John Goodman lent his voice to one of animation’s most famous monsters, but he had his own personal “scarer” as a child. John’s imaginary monster hid under his bed, unlike the closet-dwelling James P. “Sulley” Sullivan from 2001’s Monsters, Inc. and 2013’s Monsters University. “There’s no way one could’ve survived in there with my sneakers alone,” he once joked.
John was born June 20, 1952, in Affton, Missouri, just outside of St. Louis. In high school he indulged his two big loves, football and theater. Following graduation in 1970, he obtained a football scholarship to Southwest Missouri State University. But when he was sidelined by an injury, he changed his major to drama and graduated with a theater degree in 1975.
Thanks to a loan from his brother, the Midwesterner found his way to New York City. He made his way on to the dinner theater circuit, and made ends meet by acting in commercials. In 1979 he worked his way to Broadway in Loose Ends. More roles followed, on stage and then in film, until John received a big break in the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Big River (1985–87). For the role of Pap Finn, he was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical.
His first major film role came in True Stories (1986), which he followed with Raising Arizona (1987). This would mark his first appearance in a Coen Brothers film, but he would soon become a reliable member of their stock company of actors, appearing in Barton Fink (1991), The Big Lebowski (1998), Touchstone Pictures’ O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), and Inside Llewyn Davis (2013).
A trip to New Orleans during college sparked John with a lifelong adoration for the city, where he would return to film The Big Easy (1987) and Everybody’s All-American (1988).
During production of the latter film, he met his wife, a native of the area, and relocated there soon after.
In 1987, John was acting in a Los Angeles stage production of Antony and Cleopatra when an ABC talent scout recruited him to act opposite Roseanne Barr in the sitcom Roseanne (1988–97). John’s character, Dan Conner, a rumpled everyman with a heart of gold, provided a grounded center for the show and earned John a Best Actor award from the Golden Globes in 1993, and seven Emmy nominations from 1989–95. Further Emmy nominations came for his roles in the telefilms Kingfish: A Story of Huey P. Long (1995) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1995).
John appeared as the iconic Fred Flintstone in The Flintstones (1994), and made appearances in such prominent projects such as The Artist (2011), ParaNorman (2012), Argo (2012), and Flight (2012). He has also continued to work in television, appearing on the acclaimed HBO series Treme (2010), on NBC’s Community (2011), and on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006), for which he won an Emmy. John has also hosted Saturday Night Live 12 times.
Among John’s appearances in Disney-produced films are Arachnophobia (1990)— the first Hollywood Pictures film—and Born Yesterday (1993), as well as Touchstone Pictures’ Stella (1990), Coyote Ugly (2000), and Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009).
He has also brought his affable yet booming baritone to a number of animated classics, including Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. (2001) and Monsters University (2013). He voiced Sulley for Disney California Adventure’s Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! (2006). In the realm of hand-drawn animation, John voiced Pacha for the screwball favorite The Emperor’s New Groove (2000) and its sequel, Kronk’s New Groove (2005). He gave voice to longtime favorite Baloo in The Jungle Book 2 (2003) and brought a Louisiana drawl to “Big Daddy” La Bouff in The Princess and the Frog (2009).
John was inducted into the St. Louis Hall of Fame in 1997. He continues to enjoy his adopted home of New Orleans and has aided in recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil spills.