John Arthur Lithgow (born October 19, 1945) is a highly prolific and accomplished Academy Award-nominated American actor, musician and author.
A dormroom housemate of Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones, Lithgow's career has taken many odd turns with a variety of roles. Following his career on stage, where he twice won a Tony, Lithgow successfully moved into film with a number of versatile roles, the best-known of which are likely Roberta Muldoon in The World According to Garp, Rev. Shaw Moore in Footloose, Sam Burns in Terms of Endearment, and George Henderson in family classic Harry and the Hendersons. He had a tendency to play villains, such as Cain in Raising Cain, Earl Talbot Blake in the Denzel Washington movie Ricochet, Eric Qualen in the Sylvester Stallone vehicle Cliffhanger and Large Ham 'Lord' John Whorfin in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. His more recent films include Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Interstellar.
In 1996, Lithgow moved onto the small screen, playing lead character Dick Solomon in the oddball sci-fi sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun. The show ran until 2001, and earned him three of his five Emmys. He's also lent his voice to audiobooks, dramatic readings and animated movies such as the ridiculously popular Shrek franchise, in which he played villain Lord Farquaad. Not to mention playing Yoda in NPR's radio dramatizations of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
Lithgow joined Dexter for its fourth season, playing Arthur Mitchell AKA The Trinity Killer. His complex, layered and downright terrifying portrayal was met with widespread critical acclaim and a Golden Globe Award for the Best Supporting Actor and another Emmy. He also has had a career on Broadway, most recently as real-life Agent Peacock Joseph Alsop in The Columnist. He occasionally appeared as Jerry Whitaker on How I Met Your Mother. He also played Winston Churchill in Netflix's The Crown (2016) which earned him several awards.
He also happens to be one of the nicest people anyone could hope to meet, with fellow actors and colleagues saying how much of a pleasure it is to work with him. He's also a talented children's entertainer, having authored many children's books and music CD's for children. Recently, he published an autobiographical account of his life in theatre, which he titled Drama: An Actor's Education.
- The Big Guy: At 6'4", he towers over most of his castmates.
- The Cast Showoff: Frequently finds an excuse to play piano on-screen.
- Fake Brit: Even if not fully, he usually uses a received accent in varying degrees in most of his roles and he is so well respected he could be mistaken for a British actor anyway. Lithgow spent two years in England on a Fulbright scholarship in his youth, and picked up the accent without even realising he was doing it.
- Large Ham: When it's called for.
- Cliffhanger in particular isn't just being a Large Ham, it's a pig farm the size of Nebraska.
- Which is nothing compared to the Ham Planet that is Lord John Whorfin in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Lithgow himself considers this his hammiest role.
- Appears again in a big way when he appeared on The Colbert Report to read Newt Gingrich's hilariously overwritten press report.
- Self-Deprecation: Lithgow titled his autobiography Drama.
- Star-Making Role: He'd been acting in films for about a decade at that point, but his turn as transsexual former NFL player Roberta Muldoon in The World According to Garp kicked his career into high gear, to the extent that some people incorrectly think it was his film debut.
- What Could Have Been: