December 16: Happy Birthday Shane Black and Liv Ullmann
Shane Black, who turns 55 today, has credits as a producer, director and actor, but he is best known for his accomplishments as a writer. His screenwriting credits include The Last Boy Scout, The Last Action Hero, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and The Nice Guys. But all of these have similarities, to varying degrees, to the first script he wrote, shortly after he graduated from UCLA—an action film, with a fair amount of comedy, and with a pair of protagonists who bond as “buddies” over the course of the movie:
With Lethal Weapon, Black didn’t personally invent the modern “buddy movie,” but he certainly laid out a lot of the standard elements of the genre. Starting with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang he has moved into directing; he also directed Iron Man 3 and this year’s The Nice Guys. He is currently working on The Predator, a “re-imagining” of the franchise as opposed to a reboot; a rather fitting assignment since one of Black’s most significant acting roles was as Hawkins in the original Predator.
Norwegian actress Liv Ullman, who celebrates her 78th birthday, is a Golden Globe winner and two-time Oscar nominee. Ullmann may be recognizable to some for her appearances in American films like 40 Carats (which brought her a Golden Globe nomination) or the World War II film A Bridge Too Far. She has moved into directing over her career; recently she directed Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell in an adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie. But she is best known for her work with Swedish director Ingmar Bergman; known as one of Bergman’s “muses,” she made ten films with him, one of which paired her with another Swedish-born film legend:
Ullmann is playing the younger of the two women in this scene; I’ll let you all figure out who is playing the other (their characters are mother and daughter).
Krysten Ritter is 35 today. She currently stars as the title character in Jessica Jones and will reprise the role in the upcoming The Defenders (opposite yesterday’s headliner Charlie Cox, among others). She is also known for film roles in How to Make Love to a Woman, She’s Out of My League, Confessions of a Shopaholic, and others. Theo James, who plays Tobias “Four” Eaton in the Divergent series, turns 32 today. Anna Popplewell, who is celebrating her 28th, played Susan Pevensie in the Chronicles of Narnia films and more recently was a regular on the first three seasons of Reign. Canadian actor Stephan James made his film debut in Home Again, and since then has played civil rights activist John Lewis in Selma and Olympic hero Jesse Owens in this year’s Race. He turns 23 today.
Ten-time Emmy winner Steven Bochco turns 73 today. Bochco first became known as the creator of the crime drama Hill Street Blues, which premiered in 1981. He has gone on to create other crime-oriented dramas such as LA Law, NYPD Blue, and his current project, TNT’s Murder in the First. He was one of the developers of many of the elements of modern television drama, such as story arcs spanning many episodes and large ensemble casts. James Mangold, who turns 53 today, is best know as a feature film director and writer. He made his debut directing the independent film Heavy in 1995; his subsequent credits include Cop Land, Girl, Interrupted, Walk the Line, the 2007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma, and The Wolverine. His latest project is the final solo Wolverine film to star Hugh Jackman, Logan, which is due out in March.
Miranda Otto, who turns 49 today, is known for playing Eowyn in the Lord of the Rings films and for roles in What Lies Beneath and War of the Worlds. Benjamin Bratt, who was an Emmy nominee as Rey Curtis on Law & Order, turns 53 today. He recently appeared in Doctor Strange and is a regular on Fox’s Star. Ben Cross, who is 69, joined Liv Ullmann as part of the enormous cast of A Bridge Too Far and went on to star as Harold Abrahams in Chariots of Fire. Jon Tenney, who played FBI Agent Fritz Howard on The Closer and resumed the role on the spinoff series Major Crimes, is celebrating his 55th. Allan Graf, who turns 67, started on one of the greatest college football teams ever, the 1972 USC Trojans. He then went into film work and became a stunt coordinator and second unit director. He has been something of a sports movie specialist (Friday Night Lights, Any Given Sunday, etc.), but has also done a lot of other films.
Music birthdays include Billy Gibbons. The guitarist and lead singer of Rock Hall of Fame members ZZ Top turns 67 today. Sam Most (1930-2013) was considered the first great jazz flutist and recorded over twenty albums as a leader. Michael McCary, who is turning 45, was the bass vocalist in the Grammy-winning R&B quartet Boyz II Men for nearly 20 years before health problems forced him to leave the group. Trevor Pinnock, who is 70 today, founded the period instrument orchestra The English Concert in 1972, and was their harpsichordist and conductor for over 30 years. Benny Andersson, born the same day as Pinnock, was one-fourth of the superstar Swedish quartet ABBA. He and Björn Ulvaeus wrote virtually all of the group’s music and also collaborated with Tim Rice on the musical Chess.
We have a number of major writers with birth dates today, including one of the greats of the English novel. That of course is Jane Austen (1775-1817), known for six brilliant novels set among the landed British gentry of the late 18th and early 19th centuries: Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion. All of them have had millions of readers and multiple adaptations to other media—straight-up adaptations, looser updatings like Clueless or From Prada to Nada, and mashups like the novel and film Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Other literary birthdays today include Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) was one of the “Big Three” of science fiction authors of the post-World War II era, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. He wrote novels such as Childhood’s End and Rendezvous with Rama, and co-wrote the screenplay of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) wrote award-winning sci-fi novels like The Man in the High Castle and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, but is likely better known through the many films adapted from his work, such as Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report. Sir V. S. Pritchett (1900-1997) was known for several collections of short stories and for his literary criticism. Randall Garrett (1927-1987) was a prolific science fiction and fantasy writer best known for his stories and novel about Lord Darcy, a detective in an alternate history world with a 20th Century Plantagenet dynasty and magic. Finally, Noël Coward (1899-1973) was best known for his comic plays like Private Lives, Design for Living, and Blithe Spirit.
Two actors who were known for one specific role were born today. Nicholas Courtney (1929-2011) played the recurring character of Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who in over 100 episodes in a period of nearly 25 years; he also made an appearance on the spinoff series The Sarah Jane Adventures. Today is also the reported birth date of Nǃxau ǂToma (1944-2003), the Namibian bush farmer who played the Bushman Xixo in The Gods Must Be Crazy.
I’ll end with the biggest name of all. December 16 is the generally accepted birth date of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), one of the greatest composers, indeed one of the greatest creative artists, of all time. Adequately summarizing his career in a paragraph would be impossible, so I will simply say that if you’ve never heard any of his music, do so. Now. I’ll leave you with a tiny sample:
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 December 16, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Arthur C Clarke, Benny Andersson, James Mangold, Jane Austen, Krysten Ritter, Liv Ullmann, Ludwig van Beethoven, Miranda Otto, Philip K Dick, Shane Black, Steven Bochco. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.