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The Global Film Village: John Lithgow Wows at LAFF Conversation

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by Marla Lewin

There is no doubt that John Lithgow is an accomplished serious actor who can never be too over the top for his own liking. Tuesday night was a rare opportunity to see him in a conversation with David Ansen, the new Artistic Director of LAFF. What was so special about this was that they were college roommates at Harvard and are still best friends. That gave David a unique insight and made it a more personal conversation than one usually hears at a film festival.

John Lithgow wowed the audience last night with his theatrical approach to working in film.  Most of us were about to watch The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai for the first time on a big screen along with the actor. This cult film from 1984 also starred Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum, and Christopher Lloyd.  John  said the experience was the one of the most fun he had working in the industry, right along with 3rd Rock, the cast was laughing hysterically all the time on set.  He even pointed out a scene at the end of the film where you can see him roaring, as he plays a mix of an insane scientist with very black teeth, and a take off on a dictator like Mussolini.  Who knew you could get paid to have this much fun he gushed.

John also choose to show the George Miller segment of the movie The Twilight Zone, which he starred in as well.  He said George was an under appreciated director for whom nothing could be too over the top.  He created tennis ball eyes for the last scene where he is face to face with the monster on the plane, and I know I never forgot that segment.  It was intended to be a piece about someone afraid to fly on airplanes, so John called an actor friend who was afraid every time the phone would ring, that he might get an audition where he would have to get on a plane.

John Lithgow has done 85 roles in TV and the movies plus theatre. He was almost literally born in the theatre the son of a retired actress and a father who was both a theatrical producer and director. He came to prominence on stage with a Tony award for “The Changing Room”, a second nomination in 1985 for “Requiem for a Heavyweight”, and a third in 1988 for “M. Butterfly”.  During the same period he was nominated for  Academy Awards for The World According to Garp (1982) and Terms of Endearment (1983). He has also delighted audiences in television with 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996).

Early in his career he worked with Brian De Palma in ObsessionBlow Out, andRaising Canine.  De Palma saw back then the villain behind the comedian in him, and now twenty years later he can bring this to his present role in the popular hit series Dexter.

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About MarlaLewinGFV

Lewin Marla
(Global Film Village)

Marla is a producer, playwright, screenwriter, publicist and now a journalist. She attends 12 to 20 film festivals per year. She has spoken on filmmaking at many festivals including Cannes and SXSW.

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