Here’s How John Lithgow Made It Big In Hollywood

Born in New York, John Lithgow comes from an acting and stage production background, as his parents worked in the same field. He moved around as a child due to his father’s work and later attended Harvard College to study English literature. He was inspired to act, and after graduating, Lithgow moved to the UK to study dramatic arts. His career began in the early 1970s when he simultaneously worked in music and Broadway productions. He shifted more focus to television and movies during the 80s and returned to stage performances soon after. Throughout his career, John Lithgow has won many accolades for his performances for playing positive, negative, and supporting roles in projects.

While today’s generation best knows his work from television in shows like Dexter and The Crown, his career spans multiple decades with performances that have stood the test of time. An actor for every screen, let’s take a look at John Lithgow’s inspiring success story.

Broadway Productions That Made Him A Star

John Lithgow’s mother was a retired actress, while his father was a director/producer who ran the McCarter Theater in New Jersey. Due to his father’s work in the theatre world, Lithgow and his three siblings moved around with their parents. According to Britannica, while living in Ohio, his father produced plays at a Shakespeare festival, wherein Lithgow made his stage debut and later appeared in multiple local productions. While he grew an interest in performance, Lithgow was interested in painting and studied literature and graphic arts at Harvard. After studying at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, he returned to America and began performing in plays around New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.

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He made his Broadway debut in 1973, starring in The Changing Room as a dim-witted British rugby player. His supporting role stole the spotlight and earned him a Tony Award for his performance. Over the next decade, Lithgow became a fixture in big productions and starred in multiple plays. He was in Alan Ayckbourn’s 1979 play Bedroom Farce and earned a Tony nomination for Requiem for a Heavyweight. Lithgow went on to appear in over 20 Broadway productions and won his second Tony in 2002 for Sweet Smell Of Success, as noted by Entertainment Weekly. He last starred in the 2019 play Hillary and Clinton as Bill Clinton at the John Golden Broadway Theater.

Success On The Big Screen


A year before entering the world of Broadway and winning a Tony for his debut performance, John Lithgow ventured into films in 1972. He made his film debut in Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blue. He performed on stage for the next four years but then returned to cinema and starred in Brian De Palma’s Obsession. The actor played the critical role of Robert Lasalle in the film. He earned recognition for his lead role in the 1979 semi-autobiographical drama All That Jazz and gave supporting film performances. 1982 and 1983 were significant years for Lithgow as he earned Oscar nominations for his performances in The World According To Garp and Terms Of Endearment.

John Lithgow continued to create an expansive acting portfolio with his staggering performances in movies. He starred in notable projects such as Footloose, Ricochet, Cliffhanger, A Good Man In Africa, Leap Year, This Is 40, Interstellar, Pitch Perfect 3, Bombshell, and many more. Known for playing a series of notable antagonists, too, he took a negative role in voice acting. He voiced the character of Lord Farquaad in the hit animation/fantasy Shrek, as stated by Screen Rant.

Creating Near-Perfect Characters For Television


Movies and Broadway Productions were not the only roles that filled up John Lithgow’s acting portfolio, as he also gave memorable performances on television. From the 1970s to the 1990s, the actor starred in many television films and made guest appearances. His performance in Amazing Stories: The Doll in 1986 won him an Emmy for Best Guest Appearance in a Drama Series. In 1996, Lithgow received his most memorable television role in 3rd Rock From The Sun. As mentioned by IMDB, the sitcom portrayed animals disguised as humans and ran until 2001. He won three Emmys during the years for Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.

John Lithgow has spent his time painting and even illustrated/written satire and humorous books that have become New York Times Bestsellers. He continues his acting career and will be next seen starring in Martin Scorsese’s 2023 crime drama Killers Of The Flower Moon.

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Sources: Britannica, Entertainment Weekly, Screen Rant, IMDB

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