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The John Malkovich Bio

The John Malkovich Review –

by Nate Lee

Best Films:

True West,
Dangerous Liaisons,
In the Line of Fire

All four of his supporting roles in the blockbusters are extremely worthy, though, again just supporting. Malkovich is best when he's squaring off against a formidable adversary, whether it's Glenn Close or Clint Eastwood or his best foil, Gary Sinise. Speaking of which, "Of Mice and Men" is the runner up.

Great Performances You May Not Have Seen:
Being John Malkovich (not really playing himself per se)
Shadow of the Vampire ('20s director F.W. Murnau, shooting "Nosferatu")
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (cult leader)
I'm Going Home (a film director)
The Ogre (a naïve mechanic seduced into the Nazi army)
Beyond the Clouds (Antonioni's director)
Shadows and Fog (clown married to sword-swallowing Mia Farrow)
The Object of Beauty (with Andie MacDowell, an American stuck in a British hotel)
Queen's Logic (a guy not coming to terms with his homosexuality)
Making Mr. Right (a scientist and his clone)
Disgrace (a South Africa professor fleeing the scandal of an affair with a mixed-race student)
Eleni (a writer looking for answers about his mother and his past)
The Crazy John Malkovich:
In The Line of Fire (Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated performance as a would-be Presidential assassin)
Burn After Reading (ex-CIA worker writing his memoirs, blackmailed by Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand)
Color Me Kubrick (based on true story of a man who pretended to be Stanley Kubrick)
True West (opposite Gary Sinise in Sam Shepard's brilliant play about rival brothers)
Ripley's Game (the sociopath gets caught up with the Russian mob)
The Great Buck Howard (a once-famous mentalist trying to make a comeback)
ConAir (insane criminal out to hijack a plane full of fellow cons)
The Classic John Malkovich:
Places in the Heart (Oscar-nominated performance as a blind boarder of Sally Fields)
Dangerous Liaisons (Valmont)
The Messenger: Joan of Arc (The Dauphin)
Of Mice and Men (Lenny, the big one, opposite Gary Sinise, as George)
The Man in the Iron Mask (an older version of Athos, one of the three Musketeers)
Death of a Salesman (Biff, in a brilliant version led by Dustin Hoffman)
Time Regained (Baron de Charlus, a Proust character)
Klimt (the artist Gustav Klimt)
The Libertine (King Charles II, opposite Johnny Depp as the title Earl of Rochester)
The Glass Menagerie (Tom)
The Changeling (Reverend Briegleb, helping Angelina Jolie get her child back)
Empire of the Sun (the street-smart mentor of a young Christian Bale in a Japanese POW camp)
The Killing Fields (a photojournalist covering Cambodia)
Mulholland Falls (an atomic scientist)
The Real John Malkovich:
Actually, not "Being John Malkovich," though it does provide glimpses into what drove John into living in France and decrying the film profession, though he's no less visible, and is now putting his considerable directing talents to work in his less-favorite medium. The real Malkovich, though, is doing theatre.
Acting Style:
One of the many fascinating things about Malkovich is how he can go from detached, arrogant ennui to homicidal fury and back again in a seamless slide. When he's not an outright villain, he's contemptible or angry enough to keep at a distance. One of the few exceptions to this (and he actually starts out angry) is his award-class role in "Places in the Heart" and, of course, his gentle dim giant in "Of Mice and Men."

All of this adds up to the definitive American Aristocrat. Cast him as an artist, a professor, a serial killer, or any other kind of misanthrope.
Bits and Quirks:
Lots and lots. The strange puffy upper lip, usually with mouth open a bit and either blank or uncomprehending expression. The leer. The really angry leer. Many effeminate gestures that move into both boredom and arrogance (try as he may, he doesn't do much for the depiction of gays on film), combined with a slight lisp and a soft voice. Like many stage actors – and John is one of the best – much of his power comes from his voice control. The soft but intense over-enunciation. The wry tone combined with the leer. The deeply angry and intense half-shouting, also usually over-enunciated, and produced with a gritting, snarling baring of the teeth. The simple stare.
Great Scenes:
Man in the Iron Mask

> Teaching Leonardo DiCaprio to be a king
> The stand-off with the musketeers and the evil brother, DiCaprio
> The final salute

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

> Crawling across the table

In the Line of Fire

> Killing the hunters
> The phone conversation with Eastwood
> The fight in the glass elevator/Refusing Eastwood's offer of help
> The assassination attempt and the chase

Burn After Reading

> In the car with Brad Pitt
> Going crazy at the end

Of Mice and Men

> The finale by the creek
> The fight with Curley
> The puppy

True West

> The debate over the toasters
> The fight over the toasted bread
> The intimidation scene, hitting Sinise on the head

Mulholland Falls

> Meeting with Nolte in his house
> The love scene with Jennifer Connelly

Dangerous Liaisons

> The meeting with Glenn Close in the beginning
> Writing a love letter to Michelle Pfeiffer on the back of a prostitute
> The love scene with Uma Thurman, and the seduction scene
> Breaking up with Michelle Pfeiffer, the "it's beyond my control" speech

Go to the... John Malkovich Bio