John Lithgow acted his way out of serving in the Vietnam War by “amplifying” his feelings on the conflict.
The double Oscar nominee has been a cinema staple since the ’70s, studying his craft at England’s London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
During his drama studies, he was called up to serve for his country, but managed to keep out of the action, which devastated the U.S., by acting.
Talking about the federal grant he received to study in England, he said during a chat for Marc Maron’s WTF podcast: “(It kept me out of the war) up to a point, and at a certain point, I was drafted anyway. I just got out of it – pure acting. That’s what it was like back in those days.
“If you stayed in school, you were protected to a point.”
But he was eventually sent a draft notice, forwarded on by his parents in New Jersey, which he tried, and failed, to get out of because of his grant.
John was then made to visit a Royal Air Force base in the U.K. which had a U.S. presence.
“I acted like what I was, I just amplified it. I just said, ‘I have a pathological fear of conflict.’ I had actually attempted to get out of the draft as a conscientious objector because I objected to the war, but they had completely discarded that,” the 73-year-old recalled. “I did cry, I fainted when they drew my blood. I felt so ashamed of myself… it was like I was acting but I wasn’t acting for the right reasons. I wasn’t acting for an audience and telling a story.”
However, in the decades that have followed, the Terms of Endearment actor has regretted his decision to get out of the war.
“That regret has stayed with me,” he sighed. “That moment for a young man, the late ’60s, is like a third rail of American society. You rarely get guys to tell how they got out of the draft, because there is a lingering shame to that, I think.
“And yet in those days, you’d get stoned and tell your hilarious story to everybody. We all had a comic story, like a stand-up comedy routine. Up until then, you were just a nervous wreck, and afterwards you had your war story too, except that it was an anti-war story.”
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