September 15: Happy Birthday Tom Hardy and Tommy Lee Jones


Tom Hardy turns 39 today.  His acting career began in 2001, playing a pair of soldiers, PFC John Janovec in the miniseries Band of Brothers, and as Specialist Lance Twombly in Black Hawk Down.  He then played the Romulan leader Shinzon in the box office and critical failure Star Trek: Nemesis, which might have temporarily slowed his career down.  He began to emerge as a star with a scene-stealing supporting role in Christopher Nolan’s Inception:

Highlights of Hardy’s busy career since Inception include playing Ricki Tarr in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, and the eldest Bondurant brother in Lawless.  His 2015 was very productive, as he starred in Legend as both of the infamous Kray twins, was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for The Revenant, and brought Max Rockatansky back to the screen in Mad Max: Fury Road.  He reunites with Christopher Nolan for next year’s Dunkirk.

Tommy Lee Jones celebrates his 70th today.  After attending Harvard, where one of his roommates was future Vice President Al Gore, he began a stage and screen acting career in 1970.  He was nominated for a Golden Globe for Coal Miner’s Daughter and won an Emmy for playing convicted murderer Gary Gilmore in The Executioner’s Song.  He won further praise for playing a retired Texas Ranger in Lonesome Dove, but attained stardom when he moved up to be a US Marshal:

Jones career has continued to be busy since he won his Oscar for The Fugitive.  Among his best known roles are Two Face in Batman Forever, Agent K in the Men in Black films, Ed Tom Bell in No Country for Old Men, grieving father Hank Deerfield in In the Valley of Elah (getting a Best Actor nomination), and Col. Chester Phillips in Captain America: The First Avenger.  In 2012 he played two famous historical figures, Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln and Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Emperor, getting a third Oscar nomination for the former.  He made an impressive directing debut with The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, and can currently be seen in a small role in Mechanic: Resurrection.

Jones also appeared in films directed by two men who appear in this article, Oliver Stone (JFK and Natural Born Killers) and Ron Shelton (Cobb).

Oliver Stone, who also turns 70 today, is a three-time Oscar winner: for Best Adapted Screenplay for Midnight Express, and for Best Director for Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July.  For about ten years, from 1986-95, Stone was one of the most high-profile filmmakers around—often controversial, but a major force in the industry without a doubt.  Besides the two films that brought him his Oscars and the aforementioned JFK and Natural Born Killers, in this period he directed films such as Salvador, Wall Street,  and Nixon.

Ron Shelton, who celebrates his 71st, played minor league baseball in the Baltimore Orioles system for five seasons, before moving on to much greater success making movies, many of which were about sports.  In addition to the already mentioned Cobb (a biopic about Baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb), he directed, and wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for Bull Durham, also a baseball film.  He has also directed and/or written films about street basketball (White Men Can’t Jump), college basketball (Blue Chips), golf (Tin Cup) and boxing (Play It to the Bone).  His non-sports films include Blaze and Hollywood Homicide.

Carmen Maura turns 71 today.  The Spanish actress is a four-time Goya Award winner (Spanish Oscar equivalents), and has worked many times with legendary Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, on films such as Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Volver. Also celebrating her 71st is soprano Jessye Norman, a four-time Grammy winner who, while performing roles that ran the gamut of the operatic repertoire, was especially renowned as one of the finest Wagner sopranos of our time.

Dave Annable, who celebrates his 37th, starred on ABC’s Brothers & Sisters, and was recently featured in the short lived series HeartbeatChelsea Kane, who turns 28 today, is one of the stars of Baby Daddy, which airs on Freeform (formerly ABC Family).  Matt Shively, who plays Jimmy on ABC’s The Real O’Neals, turns 26.  Tom Austen, who is 29 today, stars as Jasper Frost on the E! series The RoyalsPete Carroll, who turns 66, is one of only three football coaches ever to win both a Super Bowl and an NCAA championship.

Merlin Olsen (1940-2010) was a football star as a defensive lineman at Utah State and with the Los Angeles Rams of the NFL.  He is a member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.  After retiring from football, he went into acting, joining the cast of Little House on the Prairie for four seasons, then starring in his own show as Father Murphy.  He combined that with broadcasting, becoming a regular color commentator for NBC sports on pro and college football, usually teamed with Dick Enberg.

Today’s trivia question: The LA Rams defensive line during much of Olsen’s career was known as the Fearsome Foursome.  Does anyone know the other three members of the original “Foursome?”

Jackie Cooper (1922-2011) was nine when he became the first child performer nominated for an Oscar, for Skippy.  He was later a TV production executive with Columbia’s Screen Gems division and played Perry White in four Superman films.  James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) was no relation to Jackie that I know of; his novel The Last of the Mohicans has been filmed multiple times, most notably in 1992 by Michael Mann.  Fay Wray (1907-2004) appeared in over 100 film and TV roles, but will always be remembered as Ann Darrow, the woman caught in King Kong’s clutches in 1933.  Margaret Lockwood (1916-1990) spent almost all of her career in British cinema, most memorably as Iris Henderson, the spirited heroine of Hitchcock’s The Lady VanishesBob Anderson (1922-2012) was an English Olympic competitor in fencing who went into film and became noted for his skill at training actors to use the sword and at choreographing the swordplay in films like The Princess Bride and the Lord of the Rings films.

Jean Renoir (1894-1979) was eulogized by Orson Welles—who knew a bit about directing films—as “the greatest of all directors.”  You could easily find a dozen or more similar comments from directors, critics, and so on.  He made a number of masterpieces but I would suggest getting to know him through three great films he made from 1937-1939: Grand Illusion (probably the most accessible), The Human Beast, and The Rules of the Game (the greatest but also the most challenging for the viewer).

Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976) was one of the greatest writers of mystery fiction of all time.  She wrote over 70 novels and dozens of short stories, created two of the most famous fictional detectives ever in Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple, and developed many of the standard tropes for mystery and detective fiction.  Her works have been adapted to other media too many times to count; perhaps the best and most faithful are the BBC productions of several Miss Marple novels starring Joan Hickson, and the British television productions of the Poirot novels and stories starring David Suchet (at least until the producers started trying to “improve” the plots).

In music, Bruno Walter (1876-1962) was one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century, first in his native Germany until the Nazis rendered that country uninhabitable for decent people, then in the US, where he became a citizen and lived until his death.  Cannonball Adderley (1928-1975) was a great jazz saxophonist, known both for his solo work and as a part of Miles Davis’s band.  And Roy Acuff (1903-1992) was one of the most important figures in mid-20th century country music, both as one of the first great star singers within the genre, and on the business side, as a publisher who dealt honestly with other musicians.  One of Acuff’s best known numbers was the “Wabash Cannonball:”

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 15, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. We’re back in sync with NPR who wished Tommy Lee Jones a happy 70th this morning. Both of our headliners have played Batman villains. While Hardy’s Bane showed promise, he couldn’t help but be a bit of a disappointment following Ledger’s Joker. The less said about Jones in Batman Forever, the better! Both are terrific actors at very different points in their careers.

    Oliver Stone is one of those directors who is clearly very talented. And yet, the majority of his movies fall short for me. Often times, Oliver Stone movies feel like a collection of good ideas that aren’t assembled into a cohesive movie. Or he will take on a controversial subject and deliver a surprisingly safe, conventional movie. (See “W”.)

    Both Stone and Ron Shelton have worked with Jones which isn’t surprising given the breadth of Jones’ career. I’m not a sports movie guy, but Shelton has made a few I genuinely enjoy. I watched Bull Durham over the summer and it still holds up.

    As a fan of Donner’s Superman, I have a fondness for Jackie Cooper. He was the right Perry White for the tone of those movies. And I mean, what can you say about Fay Wray. Iconic.


  2. Mad Max: Fury Road stands as my favorite film from last year. I’ve caught up with a few of the other Best Picture nominees from last year (Spotlight, The Big Short, etc) and as terrific as they were in my mind they don’t hold a candle to Mad Max. It’s virtuoso filmmaking. Nothing so far from this year even comes close.


    • Agreed. 20 years from now when all the “serious” Best Picture contenders from 2015 are largely forgotten, people will still be talking about and watching Fury Road. It was that good. It’s as close to a perfect action film is you are going to find.


      • While I really enjoyed Fury Road on the big screen, I got diminishing returns on my TV at home. The art direction, costumes, editing, cinematography, etc were all still obviously far superior to 99% of most action films, but the simplistic storyline and characters were more obvious the second time around. I’m not sure it’s one I’ll feel compelled to watch all the way through in future years, though if I run across some action scenes on cable I’ll stop and enjoy some of that.


        • It definitely plays better on the big screen. That’s true of all movies in the genre. The story is bare bones, but I’m fine with that given the superior execution. Were the characters simplistic? Not for an action movie. I thought they had more depth than you usually get in this kind of picture. Obviously, they are too busy trying to kill each other to be explored too deeply.

          So far, I have only watched the movie twice. Once on the big screen and once at home. While any big spectacle is going to lose something in the transition, I actually was surprised by how well Fury Road held up. Compare this to my recent (failed) attempt to sit through The Force Awakens a second time and I come away with a startling contrast. I’m not one who watches movies over and over again and it may be a few years before I sit down to watch Fury Road a third time. But I will rewatch it. I am debating deleting The Force Awakens off my DVR because I’m not sure I can make it all the way through.


  3. Jones is a great actor but huge jerk on the set and in interviews. I have seen him in interviews and he thinks he above every quesiton interviewers ask. The interviewers where not even asking insulting questions. During interview for men in black 2 an interviewer asked if jones belived in aliens he was very sarcastic with interviewer talked to him like an idiot. Plus from what i heard he is grumpy on set. He is one of my favorite actors but he has a massive chip on his shoulder acts like he is smarter then everyone else.


  4. Some very big names today. The two headliners were pretty much self-selecting, but you also have some others with very big cultural impacts. Renoir is one of the giants of film, not just in France but worldwide. Agatha Christie is estimated to be one of the two biggest-selling authors of all time (along with one W. Shakespeare) and probably had as much popular cultural impact as any author of the 20th century. Fenimore Cooper, for all his flaws, could be said to be one of the inventors of the “Western” as a genre. And we have the “King of Country.” Or one of them, anyway.


  5. I’m a football guy (this mungro likes football), so here is the original fearsome foursome: Rosey Grier (I’ve heard different accounts on if Pam Grier and him are related, so I don’t know, but I say no), David “Deacon” Jones, Merlin Olsen, and Lamar Lundy (who’s name always makes me think of the actor Carl Lumbly). They all seem/seemed like pretty interesting guys, and I loved Olsen’s flower commercials from back in the 1980’s.
    That screenplay for “Midnight Express” had to be something, because I thought the film sure was (I feel Brad Davis did a great job in the lead role, and he’s an actor I learned more about in the last few months).


    • And we have a winner on the Fearsome Foursome question. I have no idea if Rosey Grier was related to Pam, but he did have a bit of an acting career, largely guest roles on television.


      • Yeah, I’ve seen Rosey Grier here and there on TV & films through the years, but I associate him most with being a minister (ha, he had a voice cameo, giving a sermon about the “wandering” Oakland Raiders, in that “The Simpsons” Super bowl episode that I believe also included Dolly Parton). I do know that one of his favorite activities used to be needlepoint; that’s pretty different!


      • Rosey (Roosevelt) Grier is Pam Grier’s cousin. When Pam first moved to LA, she stayed at her aunt’s house.


  6. Why we never got to see an Inception sequel

    Given its conceptual boundlessness, many audiences hoped Christopher Nolan’s Oscar-winning Inception would spawn a full-on franchise. After all, didn’t Tom Hardy’s character tell us all not to be afraid to “dream a little bigger, darling”? The curveball—or, should we say, spinning top—ending left a lot of viewers hoping for some real resolution by way of a follow-up film, but it just hasn’t happened … yet. Here’s why we haven’t seen an Inception sequel.


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