A distinguished actor of stage, television, and movies who is at home playing everything from menacing villains, big-hearted transsexuals, and loopy aliens, John Lithgow is also a composer and performer of children's songs, a Harvard graduate, a talented painter, and a devoted husband and father: in short, he is a true Renaissance man.
Once hailed by the Wall Street Journal as "the film character actor of his generation," Lithgow is the son of a theater director who once headed Princeton's McCarter Theater and produced a series of Shakespeare festivals in Ohio, where Lithgow was six when he made his first theatrical bow in Henry VI, Part 3. His parents raised Lithgow in a loving home that encouraged artistic self-expression and took a broad view of the world. As a youth, Lithgow was passionate about painting and at age 16, he was actively involved with the Art Students League in New York. When the acting bug bit, Lithgow's father was supportive. After Lithgow graduated from Harvard, he received a Fulbright scholarship to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art; while in England, Lithgow also worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company and for the Royal Court Theatre. He returned to the U.S. in the early '70s and worked on Broadway where he won his first Tony and a Drama Desk Award for his part in The Changing Room (1973). Lithgow remained in New York for many years, establishing himself as one of Broadway's most respected stars and would go on to appear in at least one play per year through 1982. He would subsequently receive two more Tony nominations for Requiem for a Heavyweight and M. Butterfly. He made his first film appearance in Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues (1972). The film itself was an inauspicious affair as were his other subsequent early efforts, though by the early '80s, his film roles improved and diversified dramatically. Though capable of essaying subtle, low-key characters, Lithgow excelled in over-the-top parts as the next decade in his career demonstrates.