Oct. 19th, 1945
Rochester, New York, USA
Guest TV Roles[none found]
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, 'Jean Taynton' 1966). 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 '70s he and his wife divorced (1980). He entered therapy, and in 1982 his life started in a new direction. 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 'Mary Yeager' (1981 - present). They have two children, Phoebe and Nathan.
Lithgow is also well known for his roles in Footloose (1984) as the Reverend Shaw Moore,
in the Bigfoot-themed family comedy Harry and the Hendersons (1987), and in (1993), starred as the villainous Eric Qualen in the 'Sylvester Stallone' movie Cliffhanger.
As the decade of the '90s 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 dim-witted student.
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.
- Has won two Tony Awards: in 1973, as Best Supporting or Featured Actor (Dramatic) for 'David Storey (III)' (qv)'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).
- Wife Mary is economics professor at UCLA.
- Was considered for the role of Doc Brown in _Back to the Future (1985)_ (qv). The role went to 'Christopher Lloyd (I)' (qv) instead.
- Even though his parents were both actors, he was inspired to get into acting by 'Peter Sellers' (qv).
- Parents are Sarah Jane Price (b. 1917) and theater director/producer Arthur Lithgow (1915-2004).
- Wins both the Tony award and Drama Desk award as best actor in a Broadway musical, for performance in "Sweet Smell of Success" May/June 2002.
- Graduated from Harvard University, with a BA in history and literature. Daughter, Phoebe (b. 1982).
- Claims that his most difficult performance was in _Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)_ (qv) because he had to portray fear of the monster, although he couldn't really see it.