THIS IS 40
JOHN LITHGOW (Oliver)
Lithgow's roots are in the theater. In 1973, he won a Tony Award three weeks after his Broadway debut in David Storey's THE CHANGING ROOM. Since then, he has appeared 20 more times on Broadway, earning another Tony, four more Tony nominations, four Drama Desk Awards and an induction into the Theater Hall of Fame. His ensuing credits include major roles in MY FAT FRIEND, TRELAWNEY OF THE "WELLS," COMEDIANS, ANNA CHRISTIE, BEDROOM FARCE, BEYOND THERAPY, M. BUTTERFLY, THE FRONT PAGE, THE RETREAT FROM MOSCOW, ALL MY SONS, the off-Broadway premieres of MRS. FARNSWORTH and MR. AND MRS. FITCH, and the musicals SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (for which he received his second Tony) and DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS. In 2007, he was one of the very few American actors ever invited to join the Royal Shakespeare Company, to play Malvolio in TWELFTH NIGHT at Stratford-upon-Avon. In 2008, he devised his own one-man show, STORIES BY HEART, for the Lincoln Center Theater Company, and he has been taking it on tour around the country ever since, including a triumphant six-week run at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Lithgow was most recently seen on Broadway in David Auburn's new drama, THE COLUMNIST, in which he portrayed famed Washington political columnist Joseph Alsop, a performance which earned Lithgow his sixth Tony nomination.
This winter, Lithgow will play the title role in the National Theatre's production of Sir Arthur Wing Pinero's THE MAGISTRATE. The Victorian farce begins previews at London's Olivier Theatre in November.
In the early 1980s, Lithgow began to make a major mark in films. During that time, he received Oscar nominations in consecutive years for THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP and TERMS OF ENDEARMENT. In the years before and after, he has appeared in more than 30 films. Notable among them have been ALL THAT JAZZ, BLOW OUT, TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, FOOTLOOSE, 2010, THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI, HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS, MEMPHIS BELLE, RAISING CAIN, RICOCHET, CLIFFHANGER, ORANGE COUNTY, SHREK, KINSEY and DREAMGIRLS, in which he delivered a flashy cameo. Lithgow was most recently seen on the big screen in RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, 20th Century Fox's prequel to PLANET OF THE APES, and the political comedy THE CAMPAIGN, starring Will Ferrell.
For his work on television, Lithgow has been nominated for 11 Emmy Awards. He has won five of them, including one for an episode of AMAZING STORIES and three for what is perhaps his most celebrated creation—this was the loopy character of the alien High Commander Dick Solomon on the hit NBC comedy series 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN. In that show's six-year run, Lithgow received a Golden Globe, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, an American Comedy Award and, when it finally went off the air, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. More recently, his diabolical turn as the Trinity Killer in a 12-episode arc on Showtime's Dexter won him his second Golden Globe and his fifth Emmy.
His other major appearances on television include roles in THE DAY AFTER, RESTING PLACE, BABY GIRL SCOTT, MY BROTHER'S KEEPER, TNT's DON QUIXOTE, HBO's THE LIFE AND DEATH OF PETER SELLERS and, most recently, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, making the long-awaited entrance as the father of Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris).
And then, there is Lithgow's work for children. Since 1998, he has written eight New York Times best-selling children's picture books, including "The Remarkable Farkle McBride," "Marsupial Sue," "Micawber," "I'm a Manatee," "Mahalia Mouse Goes to College" and "I Got Two Dogs." In addition, he has created two "Lithgow Palooza" family activity books and "The Poets' Corner" (for Warner Books), a compilation of 50 classic poems aimed at young people, to stir an early interest in poetry. He has performed concerts for children with the Chicago, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Baltimore and San Diego symphonies, and at Carnegie Hall with the Orchestra of St. Luke's. He has released three kids' albums: "Singin' in the Bathtub," "Farkle & Friends" and the Grammy-nominated "The Sunny Side of the Street." These concerts and albums have included several of his own songs and rhyming narrations. Together, his prodigious work has garnered him two Parents' Choice Silver Honor Awards and four Grammy nominations.
Lithgow has even dipped his toe into the world of dance. In 2003, the noted choreographer Christopher Wheeldon invited him to collaborate on a new piece for the New York City Ballet. The result was CARNIVAL OF THE ANIMALS, a ballet for 50 dancers, with music by Camille Saint-SaĆ«ns and verse narration by Lithgow. Lithgow himself spoke the narration from the stage. At a certain point, he would have to duck into the wings, climb into costume, and re-emerge to dance the role of The Elephant. He has given this performance more than 20 times.
In 2011, HarperCollins released Lithgow's memoir, "Drama: An Actor's Education." The book presents scenes of his early life and career that took place before he became a nationally recognized star. It vividly portrays the worlds of New York, London, and American regional theater and relives his collaborations with renowned performers and directors, including Mike Nichols, Bob Fosse, Liv Ullmann, Meryl Streep and Brian De Palma. Lithgow's ruminations on the nature of theater, performance and storytelling cut to the heart of why actors are driven to perform and why people are driven to watch them do it.
Lithgow was born in Rochester, New York, grew up in Ohio, graduated from high school in Princeton, New Jersey, attended Harvard College and used a Fulbright grant to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. In 2011, he was honored as a Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal recipient, and in 2010 was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. In 2005, he was presented with an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Harvard and became the first actor in Harvard's history to deliver the school's commencement address.
Lithgow has three grown children and two grandchildren, and he lives in Los Angeles and New York. He has been married for 30 years to Mary Yeager, a professor of economic and business history at UCLA.
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