John Arthur Lithgow (, ; born October 19, 1945) is an American actor, musician, and author. Presently, he is involved with a wide range of media projects, including stage, television, film, and radio. He also has written and published several books of poetry and children's literature.
He appeared in the films The World According to Garp (1982) and Terms of Endearment (1983), receiving the Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for each. Lithgow is known for his roles as the Reverend Shaw Moore in Footloose, Dick Solomon on the NBC sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun, the voice of Lord Farquaad in Shrek, and The Trinity Killer on Showtime's Dexter for which he won Golden Globe and Emmy awards.
On the stage, he appeared in the musical adaptation of Sweet Smell of Success, winning the Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. He again appeared in a musical, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, again receiving the Tony nomination for Best Leading Actor in a Musical.
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 for children, such as Marsupial Sue.
Lithgow is of English and Welsh descent and was born in Rochester, New York, USA. His mother, Sarah Jane (née Price), was a retired actress, and his father, Arthur Lithgow, 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, including teenage years in Akron and Lakewood, Ohio.
Lithgow attended Harvard University, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1967. He lived in Dunster House as an undergraduate, across the hall from roommates former Vice President Al Gore and actor Tommy Lee Jones. 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.
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 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 (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 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 starred alongside Jennifer Ehle in the production of Douglas Carter Beane's comedy Mr & Mrs Fitch presented Off-Broadway by Second Stage Theatre from February 22, 2010, closing April 4, 2010.
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. He is set for the lead role in the upcoming science fiction film Rise of the Apes.
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 an amusement park attraction, and Shrek the Third.