October 19: Happy Birthday Jon Favreau and Jason Reitman


Jon Favreau celebrates his 50th birthday today.  He was living in Chicago, working at local improv theaters, when he was cast in a significant supporting role in Rudy.  He then had a supporting part in PCU, a small role in Batman Forever, and a guest spot on Seinfeld; a bit later in the 1990s he would have a recurring role on Friends.  But it was the 1996 film Swingers, which Favreau both wrote and starred in, that put him on the map:

In the wake of Swingers, Favreau received a few other lead roles in film, such as Very Bad Things and The Big Empty, but appeared more often in supporting parts.  His biggest successes have been in writing and directing.  He made his directing debut with a small-scale crime film, Made, in 2001, and then directed the successful Christmas comedy Elf.

More recently, Favreau has been heavily involved in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  He directed the first two Iron Man films and has been an executive producer on the two Avengers films and Iron Man 3.  This year he directed and co-produced the live-action Jungle Book.

Jason Reitman turns 39 today.  The son of director Ivan Reitman, he began directing and writing short films in the late 1990s, and made a splash with his first feature, Thank You for Smoking, which received a lot of positive attention and several film critics association awards.  His second feature, Juno, was even better received, with four Oscar nominations including one for Reitman as Best Director:

Reitman then directed, produced and wrote his third feature, Up in the Air, which brought him Oscar nominations for all three roles (Best Director, Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay).  His subsequent work has not received as much praise, although Young Adult was well-received.  He currently is an executive producer, and has directed several episodes of the acclaimed Hulu series Casual.

Rebecca Ferguson, who celebrates her 33rd today, received a Golden Globe nominatoin for playing Elizabeth Woodville on The White Queen, and starred in last year’s Mission: Impossible—Rogue NationGillian Jacobs, who turns 34, starred as Britta Perry on Community and currently stars on Netflix’s LoveDesmond Harrington, who is 40 today, was Det. Joey Quinn on Showtime’s DexterCiara Renée, who turns 26, plays Kendra Saunders/Hawkgirl on Legends of Tomorrow and has appeared on Broadway in the musicals The Big Fish and PippinArt Parkinson, who plays Rickon Stark in Game of Thrones, turns 15 today.  Canadian actress Samantha Munro, who celebrates her 26th, starred for four years on DeGrassi: The Next Generation and is now seen on the Canadian series Between (distributed by Netflix outside Canada).

Trey Parker, who turns 47, is best know for his partnership with Matt Stone—the two are the creators of South Park, and also collaborated with Robert Lopez on the Tony-winning hit musical The Book of MormonChris Kattan, who is 46 today, was on Saturday Night Live for seven seasons and a regular on ABC’s The Middle for its first three seasons.  Sunny Deol, who celebrates his 60th, is a major star in Hindi film who has won two Filmfare awards.  Evander Holyfield, who turns 54, was the heavyweight boxing champion of the world for a good part of the 1990s, but may end up being remembered for the time Mike Tyson bit his ear during a bout.  Actress and singer Jennifer Holliday, who is 56, won a Tony for starring in the original cast of Dreamgirls on Broadway and has had a successful career as an R&B and gospel singer.

Bernard Hepton, who turns 91, has a long career as an actor and director in British theater and television.  Fittingly, given another of today’s birthdays, he is probably best-known for playing Toby Esterhase in the BBC miniseries Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Smiley’s PeopleMichael Gambon, who is 76 today, played Albus Dumbledore in the final six Harry Potter films.  Tony Lo Bianco, who celebrates his 80th, played Sal Boca in The French Connection and appeared regularly on Joseph Wambaugh’s anthology series Police Story.

John Lithgow, who turns 71, won three Emmys as Dick Solomon in 3rd Rock from the Sun.  His film career has featured Oscar-nominated performances in The World According to Garp and Terms of Endearment; others may remember him as an out-of-control assassin in Blow Out or an ultra-strict preacher in Footloose.  He can be seen in The Accountant, which is currently in theaters.  On stage, Lithgow is a two-time Tony winner, for David Storey’s The Changing Room and for the musical adaptation of Sweet Smell of Success.

John le Carré turns 85 today.  A former British intelligence officer (given name David Cornwell), he became a full-time novelist after the success of his novel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.  He has written over 20 novels to date, mostly espionage novels known for their realistic feel, their unheroic protagonists, and their moral ambiguity.  His best-known novels may be the “Smiley Versus Karla” trilogy—Tinker Tailor Solider Spy, The Honorable Schoolboy, and Smiley’s People.

Other authors born today include Philip Pullman, who celebrates his 70th.  Pullman is best known for his epic fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials.  Fantasy novelist L. E. Modesitt turns 73; he is the author of The Saga of Recluce, a fantasy series which has run to 18 novels so far.  Andrew Vachss is 74 today.  He is the author of several crime fiction series, most notably the Burke novels, about an unlicensed PI who lives off the grid and battles child abusers.

African-American actress Juanita Moore (1914-2014) is best remembered for her role in Imitation of Life, which brought her an Oscar nomination at a time when it was still extremely rare for African American actors to be so recognized.  Peter Tosh (1944-1987) was one of the core members of the reggae legends The Wailers along with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer.    Harris Milstead, better known as Divine (1945-1988), was an actor, singer and drag queen who worked regularly with indie filmmaker John Waters.  Robert Reed (1932-1992) was known to much of America as Mike Brady of The Brady Bunch, and was also a three-time Emmy nominee for some of his other TV work.  Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown (1876-1948), a Baseball Hall of Famer, was one of the stars of the last Chicago Cubs team to win a World Series (in 1908!).  Emil Gilels (1916-1985) was one of the finest pianists of the 20th Century.  Along with David Oistrakh, he was one of the first Russian musicians allowed to tour in the West after World War 2, and was a master of a wide variety of repertoire.

Auguste Lumiere (1862-1954) was one of the earliest pioneers of the film industry.  Along with his brother Louis, he patented the cinematograph, a combination film camera and projector that allowed movies to be projected on a screen and viewed by more than one person at a time.

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 October 19, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I really liked Swingers a lot. Like, probably more than I should have. It still makes me laugh. The first Iron Man was a lot of fun and perfectly set the tone for the Marvel Universe. Favreau’s been uneven ever since. But even his weaker movies are at least watchable.

    The same cannot be said for Jason Reitman. He had such a great start with Thank You For Smoking, Juno and Up in the Air. All three of those are very solid movies. Young Adult was okay and it’s been all downhill from there.

    When South Park is on it’s game, it is hysterically funny. The good episodes more than make up for the limp ones. I have to admit, I thought Chris Kattan was funny on SNL. I forget who said it, but apparently he was something of a bully to less tenured castmembers. My daughter would be very upset with me if I didn’t wish Dumbledore a happy birthday.

    John Lithgow received the morning “ride into work” shout out from NPR. How many actors can be as silly as Lithgow on 3rd Rock and still do dramatic roles?


    • Marvel Studios Directors – Jon Favreau

      Being a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has given its actors, from Chris Hemsworth to Chadwick Boseman, a major career bump, but can the same be said of its directors? For the next eleven days leading up to the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, I will cover a Marvel Studios director and weigh in on whether their time as a cog in the well-oiled MCU machine has helped to boost their careers.

      First up is Jon Favreau. Favreau is one of the standouts of Marvel Studios’ directors as he was the director of Iron Man, the domino success that singlehandedly paved the way for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and established a second coming of superhero films. Despite the production being legendarily known for not having a script, with Jeff Bridges famously calling it a “$200 million student film,” Iron Man was a smash success in May 2008, making $585 million worldwide and transforming Robert Downey Jr. from a formerly-incarcerated junkie into a bonafide movie star.

      Favreau returned to direct Iron Man 2, but infamously clashed with Marvel. The tension between the director and studio showed in the rushed, uneven and overstuffed sequel. Afterwards, he cashed in his chips to make the science fiction Western mashup Cowboys & Aliens, starring Daniel Craig (Skyfall), Harrison Ford (Blade Runner) and Olivia Wilde (Drinking Buddies) for Universal, which was released in July 2011. The less said about this ill-conceived genre Frankenstein creation, the better. Cowboys & Aliens could generously be labeled a cult classic but it bombed big time, making only $174 million worldwide on a reported $163 million budget. Ouch – that had to hurt.

      From there Favreau regrouped and went back to basics with Chef in May 2014. He directed and starred in foodie dramedy for Open Road Films alongside Sofia Vergara (Modern Family), Bobby Cannavale (Adult Beginners) and John Leguizamo (Ice Age), with Iron Man buddies RDJ and ScarJo making cameos. It was a summer hit and with some juju back in the tank Favreau landed the job to direct the CGI-animated/live-action hybrid adaption of the House of Mouse’s The Jungle Book. The March 2016 film was a critical and commercial success, making nearly a billion dollars worldwide and continuing Disney’s successful streak of adapting their intellectual property (IP). The Jungle Book also netted Disney the Best Visual Effects Oscar at the 89th Academy Awards.

      Career Verdict: 8/10. Despite some minor bumps in the road after Iron Man, Favreau’s directorial career leveled up from work with Marvel Studios. Directing Iron Man and Iron Man 2 most likely opened the door at Disney (which owns Marvel) to direct The Jungle Book. It speaks to an enormous amount of faith in Favreau that Disney has handed him one of the company’s most beloved Renaissance era IPs to work his CGI/Live-action Midas touch on – The Lion King, starring Donald Glover (Atlanta) and James Earl Jones (Star Wars). Favreau also has some interesting projects in development. The Magic Kingdom for Disney once again (I’m guessing he’s a company man now), the Battle for Bonneville, based true story about the drag racers Art and Walt Arfons, and an Untitled NFL project, are all on the backburner.


  2. A little footnote on John Lithgow. He has been married to a UCLA history professor named Mary Yeager for about 35 years. As it happens, Mary Yeager was on my thesis committee in grad school.


  3. Jon Favreau: oh yeah, “Swingers” was money, I liked his role in 2000’s “The Replacements”, I mentioned that I like “Made” before, and I have season one of his “Dinner or Five” show on DVD (the volume is WAY low on those disc though).
    With Jason Reitman, I’ve only seen “Thank You For Smoking” (I want a sequel, titled “Thank You for Chewing”), which I liked quite a bit, and “Juno”, which I thought was a little overrated.
    Yep, that’s where I know Desmond Harrington, from “Dexter”. He essentially replaced Erik King’s James Doakes character, which was a tough spot to fill, and his character had some interesting moment. Harrington also was in a few episodes of “Limitless” (I caught that show a few times when it was on the air), which co-starred Jennifer Carpenter, so that was a fun little nod to “Dexter” for me.
    Speaking of “Dexter”, John Lithgow’s performance as the big bad guy in season four may be a series highlight to some (a he was great, as usual), but I’ve seen in in such a varying degree of projects and characters I wouldn’t know where to begin. Basically, John Lithgow can play about any personality type and be believable.Friendly older banker, Criminal Mastermind, goofy Alien, a split personality, a family man who hangs out with bigfoot, a 30 year serial killer, sure, he’s up for all that.
    I wouldn’t want to be Evander Holyfield for two reasons: boxing isn’t my thing (all this current talk and awareness about concussions, and concussions are a big part of boxing), and I’d never want a piece of one of my ears bitten off.


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