October 20: Happy Birthday Danny Boyle and Viggo Mortensen


Danny Boyle celebrates his 60th birthday today.  He began his directing career in British theater, with the Royal Court Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company.  He didn’t make his first film, the black comedy Shallow Grave, until he was nearly 40; it won the Alexander Korda Award for Best British film at the BAFTA Awards.  He followed that one up with another black comedy, about a circle of heroin users in Edinburgh:

Trainspotting was nominated for three BAFTA awards including another Korda award.  After yet another blackly comic film, A Life Less Ordinary, he began branching out into other genres, including apocalyptic thriller/horror (28 Days Later) and sci-fi thriller (Sunshine).  His 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire was a huge financial and critical success, winning eight Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director.  He directed last year’s Steve Jobs and recently finished T2, a sequel to Trainspotting, which will be released next year.

Viggo Mortenson turns 58 today.  He made his film debut in a small role in Peter Weir’s Witness.  In the 1990s he kept very busy, sometimes making as many as five films in a year, generally in supporting roles which grew larger as the decade went on.  He appeared in a pair of military action thrillers, Crimson Tide and G. I. Jane, and a pair of Hitchcock remakes, Gus Van Sant’s Psycho and Andrew Davis’s A Perfect Murder (pretty much Dial M for Murder with a few details changed).

In 1999, Mortensen was offered the chance to replace Stuart Townsend in a major role in a fantasy film trilogy to be filmed in New Zealand.  He might not have accepted the part had his son not been a Tolkien enthusiast:

After his success as Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Mortensen might have gone on to become a major action hero, but except for Hidalgo he hasn’t done so.  He has appeared in a number of critically acclaimed films over the past dozen years or so.  In particular, his three films with David Cronenberg—A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, and A Dangerous Method—have brought him a number of accolades, including an Oscar nomination and a pair of Golden Globe nominations.  He has also found time over the course of his career to publish several volumes of poetry and photography.

John Krasinski, who turns 37 today, was one of the stars of the US version of The Office, and was seen earlier this year in Michael Bay’s 13 HoursDan Fogler, who turns 40, won a Tony (Best Featured Actor in a Musical) in his Broadway debut in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and will be seen next month in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (from J. K. Rowling’s book).  Katie Featherston, who is 34 today, has starred in several of the Paranormal Activity series of horror films.  Hunter King, who celebrates her 23rd, won two Daytime Emmys for her work on The Young and the Restless and is now in the regular cast of CBS’s Life in PiecesAlberto Ammann, who turns 38, won a Goya award in his debut in the Spanish film Cell 211 and is now featured in the Netflix series Narcos.

William Christopher, who is 84 today, paid his dues for nearly a decade in TV guest star roles before landing the role of Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H, a role he reprised on AfterMASHMelanie Mayron, who celebrates her 64th, was a three-time Emmy nominee for thirtysomething (winning Outstanding Supporting Actress in 1989) and these days is a busy TV director, working on Jane the Virgin, Pretty Little Liars and other series.  William Zabka, who is 51 today, may be remembered by 1980s audiences as  the bully Johnny Lawrence from The Karate Kid or Scott McCall from The Equalizer; he also produced and wrote the Oscar-nominated short film Most.

Rapper Snoop Dogg (given name Calvin Broadus) turns 45 today.  After being featured on fellow rapper Dr. Dre’s album The Chronic, Snoop Dogg had a very successful decade in the 1990s, with his first three albums all reaching #1 on the Billboard 200.  He has been less successful since, although his 2004 single “Drop It Like It’s Hot” became his first #1 hit.  Rocker Tom Petty, who is 66 today, was one of the key “heartland rock” figures to emerge in the 1970s.  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (how his band is virtually always billed) have sold over 80 million records worldwide.  Like fellow heartland rocker Bruce Springsteen, Petty has been more successful with albums than singles; what may be his best known song did not even chart in its initial release:

Other notable music birthdays, past and present, include Wanda Jackson, who turns 79 today.  She was one of the first prominent women in rockabilly and rock and roll, and later transitioned into a successful country star.  Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941, given name Ferdinand La Mothe) was a successful ragtime pianist who went on to be one of the early pioneers of jazz; his “Jelly Roll Blues” is often identified as the first published jazz composition.  Thomas Newman, who turns 61, is one of the famed Newman family of film composers.  He is a 13-time Oscar nominee, having been nominated for the scores of films like The Shawshank Redemption, American Beauty, Finding Nemo and Skyfall; he has never won but has received several Grammys.  Charles Ives (1874-1954) was the first great American composer of symphonic and chamber music.  His symphonies and other compositions are noted for incorporating themes from American hymns and popular tunes.  Relatively unknown during most of his lifetime, his music became more popular when championed by American conductors Leonard Bernstein and Michael Tilson Thomas.

Mickey Mantle (1931-1995) was a 16-time All-Star in his career with the New York Yankees, a 3-time American League MVP, and led the Yankees to 7 World Series titles during his career.  He was elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1974.  Another Baseball Hall of Famer is Juan Marichal, who turns 79 today.  He spent most of his career with the San Francisco Giants, and posted more wins during the 1960s than any other pitcher.

When Bela Lugosi (1882-1956) was a big success in Universal’s Dracula in 1931, the Hungarian-born actor became a mainstay of the studio’s horror films.  He tried in vain to avoid being typecast, and a battle with addiction to painkillers made studios more and more reluctant to cast him at all.  Jerry Orbach (1935-2004) is remembered by many for playing Lennie Briscoe on Law & Order for 12 seasons.  He also had a terrific career in musical theater, receiving four Tony nominations and winning Best Actor in a Musical for Promises, PromisesDame Anna Neagle (1904-1986) was one of the most popular film stars in Britain for nearly 20 years; she played Queen Victoria in a two-film biopic series, and also had a distinguished stage career.  Earl Hindman (1942-2003) is probably best remembered as Wilson W. Wilson, the Taylor family’s next-door neighbor in Home Improvement.  The late Bill Nunn (1952-2016), who passed away just a few weeks ago, was a noted character actor who made a memorable impression as Radio Raheem in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing.

Jean-Pierre Melville (1917-1973) was one of the most influential post-World War 2 French directors.  He took the name “Melville” during the war, as a member of the Resistance, and continued to use it as a director.  He first made his mark with the 1956 film Bob le flambeur, which introduces many of the trademarks of his work: criminals with complex heist schemes (which seldom if ever work as planned), a consistently noirish atmosphere, and police detectives who often have respectful, but still adversarial relationships with the criminals they hunt.  His use of handheld cameras and jump cuts influenced French New Wave directors like Godard.  Melville subsequently made other excellent crime thrillers, such as Le doulos, Le Cercle rouge, and probably his best and most influential, Le Samourai.

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 20, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Danny Boyle’s had an interesting career. I think most American critics wrote him off as a one hit wonder after A Life Less Ordinary (which was admittedly a mess). Who would have thought a zombie (or “infected” if you’re a purist) movie like 28 Days Later would serve as a comeback that would eventually lead to an Oscar.

    For the second day in a row we have the Swingers vs. Trainspotting bracket game in the “related articles” section since yesterday was Jon Favreau’s birthday. Maybe tomorrow will be Vince Vaugn’s birthday so we can make it three in a row? Probably not.

    Viggo Mortenson is always going to be known for Lord of the Rings, but he never seemed overly interested in the trappings of movie stardom. He’s been critical of Jackson’s Hobbit films and while that may not have boosted his career, he’s right on the money in his criticisms.

    John Krasinski’s a pretty funny guy. Apparently lucky too since he’s married to Emily Blunt. The Office was just a perfect showcase for his loopy, easy-going charms. So far, that hasn’t translated very well to the big screen, but I suspect he may have another hit TV show in him some day.

    I must admit, I didn’t realize William Christopher was still around. We’ll probably never see another show with the longevity and mainstream following of MAS*H. It’s spin-off was slightly less memorable. William Zabka is an 80’s icon whether he wants to be or not. I suspect he would prefer the latter.

    When I think of Bela Lugosi, I immediately think of Dracula of course. But then my mind goes to Martin Landau’s portrayal of him in Ed Wood. Such a wonderful movie and performance. I didn’t watch Law & Order, so when I think of Jerry Orbach it’s in Dirty Dancing and Beauty and the Beast.

    I was sad to hear the news we lost Bill Nunn. He was so good in Do the Right Thing, but I also enjoyed him in supporting roles in several other movies.


    • Viggo is one of the best actors working today. His commitment is amazing. He composes music for some of the films he is in, he does the dubbing in different languages, and chooses very interesting projects. If he’s in something, I usually perk up.

      Danny Boyle is somehow not thought of as a top echelon director. He certainly doesn’t seem overly interested in prestige projects. I think it’s a little too hip to crap on Slumdog Millionaire (I still enjoy it) and he sometimes does some forgettable stuff (did anyone else watch Trance?). However, Steve Jobs was really strong if ill-fitting for his style. I recently rewatched Sunshine and hot damn it is a great movie. 28 Days Later is still a top 10 horror film of the last 20 years. Trainspotting is a cultural touchstone. I like what he does with his digital craziness more than people like Michael Mann and Peter Jackson are doing with the technology.


  2. Truth be told back when Lord of the Rings had became a huge success, at the time I anticipated that Viggo Mortenson would become a breakout star. He seemed to have that elusive “star quality” in LOTR, for lack of a better term. If Viggo had chosen different (i.e. more commercial) movie roles then that might have happened, but i suspect he was never really interested in becoming a box office draw.


    • He had a lot of buzz even before then around his Perfect Murder days. But it just didn’t seem to be something he was actively pursuing. If you have ever seen interviews with him, he’s more the “artist” type. I agree that if he wanted to be an action hero, that was within his grasp. It probably still is. If Liam Neeson can do it, Mortenson probably could too if that sort of thing interested him. But it doesn’t appear to.


      • You’re right. Back in 2008 Liam Neeson gained a very strong career comeback with Taken, becoming the “smart man’s action star”, a mantle that previously belonged to Harrison Ford back in the 90’s. Viggo easily could have taken that mantle years earlier when the LOTR trilogy generated heat for his career. Who knows? In some alternate universe somewhere, maybe Viggo starred in Taken and Liam Neeson never had that 2nd career comeback because Viggo was taking all the “smart man action star” roles.


      • I definitely agree about Mortensen being more the artist type—as I noted, he’s published books of poetry and photography (over a dozen), and he’s apparently an accomplished painter, too. He’s also fluent in multiple languages—he’s translated at least one of his poetry books into Danish and has worked in Spanish film and theater. What LotR did for him, I think, was establish him as a leading man as opposed to a supporting player, and freed him from any need to make 4-5 movies in a single year.


        • Excellent summary. It’s like we talked about a while back with George Clooney and Batman. If you’re smart with your money and you get one massive paycheck, it can free you up to spend the rest of your career doing whatever the heck you feel like doing. Not only is that more rewarding as an artist, it prevents you from having to toil in dreck like Nicolas Cage does to keep the lights on.


    • Viggo Mortensen on Captain Fantastic, Being Typecast, and the Long-term Benefit of Being in Lord of the Rings


  3. I’m more familiar with Danny Boyle’s early work, beginning with “Shallow Grave” (back in the era when indie films were kind of mainstream) to “The Beach”, and a film I actually liked and viewed it in the theater.
    I had to backtrack a little when it comes to the career of Viggo Mortensen. For example, I knew of his character from “Witness”, but not of him as an actor yet (same goes with his brief role in the Miami Vice” episode ‘Red Tape’, which I’ve mentioned before). I’m a big fan of “A History of Violence”. I guess I’m not surprised that he’s the artsy type, since he has always given me the vibe of having many layers to him when I’ve seen him in roles. I have to check out some of his poetry someday.
    I like Jerry Orbach in some of his film roles too, such as 1971’s “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” (from what I understand, mob triggerman Joe Gallo became social with Orbach after the release of the film) and the awesome 1986 film “F/X” (his part in the film was small, but crucial). I don’t know about baby put in her corner though, sounds like that could could create a real roadhouse.
    Mickey Mantle; I have a documentary about him by HBO (one of those docs narrated by Liev Schreiber) on tape; I think it’s stellar.
    Bela Lugosi, total legend, but it seems he struggled in being taken seriously as an actor. It appears he’s appreciated more now than when he was alive. Man, his Dracula is really something.
    I never got big into Tom Petty’s music, but I like a few of his songs, like “Runnin’ Down a Dream”, Free Fallin’ (I like his ‘in’s)”, and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”.
    I like Snoop Dogg, but I’m not a big hip hop guy, but “Gin and Juice” is good (Vodka is better).
    Oh William Zabka, the kid of the 1980’s film bullies, and maybe one of the best at portraying a bully in film history (he had a cowardly vulnerability at the end of “The Karate Kid” that sticks with me).
    Yeah, Bill Nunn was solid, too bad about his passing. He always found a way to steal a scene or two (I’m think of his turn in “National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1” right now).


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