Edit
John Lithgow Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trade Mark (6) | Trivia (28) | Personal Quotes (9) | Salary (2)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 19 October 1945Rochester, New York, USA
Birth NameJohn Arthur Lithgow
Nickname Jiggles
Height 6' 4" (1.93 m)

Mini Bio (1)

If "born to the theater" has meaning in determining a person's life path, then John Lithgow is a prime example of this truth. Son of a retired actress and a father who was both a theatrical producer and director, he 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). This production also played a role in bringing him back together with the son from his first marriage, Ian Lithgow, who has a regular role in the series as a dimwitted student.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Bruce Cameron <dumarest@midcoast.com>

Spouse (2)

Mary Yeager (1981 - present) (1 son, Nathan, 1 daughter, Phoebe)
Jean Taynton (10 September 1966 - 1980) (divorced) (1 son, Ian)

Trade Mark (6)

Distinctive dramatic voice
Towering height and slender frame
Often plays villains or mentally unstable characters
Often plays fathers and family men
Wild, over-the-top acting.
Receding hairline and bold blue eyes

Trivia (28)

Attended and graduated from Princeton High School in Princeton, New Jersey.
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.
Studied at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
Was named a Fulbright scholar.
Father of Ian Lithgow, Phoebe Lithgow and Nathan Lithgow.
Hosted the Welcoming Reception for UCLA's new Chancellor Carnesale.
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.
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.
Was considered for the role of Hannibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), which went to Anthony Hopkins.
Has won both the Tony Award and Drama Desk Award as Best Actor in a Broadway musical, for performance in "Sweet Smell of Success". [May 2002]
His wife Mary Yeager is an economics professor at UCLA.
His father ran a Shakespearian Acting company in the 1950s which included David Carradine.
Parents are Sarah Jane Price (b. 1917) and theater director/producer Arthur Lithgow (1915-2004).
Biography in: "Contemporary Authors". Volume 217, pg. 219-223. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2004.
Was considered for the role of Dr. Emmett "Doc" Brown in Back to the Future (1985), which went to Christopher Lloyd.
Has provided the voice of Yoda in the NPR radio dramatizations of "The Empire Strikes Back" (1983) and "Return of the Jedi" (1996).
Has won two Tony Awards: in 1973, as Best Supporting or Featured Actor (Dramatic) for David Storey's "The Changing Room"; and in 2002, as Best Actor (Musical) for "Sweet Smell of Success." He has also been nominated on three occasions for Tonys -- two for Best Actor (Play): for "Requiem for a Heavyweight" (1985) and "M. Butterfly." (1988), and once for Best Actor (Musical): for "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" (2005).
Was called in to replace another actor in Terms of Endearment (1983), and his role was filmed in three days during a break from filming Footloose (1984).
Three of his non-film roles have been based on movies involving Frank Oz and Ian McDiarmid. Most of Oz's and McDiarmid's collaborations are the Star Wars films, in which they play Yoda and Darth Sidious, respectively. Lithgow played Yoda on the radio. Oz also directed McDiarmid in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988). Lithgow appeared in the stage musical.
Is a registered pastor of Rose Ministries, and has officiated the wedding of his goddaughter.
Is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS).
Even though his parents were both actors, he was inspired to get into acting by Peter Sellers.
His ancestry includes English, as well as French, Northern Irish (Scots-Irish), Scottish and Welch.
Is an accomplished guitar player.
Lives in Los Angeles, California.
Has two grandchildren through his son, Ian Lithgow.
Celebrity spokesman for Campbell Select soups since 2006.
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6666 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on May 2, 2001.

Personal Quotes (9)

[About 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.
We deal in very volatile chemicals. We're in the business of using real emotions to bring pretend emotions to life. We all have our secrets and we all have our deceptions. Acting, at its best, is all about deceiving people, and that makes it all the more interesting to us.
One of the things you learn as an actor is that human beings are capable of almost anything. I'm sort of in the business of illustrating that fact.
My sense of myself is that I'm a character actor, and character actors are ready, willing and able to do anything, to be totally different from themselves. That's my job, to be ready. I'm some kind of first responder.
No bad guy thinks he's a bad guy. He thinks he's a good guy.
[on working with Saul Zaentz on At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991)] Saul loves being answerable to nobody. That's the most extraordinary thing about him. The dailies didn't get sent anywhere for anybody else's approval and cost overruns weren't monitored by a bunch of executives thousand of miles away. He owns it all. He does it the way he wants it. It's incredible how that affects every aspect of production. I've never really worked with anyone like him. Being on the set, playing hearts with Saul, I realised the secret to his success: he can spot everyone's strengths and weaknesses right away. He was a killer. He'd shoot the moon three out of every four games. I don't know if it was the giant bugs or the humidity, but I couldn't sleep for weeks. We had terrible weather and horrible actor-director arguments, but Saul was unflappable. He went through all the same hardships we did, but he behaved as if there was no other place he'd rather be.

Salary (2)

3rd Rock from the Sun (1996) $75,000/episode (1996-1997 season)
3rd Rock from the Sun (1996) $200,000/episode (1999-2000 season)

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page