Monday, July 20, 2015

John Lithgow: "Drama: An Actor's Education"

Many people know the actor John Lithgow from his role as Dick Solomon in the NBC sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996-2001). But, he released a book called "Drama: An Actor's Education" which chronicles his life in television, film and live theatre.

He was born to an actress mother and a theatre director/producer father. His family moved frequently as he grew up and John worked for his father on various live theatre productions. At one point his father worked for Princeton University.

When he first started his college career, Lithgow wanted to be an artist. He was excited to meet his artistic hero Norman Rockwell. Lithgow graduated from Harvard and studied theatre abroad in London.

When he was drafted for the Vietnam war, he dodged the draft by utilizing his acting skills. He pretended to have psychological problems and did not serve. He compared it to a scene from the film Alice's Restaurant. To this day, he still feels guilty about avoiding his military service.

In the 1970s he appeared in many Broadway shows, but few musicals. He said that the two worlds of musical theatre and the world of non-musical plays were separate. He had an affair with one of his co-stars, Liv Ullman. She was the muse of iconic film director Ingmar Bergman. During this period he met an unknown teenage actress whom everyone knew was bound for greatness, Meryl Streep.

His career highlights include; All That Jazz (1979), The World According to Garp (1982), Terms of Endearment (1983), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Footloose (1984), The Pelican Brief (1993), 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996-2001, 139 episodes), Shrek (2001), and Dexter (2009, 12 episodes).

Lithgow has been nominated for two Academy Awards. He has won two Golden Globes and five primetime Emmy Awards. He has been nominated for three Grammy Awards. He has won two Screen Actors Guild Awards.

His autobiography is beautifully written, with many interesting stories about his life in show business. My only complaint with the book is that sometimes Lithgow comes off as a bit pompous and self-righteous. I think that he is an intellectual snob. But, he did graduate from Harvard after all.

*Some information from

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