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John Hillerman Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Trivia (12)  | Personal Quotes (1)

Overview (4)

Born in Denison, Texas, USA
Died in Houston, Texas, USA
Birth NameJack Ben Hillerman
Height 5' 7" (1.7 m)

Mini Bio (1)

The impeccably urbane Englishman Jonathan Quayle Higgins III (VC !) -- Tom Selleck's sophisticated majordomo in Magnum, P.I. (1980) -- was of French, German and Austrian descent, raised in a small Texas town and educated at a Catholic high school. He majored in journalism from the University of Texas, enlisted in the Air Force and spent the period from 1953 to 1957 stationed at Ft. Worth. There, he unexpectedly landed a choice role in a community theatre production of "Death of a Salesman" and discovered the acting lark to be to his liking. Having a photographic memory benefitted Hillerman greatly in that he learned his lines quickly. He professed to be able to memorise a page of dialogue in the space of a minute. There remained the problem of his accent. Following demobilisation, he travelled to New York where it took him a year to lose his Texan drawl, studying elocution under the tutelage of voice coach Fanny Bradshaw (who encouraged him to listen to recordings of Laurence Olivier reciting "Hamlet"). All the while, Hillerman lived the life of a typical struggling actor, having taken up residence in a lower East Side tenement and living on home-made turkey soup. After fifteen years of stage work and with a meagre $700 to his name, he decided to change his luck and make the journey to Hollywood.

His first major break came along when he was picked for a small part in Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show (1971)). From then on he was rarely out of work, though initially tasked with only smallish supporting roles. By the mid-70s, after memorable back-to-back turns in Blazing Saddles (1974) and Chinatown (1974), Hillerman had established his credentials. His first opportunity to shine in a recurring TV role was as pompous radio sleuth Simon Brimmer ("Policemen snoop, without a glimmer. To solve the case, call Simon Brimmer...") who persistently got it all very wrong in TV's Ellery Queen (1975). A self-declared Anglophile with a solid acting background in plays by Noël Coward, he fairly jumped at the chance to portray Selleck's genteel sidekick Higgins in "Magnum" which was to become his personal favourite and career-defining role.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: I.S.Mowis

Trivia (12)

Attended the University of Texas at Austin.
Reports of the death of Mr. Hillerman were confused with the death of another John Hillerman. This Mr. Hillerman is alive and well. [1996]
Has appeared as the character "Jonathan Higgins" in three separate television shows: Magnum, P.I. (1980), Simon & Simon (1981) and Murder, She Wrote (1984).
He is a native Texan, thus his British accent in Magnum, P.I. (1980) is assumed.
He developed his British accent for Magnum, P.I. (1980) by watching and listening to the performances of Laurence Olivier.
Once received a fan letter from a British Lord that read, "You are a credit to the Empire.".
While serving in the U.S. Air Force at Carswell AFB, TX, tried out for a local play and discovered he loved acting.
Parents are Christopher Benedict and Lenora JoAnn (Medinger) Hillerman.
Has two sisters.
Second cousin of Tony Hillerman.
Retired in Texas. [2000]
In his mid-30s, Hillerman said "hasta luego" to his Texan origins to further his fervent theatrical ambitions; he headed Eastward, ultimately establishing himself as the predominant male thespian affiliated with Washington D.C..'s prestigious "O" Street Theater, where he interpreted numerous lead roles, season after season, in the spectacular repertoire of that popular community theater. Then, as the 1960's were coming to a close, Hillerman's brilliant stage career came to an abrupt unexpected end. What happened? Well, while present in the nation's Capitol, Peter Bogdanovich decided to go see a stage show being performed at the famed "O" Street Theater. He was captivated by Hillerman's performance. After the final curtain call, Bogdanovich went backstage to congratulate Hillerman on his performance skills, as well as to offer him a role in Bogdanovich's soon-to-be-produced film The Last Picture Show (1971) to be shot on location in Texas. Thus, Hillerman was going to be heading back home to Texas, leaving behind stage acting to start a new celebrity career performing on film and television. Subsequent to Hillerman's departure, the "O" Street Theater abandoned its initial historic site on "O" Street to create a new performance venue across town, while still retaining its original well-known "O" Street name. Subsequent to that move, and capitalizing on the growing celebrity of its former top thespian, the "O" Street Theater began to add to its own schedule of locally-produced shows, occasional bookings of nationally-known touring performers, such as Anthony Zerbe and Roscoe Lee Browne performing their spirited two-man show "Behind the Broken Words", a collage of 20th century poetry and drama, drawn from works by Auden, Yeats, Richard Wright, Dylan Thomas, E. E. Cummings, Heany, Jeffers, Ferlinghetti, Jean Giraudoux, De Musset, Rostand and Derek Walcott. A stage show that was eventually transcribed onto film by David Stern. Behind the Broken Words (2003).

Personal Quotes (1)

[on Magnum, P.I. (1980) co-star Tom Selleck] The biggest boy scout in America.

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