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John Arthur Lithgow (pronounced /ˈlɪθɡoʊ/, LITH-goe; born October 19, 1945) is an American actor, musician, and author. Presently, he is 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 the Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for each. Lithgow is 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 The Trinity Killer 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 the 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

Lithgow was born in Rochester, New York, USA. His mother, Sarah Jane (née Price), was a retired actress, and his father, Arthur Lithgow, 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, including teenage years in Akron and Lakewood, Ohio.[3]

Lithgow attended Harvard University, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1967. He lived in Dunster House as an undergraduate, across the hall from roommates former Vice President Al Gore and actor Tommy Lee Jones. Lithgow later served on its Board of Overseers. Lithgow credits a performance at Harvard of Gilbert and Sullivan's Utopia Limited with helping him decide to become an actor.[4] After graduation, Lithgow won a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

Stage career

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 played opposite Meryl Streep in Arthur Miller's A Memory of Two Mondays. He was nominated for two Best Actor Tonys 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 2008 through 2009, Lithgow played Joe Keller in a Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's All My Sons.[5]

Lithgow stars alongside Jennifer Ehle in the production of Douglas Carter Beane's comedy Mr & Mrs Fitch presented Off-Broadway by Second Stage Theatre from February 22, 2010, closing April 4, 2010.[6]

Film career

In 1979, Lithgow portrayed the role of 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, a psychotic Italian physicist inhabited by an evil alien, which he played in the 1984 cult classic The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. In 1984, Lithgow also played the moralistic anti-dancing, anti-rock pastor in Footloose and later the role of American space engineer Walter Curnow in 2010, the sequel to the science fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey.

In 1983, Lithgow played John Valentine in a remake of the classic Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" in Twilight Zone: The Movie as the paranoid passenger once made famous on the television show by William Shatner. In 1991 he starred in the movie Ricochet opposite Denzel Washington as Earl Talbot Blake, a vengeful criminal that seeks revenge after Washington's character Nicholas Styles becomes famous after arresting him. In 1992, he starred as the main role in Brian De Palma's film Raising Cain, and in 1993, starred as 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 sex education film, 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.[7] He is set for the lead role in the upcoming science fiction film Planet of the Apes: Rise of the Apes.[8]

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 a amusement park attraction, and Shrek the Third.

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. In 1986, Lithgow received a Primetime Emmy Award in the category "Outstanding Guest Performer in a Drama Series" for his appearance in an episode of the Amazing Stories anthology show. His son Ian Lithgow regularly appeared alongside him as one of his Physics students, Leon.

Additionally, Lithgow has been nominated for an "Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Special" Emmy for The Day After (1983), two "Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Special" Emmys 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.[9] He won a Golden Globe Award for this role,[10] and won an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series.[11]

Children's entertainment

File:John Lithgow 7 by David Shankbone.jpg

Lithgow reading a book to children

Lithgow is also dedicated to his work for children, including several books and albums geared towards children. 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,” with decidedly animated performances geared towards children. Produced by JC Hopkins (Victoria Williams, JC Hopkins Biggish Band featuring Norah Jones), the album features guest appearances by Madeleine Peyroux, Wayne Knight (Seinfeld's Newman), Broadway's Sherie Rene Scott (Aida, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) and cabaret star Maude Maggart. Lithgow also makes occasional appearances on stage and television singing children's songs and accompanying himself on guitar.


On 1st October 2010, Lithgow appeared on Doug Benson's podcast 'Doug Loves Movies' with other guests Paul F. Tompkins and Jimmy Pardo.

Other appearances

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.[12]

In 2005, he became the first actor ever to deliver a commencement speech at Harvard University.[13] He was featured at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on December 4–6, 2009 for performances of the Mozart Requiem with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He narrated some letters of Mozart, some poems, and sections from the Book of Revelation in certain parts of the performance.[14]

Awards and nominations

Lithgow has won five Emmy Awards, two Tony Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, an American Comedy Award and two Screen Actors Guild Awards.[15] He has also been nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.[15][16] 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.[17]



  • 1972 Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues
  • 1976 Obsession
  • 1977 Secret Service
  • 1978 The Big Fix
  • 1979 All That Jazz | Rich Kids
  • 1980 Big Blonde | Mom, the Wolfman and Me | The Oldest Living Graduate
  • 1981 Blow Out
  • 1982 I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can
  • 1982 Not in Front of the Children | The World According to Garp
  • 1983 Terms of Endearment | The Day After | Twilight Zone: The Movie
  • 1984 Faerie Tale Theatre | Goldilocks and the Three Bears
  • 1984 Footloose
  • 1984 The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
  • 1984 2010 | The Glitter Dome
  • 1985 Santa Claus: The Movie
  • 1986 Mesmerized | The Manhattan Project | Resting Place
  • 1987 Harry and the Hendersons | Baby Girl Scott
  • 1988 Distant Thunder
  • 1989 Traveling Man | Out Cold
  • 1990 Memphis Belle | Ivory Hunters
  • 1991 The Boys | L.A. Story
  • 1991 At Play in the Fields of the Lord | Ricochet
  • 1992 Raising Cain
  • 1992 Yertle the Turtle (film)
  • 1993 The Wrong Man | Cliffhanger
  • 1993 The Country Mouse & the City Mouse: A Christmas Tale
  • 1993 The Pelican Brief | Love, Cheat & Steal
  • 1994 World War II - When Lions Roared
  • 1994 Silent Fall | Princess Caraboo | A Good Man in Africa
  • 1995 Redwood Curtain (film) | My Brother's Keeper
  • 1995 Hollow Point | The Tuskegee Airmen
  • 1996 Special Effects: Anything Can Happen
  • 1998 Homegrown | Johnny Skidmarks
  • 1998 Officer Buckle and Gloria | A Civil Action
  • 2000 Don Quixote
  • 2000 Rugrats in Paris: The Movie
  • 2000 C-Scam
  • 2001 Shrek
  • 2001 Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Dance Party
  • 2002 Orange County
  • 2003 Shrek 4-D
  • 2004 The Life and Death of Peter Sellers
  • 2004 Kinsey
  • 2005 Einstein's Big Idea
  • 2006 Dreamgirls
  • 2007 Shrek the Third (Cameo)
  • 2009 Confessions of a Shopaholic
  • 2009 Dexter (TV series) (Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television; Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor, Drama)
  • 2009 The National Parks: America's Best Idea
  • 2010 Leap Year
  • 2011 Rise of the Apes


  • 1973 The Changing Room (Tony Award – Best Featured Actor in a Play)
  • 1974 My Fat Friend
  • 1975 Trelawny of the \"Wells\" (revival)
  • 1976 A Memory of Two Mondays
  • 1976 Boy Meets Girl (revival)(Director) and Secret Service (revival)
  • 1976 Comedians
  • 1977 Anna Christie (revival)
  • 1978 Once in a Lifetime (revival)
  • 1979 Spokesong
  • 1980 Division Street
  • 1982 Beyond Therapy
  • 1985 Requiem for a Heavyweight (Tony Nomination – Best Actor in a Play)
  • 1986 The Front Page (revival)
  • 1988 M. Butterfly (Tony Nomination – Best Actor in a Play)
  • 2002 Sweet Smell of Success (Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical)
  • 2003 The Retreat From Moscow
  • 2005 Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Tony Nomination – Best Actor in a Musical)
  • 2008 All My Sons
  • 2010 Mr. &Mrs. Fitch, Second Stage Theatre


  • Singin' in the Bathtub (1999, Sony Wonder)
  • The Sunny Side of the Street (2006, Razor & Tie)


  • Remarkable Farkle Mcbride (2000, Simon & Schuster)
  • Marsupial Sue (2001, Simon & Schuster)
  • Micawber (2002, Simon & Schuster)
  • I'm a Manatee (2003, Simon & Schuster)
  • A Lithgow Palooza (2004, Simon & Schuster)
  • Carnival of the Animals, (2004, Simon & Schuster)
  • Lithgow Party Paloozas!: 52 Unexpected Ways to Make a Birthday, Holiday, or Any Day a Celebration for Kids, (2005, Simon & Schuster)
  • Marsupial Sue Presents "The Runaway Pancake", (2005, Simon & Schuster)
  • Mahalia Mouse Goes to College, (2007, Simon & Schuster)
  • I Got Two Dogs, (2008, Simon & Schuster)


External links

ar:جون ليثغو da:John Lithgow id:John Lithgow it:John Lithgow he:ג'ון לית'גאו nl:John Lithgow no:John Lithgow pl:John Lithgow pt:John Lithgow ru:Литгоу, Джон sh:John Lithgow fi:John Lithgow sv:John Lithgow