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John Malkovich is an award-winning actor who's known for his roles in films like Places in the Heart, Dangerous Liaisons and Being John Malkovich.
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Born in Illinois on December 9, 1953, John Malkovich did Obie Award-winning stage work before earning an Emmy Award for his role in Death of a Salesman. Malkovich has become a multiple Oscar nominee for films like Places in the Heart and Dangerous Liaisons, in which he portrayed an evil aristocrat. He's also the subject of the surreal 1999 comedy Being John Malkovich, in which he played himself.
"Nothing you do particularly matters. But I'm not sure that's a great excuse for doing it poorly."
Actor, producer and director John Gavin Malkovich was born on December 9, 1953, in Christopher, Illinois, and raised in the nearby town of Benton. Malkovich is one of five children. His father, Daniel, was the conservation director for the state of Illinois and the editor of a conservation magazine, while his mother, J Anne, edited a local paper.
As a boy, Malkovich didn't always have it easy. Because his parents were often away for work, the Malkovich children were often left to take care of themselves. John was overweight, something his older brother often teased him about. Malkovich has claimed, however, that he dropped some 70 pounds at the age of 16 by going on a strict two-month diet of eating nothing but Jell-O.
While his parents hoped their son would go on to become a park ranger in Montana, Malkovich instead enrolled at Illinois State University, where a girl he'd fallen for encouraged him to try out acting.
Malkovich's love for the stage was immediate and in 1976 left school to join the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, which had been founded by a friend of his, Gary Sinise. To keep food on the table, Malkovich, never afraid of hard work, held several different jobs.
"I worked in an office supply store, I drove a school bus, I painted houses, I worked for a Mexican landscape gardening company, picking out weeds," he told The Guardian newspaper in 2001. "And generally when I was doing something it somehow took my interest. In fact, it must be a kind of shallowness: when I did office supplies mostly I thought about office supplies, and then when I got on the train I'd think about theatre, and then I would do theatre. But the next morning I would go in and, you know, reorganize the paper clips."
On stage and with Steppenwolf, Malkovich had a number of memorable performances, including roles in a pair of Sam Shepherd plays, Curse of the Starving Class and True West. The latter helped launch Steppenwolf and earn Malkovich a coveted OBIE award when the performance moved to New York.
In 1984 Malkovich made his Broadway debut and teamed up with Dustin Hoffman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. That same year, he showed up on the big screen in The Killing Fields, playing a hard-scrabbled photojournalist covering the massacres in Cambodia.
But it was Places in the Heart (1984), a Depression era drama in which Malkovich played a blind border, which proved to be the actor's big breakout role. The performance earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor and helped pave the way for work in other films such as The Glass Menagerie (1987) and Dangerous Liaisons (1988).
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