Happy Birthday John Malkovich - how actor went from a childhood of violence to one of Hollywood's favorite stars

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By VT

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With five decades of film industry experience and a slew of awards under his belt, John Malkovich has earned his spot as one of America’s finest actors several times over.

On December 9, the Emmy award winner turns 68 - but the beloved star had to sacrifice a lot to get to where he is today; overcoming violence, bankruptcy, and the loss of four family members over the course of his turbulent career.

Malkovich was born into a fairly comfortable middle-class family in Chicago on December 9, 1953. Both of his parents were journalists, and he grew up with three younger sisters and an older brother.

Although he suffered what he described as "violence" as a child, Malkovich thinks there was nothing remarkable about the violence inflicted upon him.

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Credit: JEP Celebrity Photos / Alamy

“You crossed the line and you got a beating,” he told The Guardian in 2020, “That was very common at that time.

“Sure, I had a lot of violence growing up, but so what?”

Sadly, during his teenage years, Malkovich was given the nickname “Piggy” at school due to his size, which prompted him to go on a jelly-only diet and lose nearly a third of his body weight.

He claims to have gotten into acting “by accident” after admitting to only taking drama lessons because he had a crush on a girl in the group, but soon found he had a talent for it.

After dropping out of college he soon became an accomplished stage actor as one of the founding members of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, alongside Terry Kinney, Jeff Perry, and Gary Sinise.

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Malkovich in Of Mice And Men (1992). Credit: Moviestore Collection Ltd / Alamy

After receiving comparisons to Brando in an electrifying stage performance of Sam Shepard’s True West in 1980, Malkovich received his first Oscar nomination just four years later for his portrayal of a blind man in Places in the Heart.

He soon became a household name for his performance in 1988’s Dangerous Liaisons, although it ended up costing him his marriage after his on-screen romance with Michelle Pfeiffer spilled over into real life.

"Dangerous Liaisons is about betrayal and lies and unraveling relationships," explained director Stephen Freres to The New York Times. “And during the movie, [John] was having an affair with Michelle Pfeiffer.

"It was one of those times where reality and art intersect. It was overwhelming to John,” he added. “Even for a man who delights in bad behavior, that was a difficult time."

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Credit: Independent Photo Agency Srl / Alamy

Nevertheless, Malkovich continued to find success throughout the 90s and 2000s with a string of classics (and plenty of duds) including standout roles as a psychotic assassin in the 1992 crime thriller In the Line of Fire and as a fictionalized version of himself in the absurdist comedy-fantasy film Being John Malkovich.

But in 2008, John’s life was upended again after he lost his life’s savings in the Financial Crisis.

“Our then business manager had invested pretty much everything we’d ever made with somebody called Bernie Madoff,” Malkovich told The Guardian.

Madoff was a convicted con artist who ran the largest Ponzi scheme in history - defrauding thousands of investors out of an estimated $64.8bn. He was given a 150-year jail sentence in 2009.

“Everything I’d ever made was gone.”

Over the next five years he was also rocked by a string of personal losses as his mother died, followed by three of his four siblings- all of whom were only in their 50s.

Yet despite life’s hardships, John still considers himself to be one of the luckiest men in the world.

Speaking to the Guardian, he said: “That is how I look at life; I was very lucky. I’ve been luckier than anybody I know.

“Luckier than all of the children in my family, all of whom were more interesting or more talented or smarter than me. So when things have happened that have been sad and difficult, I don’t feel the need to complain about them.”

Happy birthday, John Malkovich! Keep being you!

Featured image credit: Collection Christophel / Alamy

Happy Birthday John Malkovich - how actor went from a childhood of violence to one of Hollywood's favorite stars

vt-author-image

By VT

Article saved!Article saved!

With five decades of film industry experience and a slew of awards under his belt, John Malkovich has earned his spot as one of America’s finest actors several times over.

On December 9, the Emmy award winner turns 68 - but the beloved star had to sacrifice a lot to get to where he is today; overcoming violence, bankruptcy, and the loss of four family members over the course of his turbulent career.

Malkovich was born into a fairly comfortable middle-class family in Chicago on December 9, 1953. Both of his parents were journalists, and he grew up with three younger sisters and an older brother.

Although he suffered what he described as "violence" as a child, Malkovich thinks there was nothing remarkable about the violence inflicted upon him.

size-large wp-image-1263182884
Credit: JEP Celebrity Photos / Alamy

“You crossed the line and you got a beating,” he told The Guardian in 2020, “That was very common at that time.

“Sure, I had a lot of violence growing up, but so what?”

Sadly, during his teenage years, Malkovich was given the nickname “Piggy” at school due to his size, which prompted him to go on a jelly-only diet and lose nearly a third of his body weight.

He claims to have gotten into acting “by accident” after admitting to only taking drama lessons because he had a crush on a girl in the group, but soon found he had a talent for it.

After dropping out of college he soon became an accomplished stage actor as one of the founding members of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, alongside Terry Kinney, Jeff Perry, and Gary Sinise.

size-large wp-image-1263182883
Malkovich in Of Mice And Men (1992). Credit: Moviestore Collection Ltd / Alamy

After receiving comparisons to Brando in an electrifying stage performance of Sam Shepard’s True West in 1980, Malkovich received his first Oscar nomination just four years later for his portrayal of a blind man in Places in the Heart.

He soon became a household name for his performance in 1988’s Dangerous Liaisons, although it ended up costing him his marriage after his on-screen romance with Michelle Pfeiffer spilled over into real life.

"Dangerous Liaisons is about betrayal and lies and unraveling relationships," explained director Stephen Freres to The New York Times. “And during the movie, [John] was having an affair with Michelle Pfeiffer.

"It was one of those times where reality and art intersect. It was overwhelming to John,” he added. “Even for a man who delights in bad behavior, that was a difficult time."

size-large wp-image-1263182885
Credit: Independent Photo Agency Srl / Alamy

Nevertheless, Malkovich continued to find success throughout the 90s and 2000s with a string of classics (and plenty of duds) including standout roles as a psychotic assassin in the 1992 crime thriller In the Line of Fire and as a fictionalized version of himself in the absurdist comedy-fantasy film Being John Malkovich.

But in 2008, John’s life was upended again after he lost his life’s savings in the Financial Crisis.

“Our then business manager had invested pretty much everything we’d ever made with somebody called Bernie Madoff,” Malkovich told The Guardian.

Madoff was a convicted con artist who ran the largest Ponzi scheme in history - defrauding thousands of investors out of an estimated $64.8bn. He was given a 150-year jail sentence in 2009.

“Everything I’d ever made was gone.”

Over the next five years he was also rocked by a string of personal losses as his mother died, followed by three of his four siblings- all of whom were only in their 50s.

Yet despite life’s hardships, John still considers himself to be one of the luckiest men in the world.

Speaking to the Guardian, he said: “That is how I look at life; I was very lucky. I’ve been luckier than anybody I know.

“Luckier than all of the children in my family, all of whom were more interesting or more talented or smarter than me. So when things have happened that have been sad and difficult, I don’t feel the need to complain about them.”

Happy birthday, John Malkovich! Keep being you!

Featured image credit: Collection Christophel / Alamy