|Date of Birth||October 19, 1945|
|Origin||Rochester, New York|
Lithgow was born in Rochester, New York to Sarah Jane (née Price), a retired actress, and Arthur Washington Lithgow III, who was born in the Dominican Republic, and was a theatrical producer and director who ran the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey. Because of his father's job, Lithgow and his family moved frequently during his childhood, so he spent his teenage years in Akron (living at Stan Hywet) and Lakewood, Ohio. Lithgow attended Harvard College, and graduated with an A.B. magna cum laude in 1967, in history and literature. He lived in Adams House as an undergraduate and 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 he graduated, 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 he starred opposite Meryl Streep in Arthur Miller's A Memory of Two Mondays. In 1979, Lithgow portrayed 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, an Italian physicist inhabited by an evil alien, which he played in the 1984 cult film, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. In 1984, Lithgow also played a pastor who condemns dancing in Footloose.
In 1983, Lithgow appeared in a remake of the classic Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" in Twilight Zone: The Movie as the paranoid passenger made famous on the television show by William Shatner. In an interview will Bill Moyers, Lithgow revealed this role as his favorite from his film career.
Lithgow was nominated for the Best Actor Tony Awards for Requiem for a Heavyweight (1985) and M. Butterfly (directed by John Dexter, 1988). In 1987, Lithgow starred in the Bigfoot-themed family comedy, Harry and the Hendersons.
In 1991, he starred in the movie Ricochet opposite Denzel Washington as Earl Talbot Blake, a criminal, seeking revenge against the policeman who sent him to prison. In 1992, Lithgow starred as a man with multiple personality disorder in Brian De Palma's film, Raising Cain, and in 1993, he starred as the villainous Eric Qualen in the Sylvester Stallone movie, Cliffhanger.
Lithgow is probably most widely known for his starring role as Dick Solomon in the 1996–2001 NBC sitcom, 3rd Rock from the Sun. Becuase of this role, he was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in the category Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in each of the program's six seasons, and he won three times (1996, 1997, and 1999). His son, Ian, regularly appeared alongside him as Leon, one of his physics students on the show. In 1999, Lithgow launched into a career as a recording artist with the album of children's music, Singin' in the Bathtub.
Additionally, Lithgow has been nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Special for The Day After (1983), and two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Special for Resting Place (1986) and My Brother's Keeper (1995). Lithgow was approached about playing Dr. Frasier Crane on Cheers, but turned it down. Lithgow starred with Jeffrey Tambor in the NBC sitcom Twenty Good Years.
2001 introduced one of Lithgow's most famed roles as a voice actor: he 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.
In 2002, Lithgow narrated Life's Greatest Miracle, a documentary about human embryonic development, while later that year, he 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. He also released a second children's album entitled Farkle and Friends. Later, in 2004, he portrayed the moralistic, rigid father of Alfred Kinsey in that year's biopic Kinsey. 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. 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 starred in a lead role in the science fiction film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. In 2007, Lithgow played Malvolio in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Twelfth Night, at The Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom. In 2008 through 2009, Lithgow played Joe Keller in a Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's All My Sons.
Since 2006 he has starred in Campbell Soup Company's commercials advertising their Campbell's Select premium soup brand. On March 5, 2009, Lithgow made a cameo on NBC's 30 Rock, in the episode "Goodbye, My Friend", with several references to his role in Harry and the Hendersons. In September 2009, Lithgow joined the cast of Dexter as Arthur Mitchell, a serial killer and Dexter Morgan's nemesis, and won a Golden Globe Award for this role, and won an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series.
He also was in Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009) as Edgar West. He later played the role of American space engineer Walter Curnow in 2010, the sequel to the science fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In 2011, Lithgow guest starred in two episodes of How I Met Your Mother, as the long-lost father of Barney Stinson: Jerry. The identity of this character had previously been a minor mystery on the show.
Lithgow returned to Broadway as Joseph Alsop in the Manhattan Theatre Club production of David Auburn's new play The Columnist, with previews starting on April 4, 2012. The National Theatre tempted Lithgow to appear on the London stage in the winter of 2012/13 where he took role of Police Magistrate Aeneas Posket in a revival of Arthur Wing Pinero's The Magistrate.