John Lithgow received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Roberta Muldoon in The World According to Garp.
John Lithgow portrays a transsexual former football player Roberta Muldoon. In playing a transsexual Lithgow actually tries not to bring that much more attention to it with his actual performance. All of his mannerisms for the part are rather low key and really very handled because of that reason. Lithgow's voice and mannerisms are all fairly simple but realistically portrayed that naturally realize his character. Lithgow's performance never becomes actory which is very important to his character presence in the film.
Roberta's role in the film is that of a completely supporting character, in the sense that Roberta literally provides emotional support to the other character in the film. Yes there are moments where Roberta doesn't just discuss someone else's problems but these scenes are always short and usually just a sentence or two at the beginning or the end of a scene. Lithgow although given very little time in these moments does succeed in showing Roberta to be a fairly average person actually who is seeking happiness. Lithgow though always shows Roberta to be one of the less troubled characters in the film.
Lithgow's although shows that although Roberta does not have perfect happiness, that does not stop Roberta from having a very bright outlook on life that is rather endearing, and provides a nice contrast from some of the more troubled characters in the film. Roberta is always there is offer a kind helping hand throughout the film, and although this is somewhat limited, Lithgow does manage to make the most of it. Everything time Roberta is on screen things do seem to either brighten or ease up a little bit due to Lithgow's charming presence.
I will say after watching the film the first I was a bit surprised to find out Roberta's exact role in the film, as in it was far more limited than I thought it would be. Still Lithgow takes a role that easily could have been very much overacted or very well could been a rather exploitative type of performance, and instead turns Roberta in a very human character. Lithgow as well succeeds in making Roberta add a great deal of heart to the film that was certainly needed.