John Arthur Lithgow (/ˈlɪθɡoʊ/ LITH-goh; born October 19, 1945) is an American actor, musician, singer, and author. Lithgow has received acclaim and many accolades in his career including two Tony Awards, five Emmy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, an American Comedy Award, four Drama Desk Awards and was also nominated for two Academy Awards and four Grammy Awards. Lithgow received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted into American Theater Hall of Fame.
Lithgow is well known for his television roles as Dick Solomon in 3rd Rock from the Sun and Arthur Mitchell in Dexter as well as for his roles in films Obsession, Blow Out, The World According to Garp, Terms of Endearment, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Footloose, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, Harry and the Hendersons, Raising Cain, Cliffhanger, The Pelican Brief, Shrek, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, Kinsey, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Homesman, Love Is Strange and Interstellar.
On the stage, he appeared in many Broadway productions including the musical adaptation 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 album of children's music, Singin' in the Bathtub, and has written poetry and short stories, such as Marsupial Sue, for children. His work for children 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. 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 Hall) and Lakewood, Ohio.
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.
In 2004 and 2007, Lithgow debuted Carnival of the Animals' elephant character — nurse Mabel Buntz — with the New York City Ballet and Houston Ballet, respectively.
In 2007, Lithgow played Malvolio in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Twelfth Night, at The Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom.
In 2008 through 2009, Lithgow played Joe Keller in a Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's All My Sons.
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.
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 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.
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 returns 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. Tony winner Pam MacKinnon directs the limited 18-week production running at the Golden Theatre.
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 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. 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. 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 who also appears in 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. He also voiced Jean Claude in Rugrats in Paris: The Movie.
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. He won a Golden Globe Award for this role, and won an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series.
He guest starred on How I Met Your Mother in the role of Barney Stinson's father, Jerry. John portrayed The White Rabbit in the ABC mini-series, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.
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.
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.