September 9: Happy Birthday Michelle Williams and Hugh Grant
Michelle Williams celebrates her 36th birthday today. She began acting at about 13, and her first big role was as Jen Lindley on Dawson’s Creek. She was one of the large cohort of young actors and actresses who first came to notice in the late 1990s in one or more of teen-oriented television series, high school romantic comedies, or hip horror films. Along with Mila Kunis, Williams has had the most successful career of all of this crowd (although the late Heath Ledger was doing well at the time of his death).
There were hints, during her Dawson’s Creek years, that Williams might be the one from that series to make it big, especially her delightful turn in the comic Dick, where her character crushes on Richard Nixon. But her big breakthrough, and her first Oscar nomination, came with the 2005 drama Brokeback Mountain:
Since 2005, for the most part Williams has steered clear of big-budget films, with the exception of Oz the Great and Powerful, preferring smaller, indie-style films. She was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actress for Blue Valentine and My Week With Marilyn, the latter of which brought her a Golden Globe. Other notable films for her have included Wendy and Lucy, which began her working relationship with director Kelly Reichardt, and Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz. She made her Broadway debut in 2014 as Sally Bowles in Cabaret and was a Tony nominee this year for David Harrower’s Blackbird, and she has two more films coming out this fall.
Hugh Grant turns 56 today. He appeared in his first film while still a student at Oxford, and his first major lead role was in a Merchant-Ivory adaptation of E. M. Forster’s Maurice. A variety of film roles followed in the next few years, but Grant was on the brink of abandoning an acting career, when he was sent a script written by his fellow Oxford alum Richard Curtis:
Four Weddings and a Funeral brought Grant a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award. Further collaboration with Curtis has proved fruitful for Grant–they were reunited for Notting Hill and Love, Actually, both written by and the latter also directed by Curtis. But he has also repeatedly sought to avoid being typecast as characters like Four Weddings’ Charles. He has received two additional Golden Globe nominations.
Tom Wopat, who celebrates his 56th birthday, has had a substantial career as a singer and a stage and screen actor. Most audiences who know him probably do so as Luke Duke from The Dukes of Hazzard, or possibly as Jeff Robbins, one of the title character’s two ex-husbands on Cybill. But he has also recorded eight albums, and has been working in musical theater for nearly 40 years. On Broadway, he has appeared as Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, Frank Butler in Annie Get Your Gun, and Billy Flynn in Chicago.
Adam Sandler, who turns 50, is another Saturday Night Live alum who has had a successful film career. His first few films were not big successes, but that began to change with The Wedding Singer, a medium hit from early 1998, which was followed by major hits later the same year in The Waterboy, and the following year with Big Daddy. These two films probably represent Sandler’s commercial peak—I am pretty sure they are his only two films to rank in a year’s top 10 at the box office. Throughout his career, Sandler’s films have gotten mixed-to-negative critical reactions, but more favorable responses from audiences.
Angela Cartwright, who turns 64 today, was middle daughter (of five) Brigitta von Trapp in The Sound of Music and younger daughter Penny Robinson on the series Lost in Space. Composer Eric Serra celebrates his 57th today. He has scored several of Luc Besson’s films as well as Goldeneye, the first of Pierce Brosnan’s Bond films. British actress Julia Sawalha was a star of the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous and in the film adaptation released earlier this summer; she turns 48 today. Henry Thomas was probably the best-known pre-teen in the US when he starred as Eliot in E.T.. He turns 45 today and was recently seen as John Adams in Sons of Liberty.
Canadian singer Michael Bublé, who turns 41, has won 4 Grammys while recording a variety of pop, jazz and easy listening standard through the years. Goran Visnjic, who was on ER for roughly a decade and also appeared in Elektra, celebrates his 44th birthday. Actress and writer Zoe Kazan, the granddaughter of director Elia, turns 33. She was an Emmy nominee for HBO’s Olive Kitteridge. Eric Stonestreet, who is 45 today, is a two-time Emmy winner for Outstanding Supporting Actor for Modern Family. Julie Gonzalo, the Argentine-American actress who was seen in TNT’s reboot of Dallas, turns 35. And Bollywood star Akshay Kumar turns 49 today.
Israeli actor Chaim Topol, who celebrates his 81st, is known to Bond fans as Colombo, Bond’s ally in For Your Eyes Only; some may remember him as Dr. Zarkov from the 1980 film version of Flash Gordon. But most of all, he is known for playing Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. Topol was cast in the original London production of Fiddler, has appeared in revivals on Broadway and the West End and in touring companies, and was chosen over Zero Mostel (who originated the role on Broadway) to play Tevye in the 1971 film adaptation:
Neil Hamilton (1899-1984) had a long film and television career, including playing Harry Holt in the first two of MGM’s Tarzan films with Johnny Weissmuller, but will be remembered as Commissioner Gordon from the 1960s Batman series. Jane Greer (1924-2001) gave a tremendous performance in the 1947 film noir classic Out of the Past, but her career fizzled out (allegedly because Howard Hughes sabotaged it). Cliff Robertson (1923-2011) played John F. Kennedy in PT-109, won an Oscar for Charly, and was Uncle Ben to Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man. Otis Redding (1941-1967) was a rising R&B star who had just recorded a song that was to become a huge hit, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” when he died in a small plane crash.
Two Baseball Hall of Famers were born on September 9, each of whom spent part of his career as a player manager—a manager who is on the team’s active player roster—something that hasn’t been done in baseball since the 1980s. Frank Chance (1876-1924), known as the “Peerless Leader,” spent his best seasons managing and playing first base for the Chicago Cubs. Over the 1906-10 seasons, Chance guided the Cubs to four National League pennants and two world series wins. Frankie Frisch (1898-1973), “The Fordham Flash,” played second base for the New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals in his career, and was the Cards’ player-manager from 1933-37, leading them to the World Series crown in 1934.
William Bligh (1754-1817) was a British naval officer who once commanded a small vessel called the Bounty, which resulted in Bligh becoming known to film audiences by being played by Charles Laughton, Trevor Howard and Anthony Hopkins. Armand Jean du Plessis, better known as Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642) was a French statesman who has also been a frequent film character, often in adaptations of The Three Musketeers, and has been played onscreen by the likes of Vincent Price, Charlton Heston, Tim Curry, Stephen Rea, and Christoph Waltz.
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) was one of the giants of Russian literature in the 19th century. He was the author of the novels Anna Karenina and War and Peace, both classics and both adapted into films multiple times.
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.
Posted on September 9, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged adam sandler, Chaim Topol, Eric Stonestreet, Henry Thomas, hugh grant, Jane Greer, Michelle Williams, Otis Redding, Tom Wopat. Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.