John Lithgow Poster

Quotes (12)

  • [on the constant time-slot changes and ultimate cancellation of 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996)] If NBC had set out to ruin it, they couldn't have done a better job. They kept trying to use us as a weapon instead of a show to be taken care of. It would have been nice to have stayed a big hit, but I'd rather be a great show that nobody was watching than a lousy show that was a big hit, which is the case for most of the others.
  • In general, my basic rule of thumb is just act in things you would want to see yourself in. I have a taste for all kinds of movies. Usually, it's a question of whether it will be fun, whether I respect the people behind it, whether I would like to work with them. I'm sure I'm a serious-minded actor, but I still value the frivolity of acting. It's a real exuberant, entertaining thing to do. I never lose track of that.
  • I've had parallel careers in the theatre and in movies. In the theatre, I often play characters with a strong sense of innocence who aren't as intelligent as I am. The reason: my size. I seem sort of big and good-natured on stage. It would be too much for a big man to play a forbidding character on stage. So I play big people who are fairly gentle. It's a wonderful thing to build a career on. What I offer to movie-makers is that I can put a tremendous amount of theatrical background and technical equipment at their disposal. I can make believable the over-the-top characters.
  • [from a 1984 interview] My career just happened to me. I didn't manage it. My plate is full all the time, but I never have the opportunity to choose from ten parts. I do turn down junk. I've played important parts in movies but I haven't yet played the person the story is about. The joy is in the work. You can get too hung up on where you are. I'm not preoccupied with the desire to be top banana, but I do want to play bigger parts.
  • We deal in very volatile chemicals. We're in the business of using real emotions to bring pretend emotions to life. We all have our secrets and we all have our deceptions. Acting, at its best, is all about deceiving people, and that makes it all the more interesting to us.
  • One of the things you learn as an actor is that human beings are capable of almost anything. I'm sort of in the business of illustrating that fact.
  • My sense of myself is that I'm a character actor, and character actors are ready, willing and able to do anything, to be totally different from themselves. That's my job, to be ready. I'm some kind of first responder.
  • No bad guy thinks he's a bad guy. He thinks he's a good guy.
  • [on working with Saul Zaentz on At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991)] Saul loves being answerable to nobody. That's the most extraordinary thing about him. The dailies didn't get sent anywhere for anybody else's approval and cost overruns weren't monitored by a bunch of executives thousand of miles away. He owns it all. He does it the way he wants it. It's incredible how that affects every aspect of production. I've never really worked with anyone like him. Being on the set, playing hearts with Saul, I realised the secret to his success: he can spot everyone's strengths and weaknesses right away. He was a killer. He'd shoot the moon three out of every four games. I don't know if it was the giant bugs or the humidity, but I couldn't sleep for weeks. We had terrible weather and horrible actor-director arguments, but Saul was unflappable. He went through all the same hardships we did, but he behaved as if there was no other place he'd rather be.
  • [on the character usually played by his favorite French comic actor Jacques Tati] He was always a bit oblivious, just a little bit startled by everything, and acted in a completely rational but inappropriate way to whatever happened.
  • Actors swing wildly between arrogance and self-doubt. I never completely believe the praise, although I become deeply injured by anything negative said of me....I'm married to a very tough-minded woman. She doesn't let me get away with anything. She's the great ego deflector, and we all need that.
  • [on working with Daryl Hannah on At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991)] Daryl and I are very different actors. Daryl is accustomed to being a "movie star" and a very girlish one. That's her great strength: her wonderful performances are in movies like Splash (1984), where she is kind of an innocent who has stumbled into someone else's world. Perhaps Daryl and I were mismatched in all sorts of ways. I tend to fault the director when that happens. I think that At Play in the Fields of the Lord had all sorts of problems. We were not brought into an ensemble. I think it happened in the casting, but I think it also happened in the making of the movie, and ultimately it happened in the cutting of the movie. The movie was 6 hours long when it was cut together and they had to cut it in half, and they took all the mortar out of it. It was a very disjointed film in terms of the relationship of those 5 or 6 principal characters.