithgow for Best Actor in 1996, 1997 and 1999.

Long dedicated to working with children, Lithgow made his recording artist debut with Singin' in the Bathtub, a collection of songs for kids. Meanwhile, during his sitcom's run, he made appearances in features like "Homegrown" (1998) and "A Civil Action" (1999), then played the titular romantic hero in the faithful small screen adaptation of "Don Quixote" (TNT, 2000). Adding yet another eccentric character to his overflowing gallery, he garnered excellent reviews for his performance as he introduced the classic story to a new generation. By the time "3rd Rock" left the airwaves, Lithgow returned to more light-hearted fare, lending his distinctive voice to the animated feature films "Rugrats in Paris - The Movie" (2000) and "Shrek" (2001); the latter in which he played the diminutive, but arrogant villain Lord Farquaad. In 2002, he released his second children's album, Farkle and Friends alongside the companion book, The Remarkable Farkle McBride. Lithgow also authored other popular children's' books, including Micawber (2002), I'm a Manatee (2003) and Carnival of the Animals (2004).

After a small role in the independent feature, "Orange County" (2002), Lithgow played the stern, devout and disapproving father of famed sex researcher Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson) in ""Kinsey" (2004), before portraying filmmaker Blake Edwards in the acclaimed telepic, "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers" (HBO, 2004). Lithgow kept returning to the stage, headlining a 2000 workshop of "Sweet Smell of Success" and assumed the role of J.J. Hunsecker when the production went to Broadway in 2002. For his acclaimed performance, he won a Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. In 2003, he joined Eileen Atkins in the William Nicholson drama "The Retreat from Moscow," at the Booth Theatre, then starred as the sophisticated con artist Lawrence Jameson, the Michael Caine role in the musical stage production of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" at New York's Imperial Theatre, for which he earned yet another Tony nomination. Following a small role as a film producer in "Dreamgirls" (2006), he starred in a Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's "All My Sons" (2008) at the Gerald Sch nfeld Theatre, before retuning to the big screen as a publishing magnate in the romantic comedy, "Confessions of a Shopaholic" (2009). Doing a complete one-eighty, Lithgow had a season-long guest starring role on the hit series, "Dexter" (Showtime, 2006- ), playing the hard-to-capture Trinity serial killer, who d s battle with the titular avenger of murderous bad guys (Michael C. Hall). Lithgow's atypical performance earned him widespread recognition and a Golden Globe award win for Best Supporting Actor. The win helped propel him to further award recognition when he received an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series in 2010. A series of supporting roles in films followed, including the romantic comedies "Leap Year" (2010) and "New Year's Eve" (2011), science fiction reboot "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (2011), and Judd Apatow comedy "This Is 40" (2012). After an arc on the sitcom "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS 2005-2014), Lithgow reappeared on TV as The White Rabbit in the fantasy series "Once Upon A Time" (ABC 2013- ). Along with supporting roles in the Tommy Lee Jones drama "The Homesman" (2014) and the Christopher Nolan space opera "Interstellar" (2014), Lithgow received critical raves co-starring opposite Alfred Molina as half an aging gay couple in the comedy-drama "Love Is Strange" (2014).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Accountant, The (2016)
2.
 Best of Enemies (2015)
3.
 Love is Strange (2014)
4.
 Interstellar (2014)
5.
 Homesman, The (2014)
6.
 Casting By (2013)
7.
 This Is 40 (2012)
8.
 Campaign, The (2012)
10.
 Leap Year (2010)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in Yellow Springs, OH
1951:
Made stage debut at age six, in his father's production of "Henry VI, Part III"
1967:
Won a Fulbright Scholarship to study drama in England
1969:
Began stage career as a director with the McCarter Theatre (operated by his father)
1972:
Feature acting debut, "Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues"
1973:
Debuted on Broadway in David Storey's "The Changing Room"; won both the Tony and Drama Desk Awards
1974:
Starred on Broadway opposite Lynn Redgrave in "My Fat Friend" and opposite Meryl Streep in Arthur Miller's "A Memory of Two Mondays"
1976:
First collaboration with Brian De Palma, "Obsession"
:
Starred as George S. Kaufman in a one-man off-Broadway show "Kaufman at Large"
1982:
Breakthrough role, playing the transsexual football player in "The World According to Garp"; earned first Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination
1983:
First leading role in a feature, the George Miller-directed remake of the classic Twilight Zone episode 'Nightmare at 20,000 Feet' in "Twilight Zone: The Movie"
1983:
Earned second Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his turn as a lawyer who enters into an affair with Debra Winger's character in "Terms of Endearment"
1984:
Played the moralistic anti-dancing, anti-rock pastor in "Footloose"
1985:
Earned a Tony Award nomination for Featured Actor in the Broadway production of "Requiem for a Heavyweight"
1986:
Played Walter Burns in the Lincoln Center Broadway revival of "The Front Page"
1986:
Delivered an Emmy-winning turn as a bachelor whose life is altered when he buys 'The Doll'; a segment of the NBC anthology series "Amazing Stories"
1988:
Originated the lead role of a French diplomat in love with a Chinese opera singer in the Broadway production of "M. Butterfly"; earned a Tony Award nomination for Featured Actor in a Play
1990:
Appeared (also sang and wrote music) in a music video for children, "John Lithgow's Kid-Size Concert"
1990:
Played Colonel Bruce Derringer in the World War II drama "Memphis Belle"
1992:
Offered a brilliant dual performance in the psychological thriller "Raising Cain"
1993:
Was the villain who hunted Sylvester Stallone in the action-thriller "Cliffhanger"
1996:
Cast as Dr. Dick Solomon, an extraterrestrial scientist and the High Commander on the NBC sitcom "3rd Rock from the Sun"; received Golden Globe (1998, 1999), Emmy (1998, 2000, 2001) and SAG (2001) nominations for his role
2000:
Executive produced and had title role in the TNT production "Don Quixote"
2001:
Voiced Lord Farquaad in the animated feature "Shrek"
2002:
Played the role of J.J. Hunsecker in the Broadway production of Marvin Hamlisch's "Sweet Smell of Success"
2002:
Acted in the teen comedy "Orange County"
2004:
Cast in the Broadway production of "The Retreat from Moscow"
2004:
Portrayed the title character's moralistic, rigid father, opposite Liam Neeson in Bill Condon's "Kinsey"
2004:
Received a Grammy nomination for Best Spoken word for <i>The World According to Mr. Rogers</i> and <i>Carnival of the Animals</i>
2004:
Portrayed Blake Edwards in the HBO movie "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers"
2005:
Starred in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," the Broadway musical adapted from the 1988 movie starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin; received a Tony nomination for his role
2008:
Played Joe Keller in a Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's "All My Sons"
2009:
Joined the fourth season of the Showtime series "Dexter" as Arthur Mitchell, a serial killer
2011:
Cast as Barney's (Neil Patrick Harris) father on two episodes of CBS' "How I Met Your Mother"
2011:
Played James F¿¿¿¿¿¿¿ranco¿s Alzheimers-stricken father in "Rise Of The Planet of the Apes"
2011:
Cast in the ensemble romantic comedy "New Year¿s Eve," directed by Garry Marshall
2012:
Starred on Broadway in "The Columnist," by Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner David Auburn
2012:
Featured opposite Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann in "This Is 40," directed by Judd Apatow
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Princeton High School: Princeton , New Jersey -
London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art: -
Harvard University: Cambridge , Massachusetts - 1967

Notes

"The things is that stage acting feeds you immediately. It stays fresh because you have the feeling every night that the audience is seeing the play for the first time. They're starting fresh and so are you. It's different every night." --John Lithgow to the Los Angeles Times, May 1, 1988.

"I've always had a sort of innate fear of becoming too well known in any one role. I'm a character actor, and the fun of that is being different every time." --Lithgow to Entertainment Weekly, February 2, 1996.

"It's perfectly logical that I should end up having one of my biggest successes playing an alien--I don't fit many molds. But I enjoy the position of outsider, and I love the comedy that can come from being an outsider." --Lithgow to US, May 1996.

"My plate is full all the time, but I never have the opportunity to choose from ten parts. I do turn down junk. I've played important parts in movies, but rarely the person the story is about. The joy is the work. You can get too hung up on where you are. I'm not preoccupied with the desire to be top banana, but I do want to play bigger parts." --Lithgow to Biography, September 1997.

On the success of his NBC sitcom "3rd Rock From the Sun": "It's amazing they can keep a show this fresh for five seasons ... You must credit the writers. After all, the aliens now know how the Kleenex box works." --Lithgow to Parade Magazine, March 12, 2000.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Jean Taynton. Teacher. Married on September 10, 1966; divorced in 1980; mother of Ian Lithgow.
wife:
Mary Yeager. Professor. Second wife; married in 1981; mother of Phoebe and Nathan Lithgow.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Arthur W Lithgow. Producer. Regional theater actor; ran McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey; died of heart failure March 22, 2004.
mother:
Sarah Jane Lithgow. Teacher.
sister:
Robin Lithgow. Teacher.
son:
Ian Lithgow. Actor. Born c. 1971; mother, Jean Taynton; had recurring role on "3rd Rock From the Sun".
daughter:
Phoebe McCurtain Lithgow. Born on June 28, 1982; mother Mary Yeager.
son:
Nathan George Lithgow. Born on September 13, 1983; mother, Mary Yeager.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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