Born to a family with journalistic roots, John Malkovich originally studied ecology but then later switched to dramatic arts. In 1976 in Chicago, he founded the avant-garde Steppenwolf Theatre Company with Gary Sinise and others fellow students. There he provided acting, directing, and art directing services, and took Obie and Joseph Jefferson Awards for his portrayal of Lee in Sam Shepard’s True West.
He established himself in film with his first role, as blind Mr. Will in the drama Places in the Heart (dir. by Robert Benton); his performance brought him an Academy Award nomination in 1984. Acting alongside Dustin Hoffman, he celebrated success on Broadway as Biff Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, and earned a 1986 Emmy for the television version directed by Volker Schlöndorff.
Malkovich achieved international popularity for his suggestive creation of the scheming Vicomte Valmont in the movie adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos’s novel Dangerous Liaisons (dir. by Stephen Frears). He turned in a gripping performance in the cinematic reworking of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, in which he was once again able to work with acting partner and director Gary Sinise.
Work with other top directors continues to grace his filmography – Bernardo Bertolucci cast him in the drama The Sheltering Sky, he shot the comedy Shadows and Fog with Woody Allen, and he starred in the Coen brothers recent black comedy Burn after Reading. He also appeared as Clint Eastwood’s nemesis in the thriller In the Line of Fire (dir. by Wolfgang Petersen), earning his second Oscar nomination for the role.
Other films include Liliana Cavani’s mystery thriller Ripley’s Game, the melancholic drama Beyond the Clouds (dir. Michelangelo Antonioni and Wim Wenders), and the Proustian adaptation Time Regained (dir. Raoul Ruiz). He has several times taken on projects realized in the Czech Republic – Luc Besson’s historical opus Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc) and a mini-series based on Victor Hugo’s novel Les misérables (dir. by Josée Dayan).
Perhaps screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze have made the most original use of the person of John Malkovich, in the comedy Being John Malkovich, in which the actor “plays himself.”
In 1998, Malkovich founded Mr. Mudd productions with partners Lianne Halfon and Russ Smith, under whose guidance Terry Zwigoff’s Ghost World came into being and competed for the main prize at the 36th KV IFF. In 2002, Malkovich coproduced his own directorial debut, The Dancer Upstairs, starring Javier Bardem. During its decade of existence, Mr. Mudd productions has been responsible for the movies The Libertine, Art School Confidential, and the independent, Academy Award-winning hit Juno.
As part of the tribute to John Malkovich, the Karlovy Vary IFF will present two films – the political thriller The Dancer Upstairs and the documentary Which Way Home (dir. by Rebecca Cammisa), for which he earned production credits.