John Lithgow to star in The Magistrate at National

John Lithgow in real life and how he appears on Gerald Scarfe's poster for The Magistrate Lithgow in real life (l) and how he appears on Gerald Scarfe's poster for The Magistrate (r)

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US actor John Lithgow is to star in the National Theatre's Christmas show, playing the title role in Sir Arthur Wing Pinero's The Magistrate.

The Victorian farce, to be directed by Timothy Sheader, replaces the postponed The Count of Monte Cristo, which Sheader was also due to direct.

Lithgow's films include Footloose and Terms of Endearment. He was also the voice of Lord Farquaad in Shrek.

The Magistrate begins previews at the Olivier Theatre on 14 November.

In recent years Lithgow has been seen in such hit TV shows as 3rd Rock from the Sun and Dexter.

His stage career includes leading roles in such Broadway productions as M Butterfly, All My Sons and Sweet Smell of Success, for which he won a Tony.

In 2007 Lithgow played Malvolio in Twelfth Night for the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon. Two years later he performed his one-man theatrical memoir Stories by Heart at the National.

In The Magistrate, the 66-year-old will be joined on stage by Olivier award-winner Nancy Carroll.

In June the National cancelled its production of The Count of Monte Cristo, saying Richard Bean's adaptation needed "more development time".

Tickets had already been sold for the show, scheduled to run between November and January.

Bean - of One Man, Two Guvnors fame - told the BBC at the time that he "just couldn't get the script to work".

The Magistrate will be broadcast to cinemas as part of National Theatre Live on 17 January.

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