John Lithgow interview in the NYT
You mention that winning a Tony was one of the proudest moments of your life but then go on to say, “acceptance speeches are generally a graceless cavalcade of pomposity, crocodile tears and egregious false modesty.” Did you have anyone in mind?
Of course. But I’m not going to tell you! Mainly myself. Early on, I was very ponderous about accepting awards and I became more lighthearted about it the more awards that I won. But they’re very emotional moments, no question about it. Actors, it’s our reflex — we make a big scene out of everything. Particularly theater actors. The Tony awards always strike me as akin to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Everybody’s full of helium.
Your father, Arthur Lithgow, was a great theater impresario, particularly noted for his Shakespeare festivals in the 1950s. He supported your career in various ways, giving you your first parts. But in the book he seems at times critically distant, not commenting — good or bad — on your performances. What did he think of you as an actor?
He was once interviewed about me for an A&E “Biography,” and he talked about my acting in ways that he had never spoken to me. It’s very typical. We’ll say things to millions of people that we would never say to the people very closest to us. But he talked about the opening of “M. Butterfly,” when I was alone on the stage looking out at the audience and just grabbing their attention in what he described as a very uncanny way. I thought, My God, my father never said any of that to me. Isn’t that life?