John Lithgow's Best Movie Roles

We take a look back over the career of the star of LOVE IS STRANGE…

LOVE IS STRANGE is released in Irish cinemas this week, and stars John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as long term partners who finally get married, and find their lives sent into chaos. Lithgow is wonderful in his performance as the gentle and worrisome Ben, and his chemistry with screen partner Alfred Molina is a thing of joy.
To celebrate the release of LOVE IS STRANGE, decided to take a look back over the movie career of John Lithgow.

Although Lithgow is arguably best known for his work on TV – namely 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN and a show stealing turn in DEXTER – the actor still haunts the Christmas memories of many grown adults, due to his terrifying turn in SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE.
Opposite David Huddleston as Santa and Dudley Moore as an elf named Patch, Lithgow played BZ, the unscrupulous head of a corporation who wants to patent Santa’s magic, and create candy canes that make children fly. Of course, BZ has his own money grabbing agenda, and a plan to frame Patch for criminal neglect. Lithgow is at his over the top, pantominey best as the evil BZ, and apparently was cast because he has a look of the Grinch about him. His amazing, distinctive voice must have helped too.

Another role for which Lithgow’s voice was a deciding factor is his magnificent performance as the diminutive Lord Farquaad in SHREK.
Farquaad is another character with an evil agenda against magical and mythical characters, but much of the comedy of the role comes from the contrast between Lithgow’s booming voice and the short stature of the character. As well as this Farquaad is designed to poke fun at short men who over compensate, both through his findness for tall towers, and his designs on becoming Royalty. Lithgow is fantastic in the role, and in particular his evil torturing of the gingerbread man is a scene to delight in.

One of the best loved of Robin Williams’ dramatic roles, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP also features a powerful performance from Lithgow as a former American Football player who went through gender reassignment surgery to become a woman.
Lithgow’s character Roberta is a steady and well-adjusted woman, who provides comfort and emotional support to those around her. Lithgow downplayed his entire performance as Roberta, and in doing so made her utterly believable and a rock of bright kindness in a dark and upsetting world.
John Lithgow was Oscar nominated for his performance.

Although Lithgow’s screen time in TERMS OF ENDEARMENT is relatively short, he was Oscar nominated for his role as the gentle and good hearted Sam Burns.
TERMS OF ENDERMENT covers several years in the lives and relationships of a mother and daughter, and Lithgow’s character slots in as the man who Emma (Debra Winger) has an affair with when her marriage is on the rocks.
Lithgow portrays Sam as an honest man who genuinely has affection for Emma, but knows that they both are simply finding comfort and a modicum of happiness in one another, rather than the love of their lives.

Another low-key role from Lithgow was his strong supporting performance as Charles in RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Father to James Franco’s Will, Lithgow plays Charles as a loving man, cruelly struck down with Alzheimer’s. It is this that motivates Will to find a cure, and it is this cure that exponentially increases the intelligence of chimps like Caesar.
Lithgow plays an Alzheimer’s patient incredibly well; capturing the bewilderment and rage of a character who knows their memory is slipping away. As well as this, it is Charles who teaches Caesar a lot of what it means to be human, even as his memory betrays him.

Do you have a favourite John Lithgow movie role? Perhaps you love HARRY & THE HENDERSONS? Or were blown away by his small role in INTERSTELLAR? Let us know in the comments below.

LOVE IS STRANGE is released in Irish cinemas on February 13th 2015

Words: Brogen Hayes