Lithgow pictured in 2007
John Arthur Lithgow
October 19, 1945
Rochester, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||Harvard College|
London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art
|Occupation||Actor, musician, comedian, poet, author, singer|
(m. 1966; div. 1980)
|Children||3, including Ian Lithgow|
John Arthur Lithgow ( LITH-goh; born , 1945) is an American actor, musician, comedian, poet, author, and singer. He has received two Tony Awards, six Emmy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, an American Comedy Award, four Drama Desk Awards, and has been nominated for two Academy Awards and four Grammy Awards. Lithgow has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and has been inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.
Lithgow is best known for his television roles as Dick Solomon in the sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996-2001), Arthur Mitchell in the drama Dexter (2009), and Sir Winston Churchill in the drama The Crown (2016), for all of which he won Emmy Awards. He is also well known for his film roles in Blow Out (1981), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Footloose (1984), Santa Claus: The Movie (1985), Harry and the Hendersons (1987), Raising Cain (1992), Shrek (2001), Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), Interstellar (2014), and Daddy's Home 2 (2017). His performances in the films The World According to Garp (1982) and Terms of Endearment (1983) each earned him Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor.
On the stage, he has appeared in Broadway productions including the musical adaptations of Sweet Smell of Success and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. In 2007, he made his Royal Shakespeare Company debut as Malvolio in Neil Bartlett's production of Twelfth Night. He has also recorded music, such as the 1999 children's music album Singin' in the Bathtub, and has written poetry and short stories for children, such as Marsupial Sue. His work in children's entertainment has earned him Grammy Award nominations and two Parents' Choice Silver Honor Awards.
Lithgow was born in Rochester, New York. His mother, Sarah Jane (née Price), was a retired actress. His father, Arthur Washington Lithgow III, was a theatrical producer and director who ran the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey. His father was born in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, to an American-Dominican family of Scottish, English and French descent. Lithgow is descended from Mayflower passenger and colonial governor William Bradford. Because of his father's job, the family moved frequently during Lithgow's childhood; he spent his childhood years in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where activist Coretta Scott King babysat him and his siblings; he spent his teenage years in Akron (living at Stan Hywet Hall) and Lakewood, Ohio. He graduated from Princeton High School in Princeton.
Lithgow attended Harvard College, and graduated with an A.B. magna cum laude in 1967, in history and literature. He lived in Adams House as an undergraduate. Lithgow later served on Harvard's Board of Overseers. Lithgow credits a performance at Harvard of Gilbert and Sullivan's Utopia Limited with helping him decide to become an actor. After graduation, Lithgow won a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Also, after graduation, he served as the Director of the Arts and Literature Department at WBAI, the Pacifica radio station in New York City.
In 1973, Lithgow debuted on Broadway in David Storey's The Changing Room, for which he received both the Tony and Drama Desk Award as Best Featured Actor in a Play. The following year he starred opposite Lynn Redgrave in My Fat Friend, and in 1976 he starred opposite Meryl Streep in Arthur Miller's A Memory of Two Mondays. He was nominated for the Best Actor Tony Awards for Requiem for a Heavyweight (1985) and M. Butterfly (directed by John Dexter, 1988).
In 2002, Lithgow won a Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of J.J. Hunsecker in the Broadway adaptation of the 1957 film Sweet Smell of Success. In 2005, Lithgow was elected into the American Theater Hall of Fame for his work on Broadway. He was also nominated for a Best Leading Actor in a Musical Tony for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Lithgow returned to Broadway as Joseph Alsop in the Manhattan Theatre Club production of David Auburn's new play The Columnist, with previews starting on April 4, 2012. The performance earned him a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play.
It was announced in February 2014 that he would return to Central Park's Delacorte Theater and Shakespeare in the Park for the 2014 summer season in the title role of Shakespeare's King Lear directed by Tony Award Winner Daniel Sullivan. The production was the play's first there since 1973 and Lithgow's first time there since 1975, when he had played Laertes.
In Fall 2014, Lithgow returned to Broadway as Tobias in a revival of Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance. He stars opposite Glenn Close, Martha Plimpton, Lindsay Duncan, Bob Balaban and Clare Higgins. Pam MacKinnon directed the limited 18-week production at the Golden Theatre.
He appears in a solo play John Lithgow: Stories by Heart, which opened on Broadway on January 11, 2018 at the American Airlines Theatre, written by Lithgow. Lithgow has performed this play around the US, starting at the Lincoln Center Theater in 2008, with a return performance at Lincoln Center slated for April to May 2019.
In 1979, Lithgow portrayed Lucas Sergeant in Bob Fosse's semi-autobiographical movie All That Jazz. The character was loosely based on the real-life director/choreographer Michael Bennett, best known for his work on Dreamgirls and A Chorus Line.
In 1983 and 1984, Lithgow was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performances as Roberta Muldoon in The World According to Garp and as Sam Burns in Terms of Endearment. Both films were screen adaptations of popular novels. Lithgow originated the character of Dr. Emilio Lizardo/Lord John Whorfin, an Italian physicist inhabited by an evil alien, which he played in the 1984 cult film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. In 1984, Lithgow also played a pastor who condemns dancing in Footloose. In 1985 he played the evil toy manufacturer in Santa Claus: The Movie.
In 1983, Lithgow appeared in a remake of the classic Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" in Twilight Zone: The Movie as the paranoid passenger made famous on the television show by William Shatner. In an interview with Bill Moyers, Lithgow reveals this role as his favorite of his film career. In 1991, he starred in the movie Ricochet opposite Denzel Washington as Earl Talbot Blake, a criminal seeking revenge against the policeman who sent him to prison. Also in 1991, he played missionary Leslie Huben in the film adaptation of Peter Matthiessen's novel At Play in the Fields of the Lord. In 1992, he starred as a man with multiple personality disorder in Brian De Palma's film Raising Cain and the narrator in Doctor Seuss Video Classics: Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories, and in 1993, starred as the villainous Eric Qualen in the Sylvester Stallone movie Cliffhanger.
In 1986, Lithgow starred in the science fiction film The Manhattan Project. As lead scientist in charge of nuclear research involving plutonium, he learns a lesson from the teenage son of his new girlfriend about the moral danger of doing pure research that will certainly lead to death and destruction.
In 1987, Lithgow starred in the Bigfoot-themed family comedy Harry and the Hendersons. In 2002, he narrated Life's Greatest Miracle, a documentary about human embryonic development, while in 2004, he portrayed the moralistic, rigid father of Alfred Kinsey in that year's biopic Kinsey. In 2006, Lithgow had a small role in the Academy Award-winning film Dreamgirls, as Jerry Harris, a film producer offering Deena Jones (Beyoncé Knowles) a film role. He starred in a lead role in the science fiction film Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
As a voice actor, Lithgow voiced the evil Lord Farquaad in the Shrek movie franchise.
In television, Lithgow is probably most widely known for his starring role as Dick Solomon in the 1996-2001 NBC sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun. He was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in the category Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in each of the program's six seasons and won three times, in 1996, 1997, and 1999. His son Ian regularly appeared alongside him as Leon, one of his physics students.
Additionally, Lithgow has been nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Special for The Day After (1983), and two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Special for Resting Place (1986) and My Brother's Keeper (1995). Lithgow was approached about playing Dr. Frasier Crane on Cheers, but turned it down. Lithgow starred with Jeffrey Tambor in the NBC sitcom Twenty Good Years.
Since 2006 he has starred in Campbell Soup Company's commercials advertising their Campbell's Select premium soup brand.
In September 2009, Lithgow joined the cast of Dexter as Arthur Mitchell, a serial killer and Dexter Morgan's nemesis. He won a Golden Globe Award for this role, and won an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series.
Lithgow portrays Winston Churchill in the 2016 Netflix drama series The Crown for which he won a Screen Actors Guild Award and an Emmy. He also starred as a professor of poetry who becomes implicated in the murder of his wife in the first season (spring 2017) of the NBC mockumentary series Trial & Error.
Lithgow has done extensive work for children, including several books and albums. Some of his book titles are Marsupial Sue, Marsupial Sue Presents "The Runaway Pancake," Lithgow Party Paloozas!: 52 Unexpected Ways to Make a Birthday, Holiday, or Any Day a Celebration for Kids, Carnival of the Animals, A Lithgow Palooza: 101 Ways to Entertain and Inspire Your Kids, I'm a Manatee, Micawber, The Remarkable Farkle McBride, Mahalia Mouse Goes to College and I Got Two Dogs. He also appeared as a guest on the Canadian children's program, Ants in Your Pants.
Lithgow launched into a career as a recording artist with the 1999 album of children's music, Singin' in the Bathtub. In June 2002, Lithgow released his second children's album Farkle and Friends. It was the musical companion to his book The Remarkable Farkle McBride, which tells the story of a young musical genius. Farkle and Friends features the vocal talents of Lithgow and Bebe Neuwirth backed by the Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra. In August 2006, Lithgow released The Sunny Side of the Street, his third children's album and first with Razor & Tie. This album features versions of classic songs from The Great American Songbook including "Getting to Know You" and "Ya Gotta Have Pep". Produced by JC Hopkins, the album features guest appearances by Madeleine Peyroux, Wayne Knight, Sherie Rene Scott and Maude Maggart. Lithgow also makes occasional appearances on stage and television singing children's songs and accompanying himself on guitar.
On October 1, 2010, Lithgow appeared on Doug Benson's podcast Doug Loves Movies, along with fellow guests Paul F. Tompkins and Jimmy Pardo. He has also appeared on Chris Hardwick's show The Nerdist Podcast.
Between 1978-80, Lithgow appeared in ten episodes of the radio drama revival series CBS Radio Mystery Theater.
Lithgow voiced the character of Yoda in the National Public Radio adaptations of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. He provided narration for the IMAX film Special Effects: Anything Can Happen. He hosts Paloozaville, a children's Video on Demand program on Mag Rack based on his best-selling children's books. He appeared in the most recent Campbell's SelectSoups commercials, portraying a restaurant waiter serving "customers" in their own household. He often delivers commencement addresses at American universities. Lithgow also appears in Books By You, a children's computer game, and guides them through the steps to finish a pre-designed book.
In 2005, Lithgow became the first actor ever to deliver a commencement speech at Harvard University and received an honorary Doctor of Arts from his alma mater. He was featured at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on December 4-6, 2009 for performances of Mozart's Requiem with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He narrated some letters written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, some poems, and sections from the Book of Revelation in certain parts of the performance.
In 2011, he performed a dramatic reading of a Newt Gingrich press release on The Colbert Report and made a call to Colbert's annual Atone Phone "by mistake." He also voiced a South Carolina TV ad for Colbert Super PAC humorously attacking Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
In September 2011, Lithgow was featured in a one-night only production of Dustin Lance Black's play, 8 -- a staged reenactment of the federal trial that overturned California's Prop 8 ban on same-sex marriage -- as Attorney Theodore Olson to raise money for the American Foundation for Equal Rights.
Lithgow married Jean Taynton, a teacher, in 1966. The couple had one son together, actor and clinical psychologist Ian (born 1972). Lithgow and his wife separated after he had an affair with actress Liv Ullmann, with the marriage ending in divorce in 1980. Lithgow married UCLA history professor Mary Yeager in 1981, and they had son Nathan and daughter Phoebe together.