John Lithgow

John Lithgow

Actor
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Life Story

If "born to the theater" has meaning in determining a person's life path, then John Lithgow is a prime example of this truth. He was born in Rochester, New York, to Sarah Jane (Price), an actress, and Arthur Washington Lithgow III, who was both a theatrical producer and director. John's father was born in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, where the Anglo-American Lithgow family had lived for several generations.

John moved frequently as a child, while his father founded and managed local and college theaters and Shakespeare festivals throughout the Midwest of the United States. Not until he was 16, and his father became head of the McCarter Theater in Princeton New Jersey, did the family settle down. But for John, the theater was still not a career. He won a scholarship to Harvard University, where he finally caught the acting bug (as well as found a wife). Harvard was followed by a Fulbright scholarship to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Returning from London, his rigorous dramatic training stood him in good stead, and a distinguished career on Broadway gave him one Tony Award for "The Changing Room", a second nomination in 1985 for "Requiem For a Heavyweight", and a third in 1988 for "M. Butterfly". But with critical acclaim came personal confusion, and in the mid 1970s, he and his wife divorced. He entered therapy, and in 1982, his life started in a new direction, the movies - he received an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Roberta Muldoon in The World According to Garp (1982). A second Oscar nomination followed for Terms of Endearment (1983), and he met a UCLA economics professor who became his second wife. As the decade of the 1990s came around, he found that he was spending too much time on location, and another career move brought him to television in the hugely successful series 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996).

Family

Mary Yeager (12 December 1981 - present) ( 2 children)

Trivia

He attended and graduated from Princeton High School in Princeton, New Jersey.
He attended Harvard College and graduated with a Bachelor's degree magna cum laude in history and literature (1967). He lived in Adams House as an undergraduate. Lithgow later served on Harvard's Board of Overseers.
He studied at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
He was named a Fulbright scholar.
He is the parent of Ian Lithgow with Jean Taynton, and Phoebe Lithgow and Nathan Lithgow with Mary Yeager.
He hosted the Welcoming Reception for UCLA's new Chancellor Carnesale.
He claims that his most difficult performance was in Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) because he had to portray fear of the monster, although he could not really see it.
He was the original voice of Hades in Disney's Hercules (1997) and recorded all the dialogue, but his performance was then replaced by the performance of James Woods.
He was considered for the role of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), which went to Anthony Hopkins.

Personal Quotes 

[on the constant time-slot changes and ultimate cancellation of 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996)] If NBC had set out to ruin it, they couldn't have done a better job. They kept trying to use us as a weapon instead of a show to be taken care of. It would have been nice to have stayed a big hit, but I'd rather be a great show that nobody was watching than a lousy show that was a big hit, which is the case for most of the others.
In general, my basic rule of thumb is just act in things you would want to see yourself in. I have a taste for all kinds of movies. Usually, it's a question of whether it will be fun, whether I respect the people behind it, whether I would like to work with them. I'm sure I'm a serious-minded actor, but I still value the frivolity of acting. It's a real exuberant, entertaining thing to do. I never lose track of that.
I've had parallel careers in the theatre and in movies. In the theatre, I often play characters with a strong sense of innocence who aren't as intelligent as I am. The reason: my size. I seem sort of big and good-natured on stage. It would be too much for a big man to play a forbidding character on stage. So I play big people who are fairly gentle. It's a wonderful thing to build a career on. What I offer to movie-makers is that I can put a tremendous amount of theatrical background and technical equipment at their disposal. I can make believable the over-the-top characters.
[from a 1984 interview] My career just happened to me. I didn't manage it. 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 I haven't yet played the person the story is about. The joy is in 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.

Filmography

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