September 10: Happy Birthday Colin Firth and Guy Ritchie
Colin Firth turns 56 today. In the late 1980s he was identified as part of a loosely-defined “Brit Pack” of young British actors starting to become known; others included Daniel Day-Lewis, Gary Oldman, and Tim Roth. His first big role didn’t come until 1995, when he played Mr. Darcy in a BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Supporting roles in a pair of Best Picture winning films, The English Patient and Shakespeare in Love, raised his profile, but he really emerged in 2001, playing another character with the last name Darcy:
After his success in Bridget Jones’s Diary, Firth worked hard for another decade before reaching what is, so far, the peak of his career. At the end of the last decade, he received back-to-back Best Actor nominations for A Single Man and The King’s Speech, winning the Oscar for the latter film as well as a Golden Globe, and winning BAFTA awards for both. Since then, he’s been seen recently trying to find Magic in the Moonlight with Emma Stone, and trying on action hero duties in Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Guy Ritchie turns 48 today. Ritchie came on the film scene almost out of nowhere in 1998—he had been making promo videos for bands—when he teamed with a young producer named Matthew Vaughn to make a low-budget crime film. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, which featured then unknowns like Jason Statham, Jason Flemyng and ex-footballer Vinnie Jones, was a success, and Ritchie then followed up with Snatch, a similar film with a bigger budget and a cast leavened with more recognizable names like Brad Pitt and Dennis Farina. The two films established Ritchie as a director with a talent for crime, complex plots and blackly comic dialogue:
In the years after Snatch, Ritchie seemed to lose his touch, with 3 relatively unsuccessful films in a row. But he had major commercial successes with Sherlock Holmes and its sequel, while Ritchie and star Robert Downey, Jr. received praise for their revisionist take on the title character. His film adaptation of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was less well received, and he is now at work on a King Arthur film.
Joe Perry, who turns 66 today, has been the lead guitarist for Aerosmith for almost all of their four-plus decades together. He has also done some solo projects and was named to Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of all time. Amy Irving celebrates her 63rd today. She made her film debut as Sue Snell in Carrie, and in the early 1980s, seemed to be a bit of a Razzie target. Despite Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, her career never took off. Chris Columbus is 58 today. After starting out writing screenplays for films like Gremlins and The Goonies, Columbus made his directing debut chronicling Elisabeth Shue’s Adventures in Babysitting. He had big hits in the early 1990s with the two Home Alone movies and Mrs. Doubtfire, and then directed the first two Harry Potter films. His being chosen to helm the film adaptation of Rent is still puzzling a decade later. Judy Geeson, who turns 68, began her acting career in British films in her late teens, then moved to television and to the US, where she had recurring roles on Mad About You and Gilmore Girls.
Kate Burton, who is 59 today, is the daughter of actor Richard Burton. She has had a very fine stage and screen career, including three Emmy nominations for her work on Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, and three Tony nominations. In 2002 she was nominated for Tonys in two different categories for her work on revivals of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler (for Best Actress) and of The Elephant Man (for Best Featured Actress). Philip Baker Hall worked for decades in theater and in minor film and television roles, and at 65 years of age suddenly had a small dose of celebrity when Paul Thomas Anderson wrote a lead role specifically for Hall in his film Hard Eight. He subsequently had supporting roles in Anderson’s Boogie Nights and Magnolia. He turns 85 today.
From the “fine arts” world, baritone Thomas Allen celebrates his 72nd birthday. Allen has sung dozens of roles in opera houses all over the world, and has ventured into musical theater (e.g., in Sweeney Todd) and Gilbert and Sullivan. What he is best known for, though, is Mozart; his performances of Mozart baritone roles like Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro, and even more so of the title role in Don Giovanni, are sometimes considered the best in a generation. Dancer Misty Copeland turns 34 today. Copeland did not start her ballet training until she was 13 (considered “too old” in ballet circles) and was sometimes told she had “the wrong body type” for ballet. She proved skeptics wrong when she became the first African-American woman ever named a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre.
Ryan Phillippe turns 42 today. Around the turn of the century, when he was doing films like Cruel Intentions and The Way of the Gun, some might have seen him as a potential star, but these days much of his film work is Direct-to-VOD. Alison Bechdel, the cartoonist for whom the Bechdel Test is named, turns 56. Twin brothers Harry and Luke Treadaway celebrate their 32nd birthdays. Harry starred in the film City of Ember and on the Showtime/Sky series Penny Dreadful, while Luke has been in Attack the Block and Unbroken.
In sports, Arnold Palmer, who had one of the greatest careers of any golfer of the 20th Century, turns 87. Baseball player Roger Maris (1934-1985) played for 12 seasons, but by far the most famous was his 1961 season, when he broke Babe Ruth’s record for most home runs in a single season.
Adele Astaire (1896-1981) was her younger brother Fred’s partner in a 27-year career in theater and vaudeville. Bessie Love (1898-1986) was a film actress in the silent and early sound era; she was an Oscar-nominee for the 1929 film The Broadway Melody. Robert Wise (1914-2005) was a film director, producer and editor. A seven-time Oscar nominee, he won both Best Picture (as a producer) and Best Director for West Side Story, and repeated the dual victory for The Sound of Music.
Edmond O’Brien (1915-1985) was a point-of-view character in film noir classics like The Killers and White Heat, although he tended to be overshadowed by stars like Burt Lancaster or James Cagney in those films. In the 1950s he did a lot of character roles. He won Best Supporting Actor for The Barefoot Contessa and was a nervous, edgy Casca in Julius Caesar. The 1960s found him moving into “oldtimer” roles, although he didn’t turn 50 until the middle of the decade. He won a Golden Globe and was Oscar-nominated for Seven Days in May and played “old” Freddie Sykes in The Wild Bunch.
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 10, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Alison Bechdel, Amy Irving, Arnold Palmer, Chris Columbus, Colin Firth, Edmond O'Brien, Guy Ritchie, Joe Perry, Misty Copeland, Ryan Phillippe. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.