5 greatest performances from John Lithgow


  • Entertainment
  • Tuesday, 01 Sep 2020

John Lithgow on the set of 'Perry Mason'. Photo: HBO Asia

Having established himself as a character actor early in his career has allowed actor John Lithgow to assume all kinds of roles in an acting career that started in the early 1970s.

Promoting his latest role as lawyer E.B. Jonathan on the series Perry Mason, Lithgow chatted with the South-East Asian journalists.

Photo: HBO AsiaPhoto: HBO AsiaHe said at one point: "I grew up in a theatre family, my father produced Shakespeare. And when you think about Shakespeare and his whole canon of plays, Hamlet, Comedy Of Errors, The Merry Wives Of Windsor, the actors were ready to play anything.

"An actor who plays Iago one night might play Sir Andrew Aguecheek the next night. And I acted in my father's company.

"To me, the whole fun of acting was being as different as you can possibly be, night after night, and have the same audiences watch you play different parts and have the great fun of seeing, 'Oh my god, what is he going to do next?'

"Turns out that's just exactly what my career has been. I didn't plan it that way.

"But, you know, if you think about the very first things I was known for, it was for Terms Of Endearment, Roberta Muldoon in The World According To Garp, Footloose, Buckaroo Banzai, Harry And The Hendersons and The Twilight Zone.

"All these very extreme characters and all of them quite different from each other. And therefore, I got known for all these different things.

"Then along came 3rd Rock From The Sun and I became known for screwball comedy too. So, my options were wide open. That's why I'm still working at age 74."

The first season of Perry Mason is available on HBO Go. Meanwhile, below are the five greatest performances from Lithgow ... and then some.

Photo: NBC UniversalPhoto: NBC Universal

3rd Rock From The Sun (1996-2001)

Lithgow plays a self-centred alien leader passing off as an Earthling. Lithgow assumed this role for six years, winning one Golden Globe and three Primetime Emmy. How good was he in this role? Lithgow received a total of six Emmy nominations, one for every season.

Photo: NetflixPhoto: Netflix

The Crown (2016)

It’s a bold move – to hire an American to portray a British prime minister. But Lithgow commands attention as Winston Churchill. So much so, Emmy gave him a trophy for his effort. He also received nominations at the Bafta Awards and the Golden Globes.

Photo: ShowtimePhoto: Showtime

Dexter (2009)

In the series’ fourth season, Lithgow guest stars as Arthur Mitchell, the Trinity Killer whose victims come in threes. Needless to say, Lithgow slays yet another role for which he won a Golden Globe and an Emmy.

Photo: YouTubePhoto: YouTube

The World According To Garp (1982)

Lithgow picks up his first Academy Award nomination as Roberta Muldoon, a woman who was once a man named Robert Muldoon.

Photo: YouTubePhoto: YouTube

Terms Of Endearment (1983)

In this 1983 Oscar-winning Best Picture film, Lithgow plays a timid banker who has an affair with Debra Winger’s Emma. For his performance, he received his second Academy Award nomination.

Special mention:

In Bombshell (2019) Lithgow suits up to play yet another public figure; this time as the disgraced late Fox News CEO Roger Ailes.

Lithgow gives a touching performance in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (2011), as a man with Alzheimer’s who forms a special bond with an intelligent chimp named Caesar.

Lithgow gleefully lends his voice to the very short and quite evil Lord Farquaad in Shrek (2001).

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