And it’s been that way for 70 years
Only he is really John Malkovich
December 9, 2023, 9:23 a.m
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This actor is such an icon that there was even a film about him: “Being John Malkovich.” But only Americans themselves really know what it’s like to be in their own skin. And this has been going on for 70 years now.
John Malkovich amusingly falls out of character on his milestone anniversary. The Hollywood outsider, who turns 70 on Saturday, has played mostly mysterious characters, despots, agents, murderers and seducers in his long career. Now he is coming to the screen shortly before Christmas in the French comedy “Monsieur Blake at Service”. In it he plays a rich London businessman who, on a trip to France, ends up as a butler in an old country castle due to a mistake, where he courts the lady of the house (Fanny Ardant) and her spoiled cat.
At the Berlinale in February, the film icon impressed in the drama “Seneca – Oder: About the Birth of Earthquakes”. Directed by Robert Schwentke (“The Captain”), Malkovich transformed himself into the Roman thinker and philosopher Seneca, who was also an advisor to the brutal Emperor Nero. Geraldine Chaplin and Julian Sands also appeared in the historical play.
The Brit Sands and the American Malkovich became friends on their first film together, “The Killing Fields” (1984). At the time of the Berlinale premiere of “Seneca,” Sands had been reported missing for weeks after a hike in Southern California. It wasn’t until months later, in June, that his body was found in a mountainous area.
In an interview with British newspaper The Guardian in February, Malkovich described the missing man as his “closest friend.” He reflected on Sands’ disappearance and the recent birth of a granddaughter. “I’ll be 70 in December,” Malkovich said. “Do I have another day, a month, a year, ten years? I have no idea.” Time flies so quickly, said the star, while emphasizing that he doesn’t care whether he leaves a legacy behind.
His film legacy already includes unforgettable performances. He became a star in 1988 as the ice-cold seducer Vicomte de Valmont in “Dangerous Liaisons”. In the Oscar-winning feature film about the unscrupulous intrigues of French aristocrats in the 18th century, he played devious games with Glenn Close and Michelle Pfeiffer.
He was so good as the psychopathic killer in Wolfgang Petersen’s thriller “In the Line of Fire – The Second Chance” (1993) that he earned his second Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. The first came in 1985 for his first major film role in the drama “A Place in the Heart,” starring Sally Field as a farmer’s wife during the Great Depression and Malkovich as her blind lodger.
An outsider in Hollywood
The actor, who was born in a small town in the US state of Illinois, discovered his love for theater while still at school. He appeared on Broadway and in Steppenwolf Theater Company productions long before he came to film.
Malkovich is a Hollywood outsider. The father of two lived with his family for a long time in England and France and often filmed with European directors. In 1985 Volker Schlöndorff brought him in front of the camera together with Dustin Hoffman for the drama “Death of a Salesman” and again in 1995 for the leading role in “The Unhold”.
He has a penchant for unusual stories. In “Being John Malkovich” (1999) he parodied himself. In Spike Jonze’s bizarre and funny directorial debut, the protagonists slip through a tunnel into the actor’s body. There they are allowed to live briefly in the star’s skin. He became a guru in the science fiction cult film “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (2005).
From Steven Spielberg (“The Empire of the Sun”, 1987) to Bernardo Bertolucci (“Sky over the Desert”, 1990) to Woody Allen (“Shadow and Fog”, 1991), well-known directors brought the character actor in front of the camera. In his more than 90 films, Malkovich has never missed a genre.
He was never a Hollywood pretty boy. Malkovich has a gaunt face and an often piercing gaze. But that didn’t limit his variety of roles – in front of the camera and on stage. In 2011 he seduced as an aging Casanova on the stage of the Hamburg State Opera in “The Giacomo Variations”. In 2017, his performance as the dethroned dictator of a fictional country in the musical theater production “Just Call Me God” received long applause at the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie. At the start, Malkovich dared to put on a grotesque appearance – disguised as a cleaning lady, he sneaked onto the stage in a blue coat, plastic slippers and a colorful headscarf over a black lady’s wig.
In 2018, he appeared alongside Sandra Bullock in the post-apocalyptic thriller “Bird Box”, and previously took on hardened killers with Mark Wahlberg in the brutal spy thriller “Mile 22”. As a producer and actor, he also worked on the erotic thriller “Shattered – Dangerous Affair” (2022), co-produced by the German actress Veronica Ferres. Their daughter Lilly Krug played her first leading role in the film as a murderous femme fatale.
In November of last year the trio appeared on “Wetten,dass..?” on. Malkovich told showmaster Thomas Gottschalk about a four-month Jell-O diet. The star said with a stoic expression that he had tried all the colors and lost 35 kilos of weight – and also ate portions of Jell-O with Ferres and Krug in front of the camera.