John Malkovich

John Malkovich

American actor, director, producer, and fashion designer John Malkovich always walked to the beat of his own highly idiosyncratic artistic drum. With his low, sonorous whisper of a voice juxtaposed with his towering frame, he first rose to prominence in the world of theatre, before becoming one of the most prolific and acclaimed film actors of the modern era, seamlessly moving between art house faire and splashy blockbusters, playing everything from a lecherous French count to a Depression-era simpleton, to, well, himself. Born in Christoper, IL, Malkovich was the second child born to Daniel Leon Malkovich, a state conservation director and publisher of Outdoor Illinois (a conservation-themed magazine), and Joe Anne Choisser, a media magnate who owned Outdoor Illinois and the Benton Evening News. Malkovich first became interested in acting while attending Benton Consolidated High School, where he acted and sang in school plays. He was also well-known in his community as a member of the local folk gospel group, and would often sing at church services and community events. After a brief stint at Eastern Illinois University, Malkovich transferred to Illinois State University, where he studied theater. After graduating in 1976, Malkovich was selected to become a charter member of Chicago's illustrious Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Fellow members that year included Joan Allen, Gary Sinise, and Malkovich's future wife, Glenne Headly. Malkovich made his film debut in 1978 with a brief appearance as an extra in Robert Altman's ensemble comedy "A Wedding" (1978). In 1980, Steppenwolf began staging a production of Sam Shepard's legendary play "True West" in New York City, with Malkovich and Gary Sinise (who also served as director) in the lead roles. When the production debuted in 1982, it was a smash hit, and Malkovich won an Obie Award for Best Lead Actor in a Play. The show ended up running for two years, but by then, Malkovich had moved on to his next project, directing the Steppenwolf production of Lanford Wilson's "Balm of Gilead." This time, Malkovich won both an Obie AND a Drama Desk Award for his efforts. That same year, Malkovich made his Broadway debut playing Biff alongside Dustin Hoffman's Willy Lomax in a revival of "Death of a Salesman." He also somehow found time to co-star in both the Cambodian war drama "The Killing Fields" (1984), and the Depression-era drama "Places of the Heart" (1984), in which he played a blind boarder named Mr. Will. For the latter performance, Malkovich was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The following year, CBS decided to turn the Broadway production of "Death of a Salesman" (CBS, 1985) into a made-for-TV movie. Malkovich reprised the role of Biff for the film, and won an Emmy for his performance. Having been recognized as a force to be reckoned with in the acting arena, Malkovich next worked with Steven Spielberg on the WWII drama "Empire of the Sun" (1987), was directed by Paul Newman in a film version of Tennessee Williams' classic play "The Glass Menagerie" (1987), and starred in Susan Seidelman's bizarre sci-fi romantic comedy "Making Mr. Right" (1987). For his next role, Malkovich wowed critics and audiences by embodying Valmont, the erotically charged and deeply conniving French lord in Stephen Frears's Oscar nominated period piece "Dangerous Liaisons" (1988). Though the film was a success, sadly life ended up imitating art: when Malkovich's wife, Glenne Headly, found out that he was having an affair with his co-star, Michelle Pfeiffer, she filed for divorce. As it turns out, the romance between Malkovich and Pfeiffer was also short-lived. While filming Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Sheltering Sky" (1990), Malkovich ended up falling for the assistant director, Nicoletta Peyran. Though they never officially married, the two ended up having two children together, and remain a couple to this day. After working with Woody Allen on the stylish drama "Shadows and Fog" (1990), Malkovich reunited with his old Steppenwolf buddy Gary Sinise for a film adaptation of John Steinbeck's classic novel "Of Mice and Men" (1992), with Malkovich playing the simpleton Lenny to Sinise's world-weary George. He followed this up with a deliciously villainous turn as a madman trying to assassinate the president in the action thriller "In the Line of Fire" (1994), a scenery chewing role which earned him his second Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. After reuniting with Stephen Frears for the flop Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde adaptation "Mary Reilly" (1996), Malkovich enjoyed another villainous, scenery-chewing performance, this time as Cyrus the Virus, a super villain who hijacks a plane full of convicts, with only heroic southerner Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) prepared to stop him, in the silly yet enjoyable summer tentpole "Con Air" (1997). For his next part, Malkovich took on perhaps one of the strangest roles of his career: himself. In "Being John Malkovich" (1999), a fictionalized version of the titular actor finds himself in an existential quandary when an aspiring puppeteer (John Cusack) working a corporate drone job uncovers a porthole into Malkovich's head in his office, setting off a bizarre love triangle between the puppeteer, his hippie granola wife (Cameron Diaz), and his fiendishly sexy coworker (Catherine Keener). Written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by music video auteur Spike Jonze, the film was an indie smash, nominated for multiple Oscars, and ensured that passerby on the street would be screaming "Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich!" at our subject for the rest of time. On a creative roll, Malkovich next played legendary silent filmmaker F.W. Murnau to Willem Dafoe's bloodsucking Max Shreck in "Shadow of the Vampire" (2000), a fictionalized look at the making of "Nosferatu" (1922), before taking on his directorial debut, the dark thriller "The Dancer Upstairs" (2002), starring Javier Bardem. Malkovich then took a hard turn into sci-fi, playing Humma Kavula in the long-awaited film adaptation of Douglas Adams' classic novel "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (2005), and then veering over to dark comedy, playing a pompous, often drunk CIA analyst who finds himself entangled in a hare-brained extortion scheme in the Coen Brothers highly divisive "Burn After Reading" (2008). He clearly had a good time playing a senile former spy in the action comedy "RED" (2010), so much so that he returned for the sequel, "RED 2" (2013), but not before playing around with some giant robots in "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" (2011). After taking a supporting role as a mild-mannered man trying to survive a very convoluted apocalyptic event in the surprise Netflix horror hit "Bird Box" (2018), Malkovich could most recently be seen playing legendary detective Hercule Poirot in a miniseries adaptation of Agatha Christie's "The A.B.C. Murders" (BBC, 2019), as well as in another Netflix horror offering, "Velvet Buzzsaw" (2019), this time set in the art world of Los Angeles.