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September 9: Happy Birthday Michelle Williams and Hugh Grant

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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 KitteridgeEric Stonestreet, who is 45 today, is a two-time Emmy winner for Outstanding Supporting Actor for Modern FamilyJulie 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-ManOtis 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.

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Posted on September 9, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.

  1. That’s a day full of birthdays when Adam Sandler is buried in fourth place. I love that you gave Bo Duke a position of prominence. For many years, The Dukes of Hazard was forbidden in our house when I was growing up. My dad had a tendency to prohibit any TV show that he perceived as being popular because of scantily clad women. The Love Boat and Fantasy Island were also off limits. But eventually, I got a little black and white TV in my bedroom. Once that happened, I was finally able to watch the Dukes, a show all my friends had been watching for years. Wouldn’t you know this was right around the time that Wopat and Schneider left the show over contract disputes. Turns out, I wasn’t missing out on much. The Dukes was no A-Team. But as 80’s TV went, it was all right.

    I am years behind on my WTHH to Hugh Grant article. Sorry about that! He’s actually sitting out the latest Bridget Jones which can’t be a good sign for that movie. It’s not like he has something else going on.

    Kids today will never have a movie with the cultural impact of ET. It’s just not going to happen for them. People forget what a massive movie that was at the time. Families went out to see it over and over again.

    For Your Eyes Only and Flash Gordon are two great additions to any filmography. I don’t think I ever sat through Fiddler on the Roof though.

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    • I am, as I’ve mentioned in comments a few times, a musical theater fan, and Tom Wopat’s musical theater career, which is pretty extensive, is one reason I gave him so much attention here. Thankfully, my household did not ban Dukes of Hazzard, so I caught a few episodes now and then. It wasn’t bad, but as you say, no A-team. 🙂

      Fiddler on the Roof, like most musicals, works better on stage than on film. I have watched it a couple of times, and it is worth watching for a fan of musical theater, because like the film version of The Music Man, it preserves a classic performance of the leading role.

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      • Well, I am sorry to say, but I am going to have to VERY STRONGLY DISAGREE WITH BOTH OF YOU. As a kid under the age of 10 back then, there were very few things in this world that truly mattered to me. There was Star Wars, of course. There was my Atari 2600. My local video game arcade. And, The Dukes of Hazzard. In 1980 or 1981 those couple things probably consumed like 95% of my day-to-day thoughts. When you’re 8 or 9 years old, you’re not exactly a deep thinker.

        But I absolutely loved Dukes of Hazzard. Much like Star Wars I bought most of the merchandise back then, toys, trading cards, board games. I wasn’t alone in my appreciation for the show at the time, for the September 1980 to May 1981 tv season The Dukes of Hazzard finished 2nd in the Nielsen ratings for the entire year, only behind fellow CBS Friday night show Dallas. Dukes was a tremendous pop cultural phenomenon back then.

        Just to lose a bit more cred with you guys, I still catch an episode once in a blue moon now and then, and still enjoy the show for what it is. Yeeee-hah.

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        • I lived in KY a short drive from Hazard county. Trust me when I say, Dukes was a big show around here. Every year, they had this big celebration in Hazard, KY. I never went (I wasn’t allowed to watch the show much less make a pilgrimage to Hazard), but I had friends who did. Actors from the show would come and sign autographs. A buddy of mine had a signed picture of Boss Hog he was pretty proud of. Of course my dad wasn’t wrong about one thing. Daisy was the show’s primary lure. Every kid I knew had a massive crush on Daisy Duke and her shorts.

          Since the show was forbidden, I didn’t have the opportunity to get into it at a young, formative age. By the time I got to see the show, the Duke boys had been replaced. Wikipedia tells me that was season five which aired in 1983. Really? The show was already on season 5 in 1983? The show only had two seasons left in it, so I am going to assume that I missed its golden era.

          The A-Team started in 1983. So it started when the Dukes were winding down. What’s more, I already had my 12-inch black and white TV, so my dad couldn’t ban me from getting in on the ground floor. Although I think the A-team with its all-male cast probably would have passed inspection even if I had tried watching it in the living room.

          Speaking of the A-team, today I preordered this:

          I’ll let you know when they have a Dukes of Hazzard set! 😉

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        • The Dukes of Hazzard wasn’t actually based on Hazard in Kentucky (the show took place in Georgia, so Hazzard was a fictional town) but the show creator Gy Waldron, who grew up in the south, was well aware of Hazard, Ky and used the town name for the show, just adding an extra z to the name. I’ve read about how several of the cast members did an appearance in Hazard, Ky. In 1979 when the show premiered the town’s population was a mere 5,500.

          In 1980, at the absolute peak of Dukes’ popularity when the show ranked 2nd most watched for the entire year, several cast members travelled to Hazard, Ky. for an appearance, including the actors who played Daisy, Rosco, Boss Hogg and Cletus. Guess how many fans showed up? 200,000! In a town that held only 5,500 people. According to the former mayor at the time, the town only had enough motel rooms to hold a thousand. I guess that left 199,000 people to sleep in their cars?

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        • Thanks for fleshing that out. 1980 sounds like the right timeline for when my childhood friends would have visited.

          I imagine parking was the real problem. A lot of folks probably just drove in for the day. That’s what my buddies did. I bet people were parked in fields.

          Despite any evidence to the contrary, you’ll find Kentuckians who will fight to their last breath that the show was actually set in our state. I never had a dog in that fight, but supposedly at one of those gatherings someone said something to the effect of “No, the show really takes place here” and that’s the end of the story as far as a lot of locals are concerned. I realize there is probably ample evidence to contradict this theory, but we’re stubborn round these parts.

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  2. I am not a hugh grant fan I think for most part he has little range and just does awkward confused grin but he impressed me in about a boy he showed depth. Since muisc and lyric he pretty much is semi retired his work load has been less

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  3. Over the past summer, I stumbled across an article about an interview Kevin Williamson did sometime back during the first couple of seasons of Dawson’s Creek. I think it may have been a Movieline article, so it might even show up here some day. Anyway, there was a part of it where Williamson started gushing about some of the young performers he had worked with on Dawson’s Creek and his horror film projects—Neve Campbell, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and three of the leads on DC—talking about how talented they were, what great futures he saw for them, and so on. Can you guess which one of the four leads in Dawson’s Creek was not mentioned? Why, the one who has had a bigger and better career than all the rest put together. 🙂

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    • That was a Movieline article. It was prominently featured on their site when they rolled out the archives. I think it still is. The plan is to cover 91 and 96 this year, 92 and 97 next year and so on and so forth. Once the 90s are done, I’ll move into the aughts, so eventually, that article should show up here.

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  4. Michelle Williams bar none the most successful actor of dawson creek great career. Joshua jackson was probaly the biggest name going into dawson creek since he had more success then the other before show he was in might ducks hit films now michelle is bigger name

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  5. And then of course we have the sad note in today’s article, with Otis Redding making it three days in a row we’ve had a talented young singer perishing in a small plane crash.

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  6. Hugh Grant remains the biggest “Really?” actor that hasn’t been covered by WTTH to date. Seriously, Lebeau, What the Hell?

    Thinking back, I have a story that only vaguely ties into Hugh Grant, but what the hell. I’m feeling chatty. I am a huge Star Wars fan, and when it came to the Prequel releases of course I saw each film on opening day, first showing. In May of 2002 came the release of Episode II, Attack of the Clones. Coincidentally a Hugh Grant movie called “About A Boy” released the same day as counter-programming against the sci-fi giant. I had been waiting 3 long years for the SW sequel and went very early in the morning to a movie theatre in downtown Chicago to catch the very first showing. No surprise, even arriving at the crack of dawn at 7am I already found a long line of 300+ people waiting outside. As I found my way to the end of the line I smiled and asked the guys at the end of the line “Excuse me, but is this the line for About A Boy?” I got a couple of good laughs out of those that were awake enough to have heard me. Of course we’re all here to see About A Boy, why else would we all be awake and in line at 7am?

    Much later, when About A Boy released on home video, I finally watched it. Turns out, to my surprise it is actually a damned good movie. I’d go so far as to say it greatly exceeds what you would expect from a Hugh Grant movie. It’s not your typical generic romantic comedy about a guy trying to win over a gal and succeeding. That’s a part of it, but it’s not really the main point of the film as the friendship between Hugh Grant and the young boy takes center stage. Interestingly Grant’s character goes through more of a growth as a human being than the young boy. About A Boy, as a title, could really refer to Grant’s character if you’ve seen the movie.

    About A Boy is funny, very charming, and hey it’s got a very young Nicholas Hoult in his film debut who just about steals the movie, even as Hugh Grant is in top form. The fact that a 12 year old kid in his screen debut practically steals the movie from a legitimately charming and handsome major movie star is almost worth recognition of its own.

    Needless to say that would be the last time I would ever crack a joke against About A Boy.

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    • I am worried that if I finally fulfill my promise to write a Hugh Grant article, you’ll take your leave. Gotta leave you something to look forward to, right?

      About A Boy > Any Star Wars movie after 1983

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      • Trust me Lebeau, come hell or high water I will never leave WTTH. Friendships, relationships, hell even marriages come and go, but What The Hell Happened is forever. That, or when all the ice melts. I can’t swim so I’m going to be in real trouble on that one.

        Let’s hope you get to Hugh Grant before all the ice melts. 😉

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      • Would Henry Thomas make a good WTHHT subject also? Granted, he’s life isn’t as “fascinating” as his “ET” co-star, Drew Barrymore, but I still wonder why he didn’t become a big A-list leading man as an adult? I mean he’s been in movies with Brad Pitt, Leo DiCaprio, and Matt Damon. And he was the heart/soul of one of the biggest movies of all-time “ET”, so he can perform… what’s different then? I’m assuming that Henry Thomas is perfectly content with just being a character actor, who just happened to once upon a time be Elliot.

        http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001794/board/flat/22379721?p=1

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        • 12 Actors Who Were One Hit Wonders

          http://screenrant.com/actors-who-were-one-hit-wonders/?view=all

          HENRY THOMAS (E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL)

          In 1982, Henry Thomas starred in Steven Spielberg’s hit sci-fi film, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial as young Elliott, a boy who befriends a young alien stowaway. The film was a huge hit and is considered a classic today. And while Thomas would continue his career in Hollywood, it would never reach the levels it had hit when E.T was released.

          While he appeared in many films, including Gangs of New York (2002), Dear John (2010) and I’m With Lucy (2002) and will be appearing in the 2015 sequel to Ouija (2014), Ouija 2, it’s safe to say that Thomas’ career fizzled after his appearance in the sci-fi classic.

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        • What Happened To Henry Thomas?

          http://www.femalefirst.co.uk/movies/what-happened-to-henry-thomas-287979.html

          At the end of 1982 Henry Thomas was one of the most recognizable child stars – and that was all thanks to his role as Elliott in E.T.

          Throughout his acting career he has made over forty movies and yet he never had that breakthrough adult acting role.

          The role of Elliott is one of the most iconic of the decade – a lonely boy who befriends an alien and the pair strike up an unbreakable bond.

          E.T. was a critical and box office smash and has grossed in excess of $792 million at the global box office.

          It remains one of Steven Spielberg’s greatest ever films as well as one of the best kid’s movies of all time.

          E.T. was not Thomas’ acting debut as that had come in 1981 with Raggedy Man – which was followed by up TV project The Steeler and the Pittsburgh Kid.

          Throughout the eighties and into the early nineties Thomas balanced acting work with school commitments as he appeared in the likes of Cloak & Dagger and Valmont.

          By the mid nineties he was working more regularly and roles in Legends of the Fall, Fever and All the Pretty Horses came his way.

          The transition from child actor to adult star was straightforward enough for Thomas but he never had that breakthrough performance that really propelled him onto the A-list.

          In more recent year Thomas has appeared in the likes of Without A Trace, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and The Mentalist.

          The role of Tom Wheddon in Dear John has been his biggest movie role but Big Sur is his movie project for 2013.

          He is also set to return to television in TV movie betrayal with Stuart Townsend and James Cromwell.

          But the role of Elliott in E.T. still remains his greatest acting moment in a movie that is as loved now as it was when it was first released.

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  7. I like the kind of career Michelle Williams has had (I’m a big fan of “Dick” and “Blue Valentine”). I viewed “Dawson’s Creek” a few times, and I liked her character the best, because she was from the wrong side of the tracks and came off as street smart.
    Yeah, I had an E.T. plastic toy as a kid, and also screamed my way of the theater (I just didn’t want to be there; I was a brat, and still am:-), but I’ll always remember Henry Thomas in that role (he also did some Atari commercials) as well as 1984’s “Cloak & Dagger” (which I like a lot more than anything E.T. honestly, and the story has a video game bent to it, along with an unrecognizable William Forsythe in the cast). As an adult, I liked Thomas in the 1997 film “Suicide Kings”.
    I had a miniature of The Dukes of Hazzard as a kid, and in the opening credit clip I’d jump my General Lee just like they did, then either my mother or father would carry me to bed (more on my father tomorrow). I’ll always associate Tom Wopat with that show.
    Jane Greer was in the pseudo-remake of “Out of the Past”, 1984’s “Against All Odds” (bearded, football-playing Jeff Bridges in the lead role). I liked her femme fatale part in the original more than Rachel Ward later on, but then again, I think “Out of the Past” is better than “Against All Odds”.
    France Chance was a Chicago Cub when they last won a World Series; they have a chance this year. I mean, not winning since 1908 is a long time, so time to wake up those echoes.
    Cliff Robertson really had a stacked filmography; I remember him best playing Hugh Hefner in “Star 80”.

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    • I don’t know of anyone familiar with both movies who doesn’t think Out of the Past is quite a bit better than Against All Odds; however, it was nice that Jane Greer got a cameo (as Rachel Ward’s mother, no less) in the remake.

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      • I figured as such; I was being a bit generous towards “Against All Odds”, because I kind of like it, although out of the five films Jeff Bridges was in that were released between 1984-1986 (this, “Starman”, “Jagged Edge”, “The Morning After”, “8 Million Ways to Die”), it’s my least favorite.

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  8. Michelle Williams is one of my favorite actresses- one of the very few A-listers who’s a thespian more than a professional celebrity, just quietly doing great work without treating her life like a commodity. In the Dawson’s Creek heyday, all the fuss was being made over Katie Holmes and somehow the praise passed over Michelle Williams, but I always found her to have a gratingly twee quality about her. To this day, I feel like she’s still playing Joey Potter in every single role. Williams has subtlety. She sorta melts into her roles, like Jennifer Jason Leigh.

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  9. thats right during the show all the hype was to katie holmes people thought she would be big.

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    • And she was. She had a good start. Pieces of April created the impression for some that Katie Holmes was on to great things (although to me her character was just Punk Joey Potter)but that turned out to be the fluke in her overall catalogue of work. Her work went down, both in terms of volume and quality, after her marriage to Tom Cruise. She’s as or more famous than Michelle Williams, but not because of her work, unfortunately.

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  10. I like “Pieces of April”, but yeah, it seems her career hasn’t quite been the same since the marriage to the Cruise cruise.

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    • When she played the murdered girl in that thing with Cate Blanchett, she really wasn’t very good at all. The accent was particularly bad. I can’t really think of anything else she was besides Pieces of April that she was especially good in. No…wait- Thank You For Smoking, she was fairly good in that. But it seems to me that she lacks the ability Williams has to shed her persona. Lots of actors can speak lines convincingly and make the appropriate facial expressions and body language; only a few actors have the ability to really transform into another person, such that you forget you’re watching The Brand Name Actor and only see the character.

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      • What you’re describing is the difference between a movie star and an actress. Williams has more range, obviously. Holmes had more movie star potential, but that got sidelined when she accepted the job of being Tom Cruise’s future ex wife/hostage. Now that she’s past that stage of her life, she can work again. But her movie star days are over. She’s famous enough that she will always be able to find work, but it won’t be leading roles in big mainstream movies any more. I’m guessing she has financial security, a daughter she loves and a big fat non-disclosure agreement that will prevent her from ever spilling the beans on life with Tom. Not to mention she will forever be looking over her shoulder fearing that the cult might decide to pull a Nicole Kidman on her.

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  11. before her marriage to tom cruise its not like she appeared in many hits anyways

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    • Well, in fairness, Nicole Kidman was still pretty much starting out when she and Tom Cruise married (roughly around the same time that they did “Days of Thunder”). So it’s really hard to judge Nicole’s box office track record leading up to that.

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      • I’m sorry, I just realized that you’re actually talking about Katie Holmes! :/

        http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0005017/board/thread/247831436?d=248530053#248530053

        Unfortunately, I have to agree. She really looks awful — perhaps her weight is too low — but the dark circles around her eyes, sunken cheeks and the unbelievably ugly braces on her teeth make her look likes she’s “been rode hard and put away wet”. She was a talented, darling gal in “Pieces of April” and “Thank You For Smoking” — but 7 years around Tom Cruise took far many more years away from both her looks and her youthful spark.

        I’m so sorry to see her having somewhat given “the best years of her life” to being with Tom and living in his extremely distorted,
        dysfunctional world of Scientology fantasy. I truly hope she can get someone to work with her to bring her spirit back to life — her eyes and face just look DEAD in most of her scenes.

        I’m pulling for her and honestly feel sad at how far off the path she seems to have strayed. Scientology is an incredibly dangerous, obsessive belief system that overwhelms the lives
        of a great many people. She looks like she has had the marrow sucked out of her bones . . .

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    • Katie Holmes was never really an A-lister. She was popular for being on “Dawson’s Creek”, and she headlined several movies, but none of them were really big. She co-starred in Batman Begins, but that wasn’t a vehicle which was driven by her. At this point, she’s more famous for being iconic and for being Tom Cruise’s wife, rather than for any work she’s done.

      Michelle Williams would be closer to being A-lister because, while not a box office draw, she’s already earned three Oscar nominations.

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