John Lithgow

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John Lithgow
John Lithgow 8 by David Shankbone.jpg
John Lithgow in 2007
BornJohn Arthur Lithgow
(1945-10-19) October 19, 1945 (age 68)
Rochester, New York, U.S.
Alma materHarvard College
OccupationActor, musician, poet, author
Years active1972–present
Spouse(s)Jean Taynton (1966–1980)
Mary Yeager (1981–present)
ChildrenIan Lithgow
Phoebe Lithgow
Nathan Lithgow
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John Lithgow
John Lithgow 8 by David Shankbone.jpg
John Lithgow in 2007
BornJohn Arthur Lithgow
(1945-10-19) October 19, 1945 (age 68)
Rochester, New York, U.S.
Alma materHarvard College
OccupationActor, musician, poet, author
Years active1972–present
Spouse(s)Jean Taynton (1966–1980)
Mary Yeager (1981–present)
ChildrenIan Lithgow
Phoebe Lithgow
Nathan Lithgow

John Arthur Lithgow (/ˈlɪθɡ/ LITH-goh; born October 19, 1945) is an American actor, musician, and author. Lithgow has been involved with a wide range of media projects, including stage, television, film, and radio. He also has written and published several books of poetry and children's literature. He appeared in the films The World According to Garp (1982) and Terms of Endearment (1983), receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for each.

Lithgow is well known for his roles as the Reverend Shaw Moore in Footloose, Dick Solomon on the NBC sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun, the voice of Lord Farquaad in Shrek, and Arthur Mitchell on Showtime's Dexter, for which he won Golden Globe and Emmy awards. On the stage, he appeared in the musical adaptation of Sweet Smell of Success, winning the Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. He again appeared in a musical, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, again receiving a Tony nomination for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. He has also recorded music, such as the 1999 album of children's music, Singin' in the Bathtub, and has written poetry and short stories for children, such as Marsupial Sue.

Early life[edit]

Lithgow was born in Rochester, New York. His mother, Sarah Jane (née Price), was a retired actress. His father, Arthur Washington Lithgow III, who was born in the Dominican Republic, was a theatrical producer and director who ran the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey.[1][2] Because of his father's job, the family moved frequently during Lithgow's childhood; he spent his teenage years in Akron (living at Stan Hywet[3]) and Lakewood, Ohio.[4]

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.[5] After graduation, Lithgow won a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

Stage career[edit]

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 Theatre 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.

In 2007, Lithgow played Malvolio in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Twelfth Night, at The Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom.[6]

In 2008 through 2009, Lithgow played Joe Keller in a Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's All My Sons.[7]

Lithgow starred alongside Jennifer Ehle in Douglas Carter Beane's comedy Mr & Mrs Fitch presented Off-Broadway by Second Stage Theatre from February 22, 2010 to April 4, 2010.[8]

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.[9]

The National Theatre tempted Lithgow to appear on the London stage in the winter of 2012/13 as Police Magistrate Aeneas Posket in a revival of Arthur Wing Pinero's The Magistrate.

Film career[edit]

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. He later played the role of American space engineer Walter Curnow in 2010, the sequel to the science fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey.

John Lithgow on the red carpet at the 40th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on August 28, 1988.

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 will Bill Moyers Lithgow reveals this role as his favorite of his film career.[10] 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. 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 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.[11] He starred in a lead role in the science fiction film Rise of the Planet of the Apes.[12]

As a voice actor, Lithgow is well known for his role as the evil Lord Farquaad in the Shrek movie franchise. His appearances as Farquaad include Shrek, Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Dance Party, Shrek 4-D which was originally Shrek 3-D and used as an amusement park attraction, and Shrek the Third. He also was in Confessions of a Shopaholic as Edgar West.

Television career[edit]

In terms of his television career, 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.

In 1986, Lithgow received a Primetime Emmy Award in the category Outstanding Guest Performer in a Drama Series for his appearance in the episode The Doll of the Amazing Stories anthology series.

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.

On March 5, 2009, Lithgow made a cameo on NBC's 30 Rock, in the episode "Goodbye, My Friend," with several references to his role in Harry and the Hendersons.

In September 2009, Lithgow joined the cast of Dexter as Arthur Mitchell, a serial killer and Dexter Morgan's nemesis.[13] He won a Golden Globe Award for this role,[14] and won an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series.[15]

He guest starred on How I Met Your Mother in the role of Barney Stinson's father, Jerry.[16]

Children's entertainment[edit]

Lithgow reading a book to children in 2007

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.

Other appearances[edit]

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.[17]

In 2005, he became the first actor ever to deliver a commencement speech at Harvard University.[18] 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.[19]

In 2011, he performed a dramatic reading of a Newt Gingrich press release on The Colbert Report[20] and made a call to Colbert's annual Atone Phone "by mistake."[21] He also voiced a South Carolina TV ad for Colbert Super PAC humorously attacking Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.[22]

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.[23]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Lithgow has won five Emmy Awards, two Tony Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, an American Comedy Award and two Screen Actors Guild Awards.[24] He has also been nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.[24][25] He won the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television for his appearance as Arthur Mitchell on Dexter.[26]



1972Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston
Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues
1976ObsessionRobert Laselle
1977Secret ServiceUnknown
1978The Big FixSam Sebastian
1979All That JazzLucas Sargent
1979Rich KidsPaul Phillips
1981Blow OutBurke
1982Big BlondeHerbie Morse
1982Mom, the Wolfman and MeWally
1982The Oldest Living GraduateClarence
1982I'm Dancing as Fast as I CanMr. Brunner
1982Not in Front of the ChildrenRichard Carruthers
1982The World According to GarpRoberta MuldoonLos Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated-Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1983Terms of EndearmentSam BurnsNominated-Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1983The Day AfterJoe Huxley
1983Twilight Zone: The MovieJohn ValentineSaturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
1984Faerie Tale TheatreGoldilocks' fatherEpisode: "Goldilocks and the Three Bears"
1984FootlooseReverend Shaw Moore
1984The Adventures of Buckaroo
Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
Lord John WorfinNominated-Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
19842010Dr. Walter Curnow
1984The Glitter DomeMarty Wellborn
1985Santa Claus: The MovieB.Z.
1986The Manhattan ProjectJohn Mathewson
1986Resting PlaceKendall LairdNominated-Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1987Harry and the HendersonsGeorge Henderson
1987Baby Girl ScottNeil ScottTelevision film
1988Distant ThunderMark Lambert
1989Traveling ManBen CluettTelevision film
1989Out ColdDave
1990Memphis BelleBruce Derringer
1990Ivory HuntersRobert Carter
1991L.A. StoryHarry Zell
1991The BoysArtie Marguiles
1991At Play in the Fields of the LordLeslie Huben
1991RicochetEarl Talbot Blake
1992Raising CainCarterNominated-Saturn Award for Best Actor
1992Doctor Seuss Video Classics: Yertle the Turtle and Other StoriesNarrator
1993The Wrong ManPhillip Mills
1993The Country Mouse & the City MouseAlexander
1993The Pelican BriefSmith Keen
1993Love, Cheat & StealPaul Harrington
1993CliffhangerEric QualenNominated-Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor
1994World War II: When Lions RoaredFranklin Delano RooseveltTelevision film
1994Silent FallDr. Rene Harlinger
1994Princess CarabooProfessor Wilkinson
1994A Good Man in AfricaArthur Fanshawe
1995Tales from the CryptDr. Oscar CharlesEpisode: "You, Murderer"
1995FrasierMadman MartinezEpisode: "Someone to Watch Over Me"
1995Redwood CurtainLairdTelevision film
1995My Brother's KeeperTom BradleyTelevision film
1995Hollow PointThomas Livingston
1995The Tuskegee AirmenSenator ConyersTelevision film
1996-20013rd Rock from the SunDr. Dick Solomon139 episodes
American Comedy Award for Funniest Male Lead on Television
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Television Series Musical or Comedy
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (1996-1997, 1999)
Satellite Award for Best Actor - Television Series Musical or Comedy
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series (1997-1998)
Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Television Series Musical or Comedy (1998-1999)
Nominated-People's Choice Award for Funniest Male Television Performer (1996-1999)
Nominated-Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (1998, 2000-2001)
Nominated-Satellite Award for Best Actor - Television Series Musical or Comedy
Nominated-Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series (1997-1999)
Nominated-TCA Award for Individual Achievement in Comedy
1998HomegrownRobert Stockman
1998Johnny SkidmarksLarry Skovik
1998Officer Buckle and GloriaNarrator
1998A Civil ActionJudge Walter Skinner
2000Don QuixoteDon Quixote de la ManchaTelevision film
Nominated-Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie
2000Rugrats in Paris: The MovieJean-ClaudeVoice
2001ShrekLord FarquaadVoice
2002Orange CountyBud Brumder
2004The Life and Death of Peter SellersBlake Edwards
2004KinseyAlfred Kinsey
2005Einstein's Big IdeaNarratorTelevision film
2006DreamgirlsJerry Harris
2007Shrek the ThirdLord FarquaadVoice
2009Confessions of a ShopaholicEdgar West
2009DexterArthur Mitchell12 episodes
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor - Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated-Saturn Award for Best Guest Starring Role on Television
Nominated-Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Nominated-TCA Award for Individual Achievement in Drama
2009The National Parks: America's Best IdeaHimself2 episodes
2010Leap YearJack Brady
2011Rise of the Planet of the ApesCharles Rodman
2011-2013How I Met Your MotherJerry Whitaker3 episodes
2011ProhibitionHL Mencken3 episodes
2011New Year's EveJonathan CoxUncredited
2012The CampaignGlenn Motch
2012This Is 40Oliver
2013The HomesmanReverend DowdPost-production
2013Once Upon a Time in WonderlandWhite RabbitVoice
2015The Good DinosaurPoppaVoice, Filming





  1. ^ "John Lithgow Biography (1945–)". Retrieved 2013-02-26. 
  2. ^ "John Lithgow Biography – Yahoo! Movies". Retrieved 2013-02-26. 
  3. ^ Breckenridge, Mary Beth (2013-04-19). "Actor Lithgow Revisits Akron Roots". Akron Beacon Journal. Retrieved 2013-04-21. 
  4. ^ NBC. "Former Akronite John Lithgow takes on killer role for 'Dexter'". Retrieved 2013-02-26. 
  5. ^ "'Stupid mistake' changed John Lithgow's life – for the better < News". PopMatters. 2006-10-09. Retrieved 2013-02-26. 
  6. ^ Billington, Michael. "Theatre review: 'Twelfth Night', The Courtyard, Stratford-upon-Avon", The Guardian,September 6, 2007
  7. ^ Cohen, Patricia. "Two Fathers Are Learning Lessons of 'All My Sons' ", The New York Times, November 12, 2008
  8. ^ Hernandez, Ernio. "Blurb vs. Blog: Lithgow and Ehle are Gossipers 'Mr. & Mrs. Fitch', Opening Off-Broadway Feb. 22", February 22, 2010
  9. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "John Lithgow Is David Auburn's 'The Columnist', Beginning Broadway Previews April 4", April 4, 2012
  10. ^ "Bill Moyers Journal . Watch & Listen". PBS. Retrieved 2013-02-26. 
  11. ^ John Lithgow a Fatherly Figure for 'Planet of the Apes' Prequel
  12. ^ "Trinity, a War Machine, and a Slumdog Eying Planet of the Apes: Rise of the Apes". Retrieved 2013-02-26. 
  13. ^ TV: Showtime's 'Dexter' Posts Record-Breaking Ratings
  14. ^ 2009 Golden Globe Nominees HFPA Nominations and Winners
  15. ^ "2010 Emmy Nominations Include a Few Horror Favorites". 2010-07-08. Retrieved 2013-02-26. 
  16. ^ Michael Ausiello (2011-02-17). "HIMYM Exclusive First Look: How Barney Met His Father". TVLine. Retrieved 2013-02-26. 
  17. ^ [1]
  18. ^ Beth Potier, "Of mice and manatees: Lithgow charms all: Commencement address gives star treatment by actor, author", Harvard Gazette, 2008-06-16.
  19. ^ "'Requiem' an extraordinary Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra tribute to Mozart - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review". 2009-12-05. Retrieved 2013-02-26. 
  20. ^ "John Lithgow Performs Gingrich Press Release - The Colbert Report - 2011-19-05 - Video Clip | Comedy Central". 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2013-02-26. 
  21. ^ "Atone Phone - John Lithgow Calls - The Colbert Report - 2011-28-09 - Video Clip | Comedy Central". 2011-09-28. Retrieved 2013-02-26. 
  22. ^ "Colbert Super PAC Ad - Attack In B Minor For Strings". 2012-01-15. Retrieved 2013-02-26. 
  23. ^ "Prop 8 Play On Broadway Makes Its Debut". The Huffington Post. Retrieved March 17, 2012. 
  24. ^ a b Alvin Powell, "Lithgow to speak at Afternoon Exercises: Actor, writer, humanitarian to grace Tercentenary Theatre", Harvard Gazette, 2005-04-07.
  25. ^ In 1982 for his role in The World According to Garp and in 1983 for his role in Terms of Endearment.
  26. ^ HFPA Nominations and Winners HFPA Nominations and Winners

External links[edit]