Family & Companions
John Malkovich was an American actor, director, producer, and fashion designer who 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 on December 9, 1953 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.
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Special)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Joined Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre (founded 1974 by Gary Sinise), working on more than 50 productions during the years
Appeared in production of Sam Shepard's "Curse of the Starving Class" at Chicago's Goodman Theatre
TV-movie debut, "Word of Honor" (CBS)
Made off-Broadway debut in Steppenwolf production of "True West," directed by Sinise (who also co-starred)
Broadway debut, "Death of a Salesman," playing Biff to Dustin Hoffman's Willy Loman
Made film debut as photojournalist in "The Killing Fields"
Earned Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his turn as a misanthropic blind man in Robert Benton's "Places in the Heart"
Starred in TV adaptation of "True West" (aired on PBS' "American Playhouse")
First starring role in a feature, as journalist Nicholas Gage in Peter Yates' "Eleni"
Broadway directing debut, "Arms and the Man"; later assumed leading role, replacing Kevin Kline; production also featured then-wife Glenne Headly
Reprised stage role of Biff in CBS TV adaptation of "Death of a Salesman," starring Hoffman; received Emmy Award
Played dual roles of a nerdy scientist and a lookalike android in Susan Seidelman's "Making Mr. Right"
Starred opposite Joan Allen in Broadway production "Burn This"
Debuted as executive producer with "The Accidental Tourist"; did not act in film
Offered an intriguing turn as the treacherous French aristocrat Valmont in "Dangerous Liaisons," helmed by Stephen Frears; on-set romance with co-star Michelle Pfieffer led to end of his marriage to Glenne Headly
Teamed with director Bernardo Bertolucci for vividly atmospheric but torturously slow "The Sheltering Sky"
Returned to New York stage as the bombastic war veteran of Shepard's "States of Shock"
Played Lennie to Sinise's George in remake of "Of Mice and Men," directed by Sinise; had first essayed role in a Steppenwolf stage production many years earlier
Formed Smith-Malkovich Productions with Russell Smith
Received second Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination as demented assassin Mitch Leary in "In the Line of Fire"
Adapted and directed the Steppenwolf production of Don DeLillo's "Libra," starring Laurie Metcalf and Alexis Arquette
Appeared as sinister Kurtz in TNT movie presentation "Heart of Darkness," directed by Nicolas Roeg
Portrayed profligate seducer Gilbert Osmond in "The Portrait of a Lady," adapted from novel by Henry James
Reveled in scene-chewing role of Cyrus 'The Virus' Grissom in "Con Air"
Formed Mr. Mudd production company with producers Lianne Halfon and Russell Smith
Offered over-the-top performance as a Russian mobster in "Rounders," scripted by David Levien and Brian Koppelman
Played John Malkovich, a fictionalized version of himself, in Spike Jonze's witty and picaresque "Being John Malkovich"
Played Herman J. Mankiewicz in HBO's "RKO 281," detailing the clash between Orson Welles and William Randolph Hearst over production and release of "Citizen Kane"
Staged "Hysteria" at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater Company
Acted opposite Gerard Depardieu in French television adaptation of "Les Misérables"; English language version aired in U.S. 2001 on Fox Family Channel
Portrayed film director F. W. Murnau in "Shadow of the Vampire," a fictionalized account of Murnau's filming of "Nosferatu," based on Bram Stoker's "Dracula"; screened at Cannes
Served as one of producers of "Ghost World"
Made feature directorial debut with "Dancer Upstairs," a police thriller based on a novel by Nicholas Shakespeare
Featured in A&E miniseries "Napoleon"; received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Co-starred in spy comedy feature "Johnny English"
Starred as Comandante John Walesa in Manoel de Oliveira's "Um Filme Falado/A Talking Picture"
Cast as King Galbatorix, a powerful Dragon Rider in "Eragon" a fantasy/adventure movie based on novel of same name
Cast in Terry Zwigoff's adaptation of Daniel Clowes' comic story "Art School Confidential"
Portrayed Austrian artist Gustav Klimt in Raoul Ruiz's "Klimt"
Portrayed Unferth in Robert Zemeckis' big-budget film version of "Beowulf"
Portrayed Alan Conway in "Colour Me Kubrick," the true story of a man who posed as director Stanley Kubrick
Cast as Reverend Briegleb in Clint Eastwood's "Changeling"
Joined ensemble cast for Coen brothers' "Burn After Reading"
Co-starred with Josh Brolin and Megan Fox in "Jonah Hex"
Portrayed trainer Lucien Laurin in "Secretariat," based on horse that won U.S. Triple Crown in 1973
Joined Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman in action comedy "Red"
Appeared in Michael Bay's "Transformers: Dark of the Moon"
Appeared in zombie romance "Warm Bodies," starring Nicholas Hoult
Featured in "Red 2"