August 11: Happy Birthday Chris Hemsworth and Hulk Hogan
Australian actor Chris Hemsworth turns 33 today. He got his start working in Australian television, notably a 3-year gig on the long-running Aussie soap opera Home and Away. He made his entry into Hollywood cinema playing George Kirk in the Star Trek reboot, and then was cast as the muscular gentleman pictured above. He has played the mighty Thor in four Marvel Cinematic Universe installments thus far, with, apparently, three more in the offing in the near future (Thor: Ragnarok and the projected two parts of Infinity Wars).
Hemsworth has also portrayed Eric the Huntsman in Snow White and the Huntsman and its prequel/sequel Winter’s War, and has made films with directors Ron Howard (Rush and In the Heart of the Sea) and Michael Mann (Blackhat). Although it would be tempting to dismiss him as merely a hunk, it takes at least a little in the way of acting chops to be convincing when tossing off lines like this:
While Hemsworth’s most famous character had a big brawl with The Hulk in The Avengers, Terry “Hulk” Hogan got his ring nickname—or so the story goes—when he was at some public appearance with bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno, and someone told him “You’re bigger than the Hulk.” It’s a nice story, at any rate.
Hogan, born Terry Gene Bollea in 1953, dropped out of college to start a band. A pair of pro wrestlers heard the band and, impressed by Hogan’s physique, encouraged him to become a pro wrestler. He started out pretty small-time but began to become better-known; in the early 1980s his profile was raised when he had a small part in Rocky III as “Thunderlips,” a pro wrestler who has an exhibition against Rocky (“The Ultimate Male vs. the Ultimate Meatball”). From then it was a short time until this:
In some ways Hogan was the right man at the right time. Pro wrestling has always ebbed and flowed in popularity in the US; the 1980s, the era of the proliferation of cable TV and pay-per-view, are sometimes called pro wrestling’s Golden Age. And Hogan, with his outsize TV personality and charisma, was the ideal man to be the face of that Golden Age. Over the years, he has periodically branched out into other media–guest appearances on The A-Team opposite his buddy Mr. T, a series of his own in the early 1990s, later still a reality series.
British actress Sophie Okonedo, born this day in 1968, paid her dues in the 1990s with a lot of work in British television and modest film roles before getting a sizable role in the critically acclaimed Dirty Pretty Things, opposite Chiwetel Ejiofor and Audrey Tautou. She followed this up with an Oscar-nominated performance in Hotel Rwanda. She has continued to receive critical acclaim for her film work and also won a Tony for her part in the 2014 revival of A Raisin in the Sun.
Ian McDiarmid is best known in the US for playing Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine in four of the Star Wars films (plus having his voice edited in to recent releases of The Empire Strikes Back); however, most of his career has been spent on stage. He had a lengthy tenure with the Royal Shakespeare Company—his Shakespeare roles have included Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and Don John in Much Ado About Nothing—and later with the Almeida Theatre, where he was co-artistic director for 12 years. He is a recipient of both a Tony Award and an Olivier Award (British equivalent of a Tony). He turns 72 today.
Arlene Dahl, a fairly successful leading lady of the 1950s, turns 91 today. She frequently was a heroine in action/adventure films like Journey to the Center of the Earth, and after her retirement form film became a successful marketing executive.
Other prominent birthdays today include Viola Davis, who turns 51. The stage and screen actress, a two-time Tony winner and two-time Oscar nominee, can currently be seen as Amanda Waller in Suicide Squad. Embeth Davidtz, who also turns 51, has screen credits that range from Schindler’s List and Bridget Jones’s Diary to the Amazing Spider-Man films. Screen and voice actress Alyson Stoner turns 23; she voices Isabella and Jenny on Phineas and Ferb. Will Friedle, who had a long run as Eric Matthews on Boy Meets World, is also doing a lot of voice work these days; he celebrates his 40th birthday today. Two-time Emmy winner Anna Gunn from Breaking Bad turns 48 today. And Sri Lankan actress Jacqueline Fernandez, one of the most popular actresses in Indian cinema, turns 31.
Depending on which source you read, 6-time Oscar nominee Norma Shearer was born on either August 10 or 11 in 1902. Since today is a little bit thinner for birthdays, I’m putting her in this article. There was a time when she was best remembered for “prestige” pictures like The Barretts of Wimpole Street or Marie Antoinette, but many film scholars and buffs today focus on her pre-Hays Code pictures like The Divorcee or A Free Soul, where she portrayed women who were unusually independent and liberated for that era.
Durable actor Lloyd Nolan was born the same day as Norma Shearer (or one day later) in 1902. I remember him for playing FBI agent George Briggs in two mid 1940s crime films, The House on 92nd Street and The Street With No Name (the two films were unrelated other than in Nolan’s presence and in being made with the cooperation of the FBI, which means they were out to make the FBI look good). He was also a memorable bent cop opposite Robert Montgomery as Philip Marlowe in The Lady in the Lake. That’s the essence of Nolan’s career–no big blockbusters, but lots of solid work in genre films.
Alex Haley’s novel Roots, and the ABC miniseries adapted from it, were big events of the 1970s. The miniseries was the first introduction that many Americans had to African-American performers like LeVar Burton, Louis Gossett, Jr., Ben Vereen and Leslie Uggams (recently seen in Deadpool). It was one of the two cultural events of 1977 that I can remember everyone knowing about and talking about (the other being Star Wars, of course).
If today is your birthday, congratulations on sharing your big day with these notable names. Birthday wishes to everyone celebrating a big day today. Come back tomorrow for more celebrity birthdays.