Obituary: John Bottoms, physical actor and Tony nominee left his mark in New York, Boston and Minneapolis [pictured far right in photo]
By Rohan Preston
December 15, 2015
John Bottoms, a Tony-nominated stage and screen actor who was a member of the Guthrie Theater’s acting company in the 1980s and ’90s, died Nov. 22 in Minneapolis, four days after suffering a pulmonary embolism, according to his family. He was 77.
“Besides being a wonderful all-around actor, he was the most gifted physical comedian I’ve ever worked with,” said director Joel Zwick of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” fame. “He could do things with his body that were amazing, and he had a sense of humor that was highly evolved.”
Zwick met Bottoms in 1968, when both worked on “The Young Master Dante” at an off-Broadway house. Zwick invited Bottoms to join him at La MaMa, producer and director Ellen Stewart’s lab for company-developed experimental works. Bottoms was at La MaMa for five years, developing work in the highly physical style advanced by theater theorist Jerzy Grotowski. The company toured the country and Europe with its shows. One of those shows was “Dance Wit’ Me,” staged by Zwick. It went to Broadway, where Bottoms was nominated for a Tony for playing a dreamer. He also appeared on Broadway as clownish servant Launce in “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” directed by Mel Shapiro.
Bottoms also worked for Joe Papp’s Public Theater, acting in the legendary 1978 production of “The Taming of the Shrew” in Central Park with Raul Julia and Meryl Streep. Bottoms later went to Cambridge, Mass., for a memorable 1981 production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.), playing the wise fool Bottom. He was a founding member of A.R.T., the company at Harvard where he also taught acting.
“Johnny made bold choices and he worked them fearlessly onstage,” said actor Mark Linn-Baker, who played Puck in the “Midsummer” production and acted with Bottoms in other shows. “He was self-educated, so he had this wild imagination that came at things intensely and, sometimes, sideways.”
Born: 12/8/1938, Dayton, Ohio, U.S.A.
Died: 11/22/2015, Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A.
John Bottoms’ westerns – actor:
The Traveling Executioner – 1970 (lawyer)
Doc – 1971 (Virgil Earp)
The Long Riders – 1980 (mortician)