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John Arthur Lithgow ( ; born October 19, 1945) is an American actor, musician, and author, best known for his starring role as Dr. Dick Solomon on the NBC sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun, Revered Shaw Moore in Footloose, and, more recently, his role as the 'Trinity Killer', Arthur Mitchell, on the Showtime series Dexter. He has also achieved success on stage, film, and radio. He has earned multiple Emmy Awards and Tony Awards, as well as two Academy Award nominations. He has also recorded music, and has written poetry and short stories for children.

Early life

Lithgow was born in Rochester, New York. His mother, Sarah Jane (née Price), was a retired actress, and his Dominicanmarker-born father, Arthur Lithgow, was a theatrical producer and director who ran the McCarter Theatremarker in Princeton, New Jerseymarker. Because of his father's job, the family moved frequently during Lithgow's childhood, including teenage years in Akron and Lakewood, Ohiomarker.

Lithgow went to Harvard Universitymarker, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1967. He lived in Adams Housemarker 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. 'Stupid mistake' changed John Lithgow's life - for the better News | PopMatters After graduation, Lithgow won a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Artmarker.

Stage career

In 1973, Lithgow debuted on Broadwaymarker 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 (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. Lithgow, at age 26, fell in love with one Shelby Sharpnack, but was denied by her after she saw his film, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, claiming his role to be unattractive. Though John bounced back, he took it as a sign to work only in films where he would play a benevolent character.

In 2008 through 2009, Lithgow played Joe Keller in a Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's All My Sons.

In 2010, Lithgow will be staring alongside Jennifer Ehle in the production of MR. & MRS. FITCH presented by Second Stage Theatre.

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.

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.

He will reappear as Lord Farquaad in Shrek 4, set for release in 2010.

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.

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 brief cameo on NBC's 30 Rock.

In September 2009 Lithgow joined the cast of Dexter. Lithgow plays Arthur Mitchell, an unassuming, mild-mannered suburbanite who has been living a dual life as one of America's most prolific and deadliest serial killers. Dubbed the "Trinity Killer" because of his proclivity to kill in threes, he relocates to Miami after being tracked by F.B.I. Special Agent Frank Lundy (Keith Carradine). Brought on to assist in the investigation of Miami's latest serial killer, Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) becomes fascinated with "Trinity's" unique killing methods and his ability to evade capture for almost three decades.

Children's entertainment

Lithgow reading a book to children
Lithgow is also dedicated to his work for children, including several books and albums geared towards kids. 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.

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.

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.

Awards and award nominations

Lithgow has won four Emmy Awards, two Tony Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards. He has also been nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. In 2005, he became the first actor ever to deliver a commencement speech at Harvard Universitymarker.

Personal life

Lithgow currently resides in Los Angeles, although he owns a home in New York. He has been married twice, to Jean Taynton from 1966 to 1980, and to Mary Yeager since 1981. He is the father of three children: Ian (born in 1972) from his marriage to Taynton; and Phoebe McCurtain (born in 1982) and Nathan George (born in 1983) from his marriage to Yeager. Ian made regular appearances on 3rd Rock from the Sun as Leon, a particularly slow student in Prof. Solomon's class.







  1. John Lithgow Biography (1945-)
  2. John Lithgow Biography - Yahoo! Movies
  4. ‘’The New York Times’’ “Two Fathers Are Learning Lessons of ‘All My Sons’.” Cohen, Patricia. Nov.12,2008.
  7. Alvin Powell, "Lithgow to speak at Afternoon Exercises: Actor, writer, humanitarian to grace Tercentenary Theatre", Harvard Gazette, 2005-04-07.
  8. In 1982 for his role in The World According to Garp and in 1983 for his role in Terms of Endearment.
  9. Beth Potier, "Of mice and manatees: Lithgow charms all: Commencement address gives star treatment by actor, author", Harvard Gazette, 2008-06-16.

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