Driving with John Lithgow  

I recently completed production work on a feature film starring a few known (or should be known) actors. Here are the stories of my time with them in lieu of pictures or autographs. 

From the get-go, John and I hit it off. I don’t think this was a exclusive situation either, as he was one of the most genuine, down to earth people I’ve ever met. He felt like a grandfather to me, which made me reminsice of my own. 

First time I brought John back to his hotel, we had been shooting in a BBQ joint near the production office. While I was waiting for him in the car, I realize he may not have known who I was or that I was waiting, so I went inside the location to find him. 

His tall stature was not hard to miss as I looked down the first hallway I found. He had a brown bag in his right hand, and asked if I’ve seen his driver. “That’s me!” I responded. He asked my name and followed me to the van. 

While on the ride home, he asked me if I was a local. I informed him that I am such a serious local that I have our city’s symbol tattooed on my leg. We talked about how Rochester had adopted him as a prodigal son of sorts, calling him a native and reporting of his temporary residency in the area for the film.  

John explained he was born here, and lived here only for a year and a half, but is so flattered by the attention and love shown to him. He asked who were the known people out of Rochester, we spoke briefly of Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Kristen Wiig. He told me that his mother was from here; telling stories of her privileged life including “getting drunk and breaking into the Eastman house grounds.” His son lives in Buffalo, and he explained he had been to upstate probably 4 times in the past several years, one of those times being a one man show he performed at Eastman. 

We spoke of his cancer diagnosis, as well as his marriages and love for his current wife. I mentioned some facts of my life, including that my father makes artisan pens. I had one on me, on the off chance that the conversation organically came to it, which it did. Handing him the one I had, I told him he was welcomed to keep it. “You shouldn’t be so generous!” He kept exclaiming. I told him there’s more from where that came from if he’d have them. He said he’d take whatever pen I’d give him, but that my generosity is not an expectation. 

Pulling up to the hotel he says, “Oh! We are here already?” And thanks me for the ride, conversation, and gift. He tells me he’s going to have a night cap with the whiskey that was in that paper bag and call it a night. “Thanks and good night, Christina!” He says. 

The next day, I wasn’t the one to pick him up, but the production assistant that did told me he was raving about me and the pen that I gave him (which he had carried with him). A PA stated that she learned more about me from John talking about me than from me thus far!

——

Second time I drove him home, it was very late. Getting in the van, we speak briefly about how his day went and some random small talk. I helped him IMDB a person on set, but followed shortly with “Christina, I need to close my eyes.” 

Keeping the radio on classical music, John immediately fell asleep. As we drove up to the hotel, I grabbed his leg and said, “hey, John, we’re here. I’d offer to carry you up to your room but I’m afraid of how that would look.” He chuckled and got himself awake enough to get himself out of the car and into his room. 

“Christina, will you do something for me?” He asked. 

“What’s that?” 

“Christina, get some rest. Goodnight.” And he shut the door and headed to his room. 

————–

I was given the task to pack John’s things from his current hotel and move him to a new one. This was one of my favorite tasks, mainly because I am always excited and proud of my ability to be thoughtful and create a home-like feel. 
While packing his belongings, I came across a hanger that was obviously from a bride- the room must’ve been used as a bridal party ready-room the previous weekend. Since I was focused on simply re-creating his current room in the new hotel, I decided that the bride hanger must come with. I wanted to see if he would say anything about it…..

———-

The next time I saw John, he and I had a solid hour-long drive from set to hotel. “So, how’d you do?” quickly turned into the way I would address him whenever he got in the car. He would always give me a summation of his day, and we would continue on conversation. This ride home, John asked me for restaurant recommendations for dinner. I told him I had made a recommendation link with places in the area he must go to. 

I pulled up the link on my phone and handed it to him, then he went down the list for me to give him a one-sentence description off which he decided on one. 

He called and made a reservation, for one. How freaking classy is that. 

We also spoke of his current lead role in a Netflix series, his opinion of a few actors he has worked with, and would periodically interrupt our conversations to point out places of interest that we were driving through. 

When we got closer to the strathallan and I decided to ask if he “noticed anything that followed him to the strathallan,” referring to the hanger. He thought a minute. Then another minute. Said “don’t tell me.” Then asked what it was. I explained the traveling bridal hanger and he laughed. That made my night. 

…………

-driving John from set to airport for the Emmy’s

-emmy celebration (cake, glass, pen)

-john and Derek drive 1 (spirited convo)

-john and Derek drive 2 (praises and industry talk)

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