Nationality: American. Born: Christopher, Illinois, 9 December 1953. Education: Attended Eastern Illinois State University; Illinois State University. Family: Married the actress Glenne Headly, 1982 (divorced 1990); one daughter, Armandine, and one son, Loewy, with Nicoletta Peyran. Career: 1976—co-founder of Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Group; 1982—New York theatrical debut in True West ;
American Dream (Damski—for TV) (as Gary); Word of Honor (Damski—for TV)
True West (Sinise and Goldstein—for TV) (as Lee)
Places in the Heart (Benton) (as Mr. Will); The Killing Fields (Joffé) (as Al Rockoff)
Eleni (Yates) (as Nicholas Gage)
Death of a Salesman (Schlöndorff—for TV) (as Biff); Rocket to the Moon (John Jacobs—for TV) (as Ben Stark)
Making Mr. Right (Susan Seidelman) (as Dr. Jeff Peters/Ulysses); The Glass Menagerie (Paul Newman) (as Tom); Empire of the Sun (Spielberg) (as Basie)
Miles from Home ( Farm of the Year ) (Sinise) (as Barry Maxwell); Dangerous Liaisons (Frears) (as Vicomte de Valmont)
Old Times (Simon Curtis—for TV); The Sheltering Sky (Bertolucci) (as Port Moresby)
Queens Logic (Rash) (as Eliot); The Object of Beauty (Lindsay-Hogg) (as Jake)
Shadows and Fog (Woody Allen) (as a clown); Jennifer 8 (Robinson) (as St. Anne); Of Mice and Men (Sinise) (as Lennie)
In the Line of Fire (Petersen) (as Mitch Leary); Alive (Frank Marshall) (as narrator, uncredited); We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story (Zondag and others—animation) (as voice)
Heart of Darkness (Roeg—for TV) (as Kurtz)
Par dela les nuages ( Al di la delle nuvole ; Beyond the Clouds ) (Antonioni and Wenders) (as director); O Convento ( The Convent ; Le Couvent ) (de Oliveira) (as Michael)
Mary Reilly (Frears) (as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde); Mulholland Falls (Tamahori) (as Gen. Thomas Timms); Der Unhold ( The Ogre ; Le Rois des aulnes ) (Schlöndorff); Portrait of a Lady (Campion)
Con Air (West) (as Cyrus "the Virus" Grissom)
Rounders (Dahl) (as Teddy KGB); The Man in the Iron Mask (Wallace) (as Athos)
Le Temps retrouvé ( Time Regained ) (as Charlus); The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (Besson) (Charles VII); Ladies Room (Cristiani) (as Roberto Brizzi); Being John Malkovich (Jonze) (as John Horatio Malkovich); RKO 281 (Ross—for TV) (as Herman Mankiewicz)
Shadow of the Vampire (Merhige) (as F. W. Murnau); Les Misérables (Dayan) (as Javert)
Knockaround Guys (Koppelman and Levien) (as Teddy Deserve)
The Accidental Tourist (Kasdan) (co-exec pr)
"The Malkovich Magnetism," interview with Dena Kleiman, in New York Times Magazine , 15 September 1985.
"Between the Lines," interview with Hal Hinson, in Vogue (New York), October 1985.
"Acting's Burning Talent," interview in Harper's Bazaar (New York), November 1987.
"Honest John," interview with Clifford Terry, in Plays and Players (Croydon, Surrey), April 1992.
"Malkovich and Moor," interview with Hamish Bowles, in Vogue (New York), September 1993.
"Character/Actor," interview in Psychology Today (New York), July/August 1994.
"La tournée des géants," interview in Télérama (Paris), 6 September 1995.
Peck, A. & Ruchti, Isabelle, "John Malkovich ou la séduction du saltimbanque: Une grande méfiance," in Positif (Paris), October 1992.
Gritten, David, "What Is John Malkovich?," in Cosmopolitan (New York), November 1992.
Danel, Isabelle, "L'homme caméléon: Dans la lingne de mire," in Télérama (Paris), 15 September 1993.
Lemon, B., "The Dark Side," in New Yorker , 15 April 1996.
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Before he first appeared on movie screens in Robert Benton's Places in the Heart , John Malkovich had already earned a formidable reputation as a stage actor, a director and as a co-founder of the Steppenwolf Theatre Ensemble in Chicago. In many ways Malkovich is still more identified with the theater than with Hollywood, not only for his considerable successes on the stage, but also for his often disparaging remarks about the film business. (He told Psychology Today he never acts in films for artistic expression, that he does it only "for the money.") Yet with just a few exceptions, his film work seems passionate, daring, and finely crafted. He works in Hollywood films with nary a trace of movie star vanity, disclosing dark and truly unpleasant aspects of his characters in a way that is almost unknown with other "leading men." At the same time Malkovich is able to transcend his rebarbative demeanor and make his flawed, angry characters the emotional center of many of the films he appears in. Despite maintaining this precarious balance in his acting for almost a decade, Malkovich's self-deprecatingly theatrical tendencies have recently shifted him to the place where he has nearly lost his star status to the rank of "character actor" and "heavy"; his recent dual role as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in Mary Reilly only exemplifies the conundrum in his acting persona.
John Malkovich's first two theatrical film appearances—in Places in the Heart and The Killing Fields —arrived almost back-to-back in the fall of 1984 and he was singled out for praise with both. Malkovich won multiple awards and nominations for Places in the Heart , yet even in Benton's innocent, rural film—as a gentle, blinded World War I veteran—critics noticed something both exciting and troubling in the actor's work. (Pauline Kael in the New Yorker referred to his "great acting" and almost immediately followed the accolade with the comment "he's so touching he's creepy.") The next year Malkovich had a large film role in Peter Yates's Eleni , but was generally considered miscast in a poorly realized production. In that same year, however, he won recognition doing a radically new interpretation of Arthur Miller's Biff opposite Dustin Hoffman in Death of a Salesman on Broadway. Malkovich's haunted, soft-spoken performance would be recreated for a television version in 1986 and his reputation as a major American actor was secured.
Not surprisingly, Malkovich would distinguish himself most in the coming years in cinematic adaptations of theatrical productions: first, in 1987, as Tennessee Williams's autobiographical Tom in Paul Newman's version of The Glass Menagerie and in 1988 in Stephen Frears's adaptation of Christopher Hampton's play Les Liaisons Dangereuses . In the former Malkovich suggests—not for the first time or the last—a subtle but nearly hypnotic homosexual component to the role. In the latter, as Valmont, the actor triumphs over his seeming miscasting as a sexual games-player who finally falls in love with one of the women he has toyed with. Holding his own against Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Uma Thurman, Malkovich made Dangerous Liaisons his greatest (and almost only real) "star turn" in the cinema.
Subsequently Malkovich has had slightly less good fortune in film. His Port Moresby in Bernardo Bertolucci's problematic The Sheltering Sky was arrestingly smug, self-destructive, and mesmerizing; the film never recovered from the character's death two-thirds of the way through. In The Object of Beauty Malkovich astonished again, this time with his ability to play a (merely) likable would-be sophisticate. The film was much more suitable to his talents than the earlier comedy, Making Mr. Right , and it raised hopes that the actor might become a postmodern Cary Grant, but few people saw the picture. Malkovich's role in Woody Allen's Shadows and Fog in 1992 was nearly a cameo and after all the intelligence and self-loathing he had been showing on-screen up to that point, his Lennie in Of Mice and Men , directed by his Steppenwolf colleague Gary Sinise, rang a bit false.
To date, Malkovich's one great film performance in the 1990s was in Wolfgang Petersen's In the Line of Fire . Playing opposite an iconic Clint Eastwood, Malkovich took the clichéd part of a brilliant assassin and created something so frightening and horrifyingly human, that he single-handedly raised the film out of its genre conventions. From there, though, Malkovich was very nearly over the top as Kurtz in Nicolas Roeg's Heart of Darkness . Oddly, he seemed strangely uninvolved playing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, working with Frears and Hampton again, in Mary Reilly .