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February 21: Happy Birthday Kelsey Grammer and Sam Peckinpah

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Five-time Emmy winner Kelsey Grammer is turning 62 today.  After studying at Juilliard, he began working in theater and made his Broadway debut in 1981 in a revival of Macbeth—initially in a supporting part but eventually moving up to the title role.  He began working in television and soon landed the role of Dr. Frasier Crane on Cheers, joining the show’s cast in its third season and becoming a regular a couple of seasons later.  He received two nominations for Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actor during his time on the show.

When Cheers ended its run, Grammer was asked to continue playing his character on a spinoff series.  Frasier ended up being one of the most successful spinoffs in television history, and Grammer won four Primetime Emmys (out of ten nominations) for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy.

Grammer has voiced the recurring role of Sideshow Bob on The Simpsons, and won a fifth Emmy; he also won a Golden Globe for starring in Starz’s series The Boss.  His film career has been less successful, although some may recall him as Hank McCoy in X-Men: The Last Stand.  He has made repeated returns to the stage, receiving a Tony nomination for a 2010 revival of the musical La Cage aux Folles and starring in the original Broadway production of the musical Finding Neverland.

Sam Peckinpah (1925-1984) began working in film as a dialogue coach on several of Don Siegel’s 1950s films; Siegel was then able to help him find work writing for TV Westerns.  He created a short-lived TV Western series called The Westerner, following which the show’s star, Brian Keith, helped him get his first feature film directing assignment, The Deadly Companions.

While that film was unsuccessful, Peckinpah’s early work had attracted enough attention that he was next able to make Ride the High Country, another Western starring Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott as a pair of aging gunfighters trying to come to terms with the passing of the Old West.  While a financial failure in the US, it was a big success in Europe and with American critics.  His next film, Major Dundee, was less successful (and an early example of the director’s always stormy relationships with studios), but at the end of the sixties Peckinpah made the film that is usually regarded as his masterpiece.

The Wild Bunch was critically and commercially successful, and over time has cemented its status as one of the classic Westerns.  Peckinpah’s subsequent output was less successful.  He branched out from Westerns, making the dark, violent thriller Straw Dogs and the heist film The Getaway.  By the late seventies, alcohol and drug abuse were catching up with him—by the time he made Convoy in 1978, he reportedly spent most of the filming in his trailer, while James Coburn, engaged as a second unit director, actually directed most of the film’s footage.  He completed only one more feature before his death in 1984.

William Petersen, who celebrates his 64th, starred as Gil Grissom on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation for the first eight seasons of its run.  He is also known for films like To Live and Die in L.A. and ManhunterChristine Ebersole, who is also turning 64, is another of those performers who is normally a supporting player on screen—although she’s starred on short-lived TV series such as Sullivan & Son—but a major stage star, who has won two Tony Awards for Best Leading Actress in a Musical.  Another Tony winner for her musical work is Tyne Daly, who is 71 today.  She is also a six-time Emmy winner, four of them for playing Mary Beth Lacey on Cagney & Lacey.  Daly shares her birthday with Anthony Daniels, who in addition to playing C-3PO in every Star Wars film to date, and in a bunch of other media, also voiced Legolas in Ralph Bakshi’s animated The Lord of the RingsMargarethe von Trotta, considered Germany’s leading female director and know  for films like Marianne and Juliane and Rosenstrasse, turns 75 today.

William Baldwin, who is 54 today, is the third of the four acting Baldwin brothers; he’s known for Flatliners, Backdraft, and the ABC series Dirty Sexy MoneyKim Coates, who is turning 59, is best known for his role on Sons of Anarchy as Alexander “Tig” Trager. Aunjanue Ellis, who turns 48, starred on the acclaimed miniseries The Book of Negroes and currently is a regular on ABC’s Quantico.

Sophie Turner, who is 21 today, began her acting career as Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones.  She made her feature film debut in Another Me and last year appeared as Jean Grey in X-Men: ApocalypseEllen Page, who celebrates her 30th, was heralded as “the next A-lister” for a brief window of time in the mid-2000s when she gave acclaimed performances in Hard Candy and Juno, the latter of which brought her an Oscar nomination.  She also played Kitty Pryde in two X-Men films.  Born the same day as Page, Ashley Greene is known for playing Alice Cullen in the Twilight films.  Also turning 30 is Tuppence Middleton, who stars as Riley Blue on Sense8Hayley Orrantia, who plays Erica Goldberg on The Goldbergs, is turning 23 today.

Mélanie Laurent is celebrating her 34th.  She is a two-time Cesar Award winner, once for acting and once for directing the documentary Demain.  She made her Hollywood debut as Shosanna Dreyfus in Inglorious Basterds, and has since appeared in Now You See Me and Night Train to LisbonJennifer Love Hewitt, who turns 38, is best known for I Know What You Did Last Summer and a few other films and for her roles on Party of Five and (as the lead) on Ghost Whisperer.  She continues to get regular series television work, most recently on season 10 of Criminal Minds.  Two others who turn 38 today are Tituss Burgess, a two-time Emmy nominee for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt who also works regularly on Broadway, and Jordan Peele, who was part of the cast of MADtv for five seasons and then headlined Comedy Central’s Key & Peele.

In music, Mary Chapin Carpenter, a country singer with five Grammys, turns 59.  Her most successful years were in the nineties, when she had hit albums like Come On Come On and Stones in the RoadNina Simone (1933-2003) was one of the leading vocalists and pianists of the last sixty years, with a sound that blended jazz with classical, blues and gospel influences.  Andrés Segovia (1893-1987) was possibly the most important figure ever in classical guitar.  An important performer in his own right, he was also the teacher of the likes of Christopher Parkening, John Williams (not the film composer), and many more.

David Geffen, who celebrates his 74th, has been a major force on the business side of the entertainment industry for over 40 years.  He was the founder of a number of important record labels, including Asylum Records and Geffen Records, and was one of the co-founders of Dreamworks SKG along with Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg.

Alan Rickman (1946-2016) was one of the most prominent character actors of the last 30 years.  He was a two-time Tony nominee, and won a BAFTA Award for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.  His best-known roles include Hans Gruber in Die Hard and Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films.  Ann Sheridan (1915-1967), known as “the Oomph Girl,” was a leading lady for over a decade in films such as Angels With Dirty Faces, Kings Row, and I Was a Male War BrideZachary Scott (1914-1965) frequently played villainous characters, in films such as The Mask of Dimitrios and Mildred Pierce.

W. H. Auden (1907-1973), one of the leading poets of the 20th century, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his long poem The Age of Anxiety.  Novelist and journalist Chuck Palahniuk, who turns 55 today, is best known for his novel Fight Club, the source of the film of the same title.

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.

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Posted on February 21, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I have always been a fan of Alan Rickman, but if there’s one thing I absolutely love about him, it’s his voice. That may seem creepy, but it’s true. It’s still hard to believe he’s gone, though.

    I’ve only seen Ann Sheridan in one movie, and it’s “The Man Who Came To Dinner”. I like how she knew she was being manipulated by Bette Davis, but she went along with it anyway. It’s a shame Miss Sheridan died so young, though.

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  2. Hey, in my mailbox the entire article was posted, which is nice for reference, so I don’t have to continuously scroll down here and I’ll be in less danger of my comment not being post.
    Kelsey Grammer, he has a record-breaking run as Dr. Frasier Crane, and but wow, his family’s backstory is kind of tragic. I also liked in in films such as “Down Periscope” and 15 Minutes”.
    Sam Peckinpah, there’s a lot of films he directed I like: “The wild bunch”, “Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia”, “Straw Dogs”, “Convoy”, and “The Osterman Weekend”.
    William Petersen, yeah, this article hit on the two favorites of mine, “To Live and Die in L.A.” (“Frasier” cast member Jane Leeves is in it, although I don’t believe she has any lines) and “Manhunter”, plus I like the HBO baseball movie “Long Gone” that he was in, it’s a lot like “Bull Durham”, but a year before it.
    Christine Ebersole, she’s someone I know of and seen here and there, but I really can’t pinpoint any particular project.
    Tyne Daly, I loved her character in “The Enforcer”; her character really made that Dirty Harry film for me.
    William Baldwin, well, his career started well; I kind of like that TV Movie he did playing that robert Chambers guy, “The Preppie murder” (Chambers, in the end, wasn’t much of a preppie though, but good early role for W. Baldwin).
    Jennifer Love Hewitt, I guess she had a Palmer’s belly now; best of luck to her and her expected baby.
    David Geffen, he’s been one of the entertainment industry’s big time power players for a long time.
    Alan Rickman was the greatness: “Die Hard”, “The January Man”, “Dogma”, “Galaxy Quest”, anything really, I thought the man delivered.

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    • On this show, The CineFiles discuss the work of maverick director Sam Peckinpah.

      http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/TroubledProduction/Film0ToL

      Sam Peckinpah walked a razor’s edge throughout the 1970s: his demanding personality and wild antics unnerved studios, but his films made enough money to justify hiring him. That is, until Convoy, which nearly destroyed Peckinpah’s career despite becoming his highest-grossing film.

      The film was an attempt to cash in on the trucking and CB radio fad of the late ’70s, using C.W. McCall’s “Convoy” as a hook. B.W.L. Norton wrote the original script, a lighthearted action comedy similar to Smokey and the Bandit. He pitched the script to EMI, who offered it to Peckinpah, then finishing post-production on Cross of Iron. Though dubious about the project’s potential, Peckinpah agreed on condition that he had complete control over the film. The studio agreed, and trouble promptly began.
      Peckinpah immediately started rewriting Norton’s script, re-envisioning it as a modern-day Western with truckers fighting against crooked lawmen and unfair interstate regulations, while also adding heavy-handed political satire. Unable to give these ideas much weight on their own, Peckinpah encouraged his stars (Kris Kristofferson, Ali McGraw and Ernest Borgnine among them) to write their own dialogue. James Coburn, working as Peckinpah’s assistant director, admitted that “There was no conflict. They didn’t know what the f*** was going on.”

      Production began in May 1977 and almost immediately spiraled out of control; within two weeks, Peckinpah was already behind schedule. Peckinpah refused to deal with producer Bob Sherman, enlisting his actors and crew members to run interference. The budget exploded as Peckinpah spent absurd amounts of time on individual scenes. One major set piece, a barroom brawl, took ten days to shoot. Entire action scenes were re-structured around accidental wrecks and botched stunts which Peckinpah left in the finished film. Then, production halted for several weeks when Kris Kristofferson left the shoot for a concert tour.

      But Convoy’s biggest bugbear remained Peckinpah, whose substance abuse spiraled out of control. He was taking heavy amounts of cocaine, Quaaludes and vitamin shots that left him both irritable and irrational. At one point, Peckinpah called his nephew David from the set, ranting that Steve McQueen and the Executive Car Leasing Company were conspiring to kill him. On the day the climactic funeral scene was set to film, with the cast, crew and 3,000 extras assembled, Peckinpah locked himself in the trailer for twelve hours, refusing to communicate with anyone. He also fired several crew members and assistants as filming dragged on. With their director incapacitated, Coburn and the other assistant directors essentially finished directing Convoy themselves.

      Filming finally wrapped in early September 1977, two months behind schedule and $3,000,000 over-budget. A month later, however, Peckinpah was assigned to re-shoot several scenes, which he did without incident. After several months of editing, Peckinpah delivered a rough cut without bothering to include the final half-hour of the movie. EMI finally lost patience with Peckinpah and took over editing; yet again, Peckinpah was barred from finishing his own movie.

      Amazingly, Convoy became a box office hit when it was finally released in the summer of 1978. However, Peckinpah’s meltdown convinced Hollywood studios that he was unemployable. It would be five years before Peckinpah made his next (and last) film, The Osterman Weekend, where he was given little control over the finished product.

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  3. Why Hollywood Won’t Cast Jennifer Love Hewitt Anymore

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  4. Out Loud: Let’s Talk About Ellen Page

    http://www.pajiba.com/celebrities_are_better_than_you/out-loud-lets-talk-about-ellen-page.php

    Last week, the not anticipated sequel-slash-reboot to the 80s thriller Flatliners opened to universally negative reviews and weak box office results. The necessity of such a film was obviously called into question – ~Was this a property with enough name recognition to be relevant in 2017? Were there die-hard Flatliners fans just crying out for a new film that continued the mythos? – but the chances are the film will quickly disappear from the box office top 10 before anyone has enough time to think about such issues. The film opened to audiences just over 10 years after the Telluride Film Festival premiere of Juno, the scrappy indie comedy that would go on to gross over 30 times its initial budget, win its first time screenwriter an Oscar, and make a star of its lead, Ellen Page. The eponymous protagonist of Juno is the ideal star-making project: A role that requires mile-a-minute control of very mannered but exceedingly memorable dialogue, a decidedly feminine character arc, and one stripped of vanity. Page is wonderful in the role and her Oscar nomination was well earned. Roger Ebert may have bestowed the ultimate praise on the actress in his glowing review of the film, which he then declared to be his favourite of 2007:

    ‘Has there been a better performance this year than Ellen Page’s creation of Juno? I don’t think so. If most actors agree that comedy is harder than drama, then harder still is comedy depending on a quick mind, utter self-confidence, and an ability to stop just short of going too far. Page’s presence and timing are extraordinary. I have seen her in only two films, she is only 20, and I think she will be one of the great actors of her time.’

    A decade later and Page’s career hasn’t quite offered the critical prestige Ebert had predicted, but much has changed since the actress made her mark in Juno. The woman who made her name in roles as tough, sardonic women who deny the trappings of the system has become one of the industry’s most prominent LGBTQ+ talents, refusing to follow the same path of adherence to the status quo in her real life. Yet even in our allegedly enlightened times, in the supposed bastion of liberality that is Hollywood, it’s clear that out actors still face a ceiling to their success.

    Born Ellen Philpotts-Page in Halifax, she started acting at the age of 10 in small roles on Canadian TV and film, but the film that brought her to further critical attention was Hard Candy, a a wild and unnervingly fascinating take on the Little Red Riding Hood tale, crossed with revenge horror and psychological torture. Directed by David Slade and made for under $1m, the plot screams controversy, with Page playing a 14 year old who traps and tortures an older man she suspects of being a sexual predator. She has a near impossible task ahead of her, having to embody a deeply strange persona that the audience must relate to but never stop being unsure of. She’s an avenging angel but one who shouldn’t exist, so evidently young and callous beyond her years. Aged 18 when the film came out, she looks so much younger. It feels like such a cliché to say a young actor or actress is wise beyond their years, and we certainly do seem to crave that brand of precociousness from child actors, but with Page she carries herself with a maturity that cannot ignore her youthful exterior, presenting a fascinating juxtaposition of ideas: The innocent little girl coupled with every man’s worst nightmare.

    The first flush of Hollywood visibility followed as she took on the role of Kitty Pryde in the 3rd X-Men film, The Last Stand, but while she’s perfectly good in what is a pretty mediocre movie, it wasn’t a star making moment. That would follow the next year in the little indie that could.
    Juno has received some backlash in recent years, written off as a twee fluke or a representation of the worst indulgences of indie comedies: A more decipherable mumblecore film with an overload of hipster acoustics. In abstract, the story of a too cool for school teenage girl who gets pregnant and decides to give up the baby for adoption seems wildly dated (the word ‘abortion’ isn’t even mentioned on-screen, even though there is a scene where Juno goes into a clinic). A lot of these dismissals seem rooted in perceptions of what the film is rather than what the film actually is. As it is, Juno still feels fresh but it’s also one of the sharpest takes on that inimitable reality of adolescence – the desperation to be more mature than you really are. Juno seems like the cool kid everyone secretly envied at high school, the one who didn’t give a crap about what people thought and seemed genuinely at peace with their lower standing in the ecosystem. She’s Daria with more willingness to confess her joy. There’s immense authenticity in screenwriter Diablo Cody’s dialogue for Juno and her friends. Yes, it’s highly mannered and a bit too rehearsed, but that’s a truth of being a teenager: You practice the good jokes to impress everyone, you make up your own language to show off and keep secrets, and you live life with the utmost assurance that nobody gets your favorite band quite like you do.

    Page nails that façade of unshakeable confidence that carries Juno through her pregnancy and the belief that she can just give away a baby as simply as a birthday present. She walks into every room as if she owns it, and she never lets anyone talk down to her like the kid she is. When Juno is confronted with the inescapable difficulties of adult life after the friendship she forms with the future adoptive father of the baby backfires, Page captures that fury mixed with the panic of realising just how hard this all is. She’s not mature enough for this but it’s the choice she made so she has to stick out the hardships. Page is acutely aware that the wisecracking can only carry Juno so far, and it aches to see her in the aftermath of the birth, lying on the hospital bed and finally understanding everything that’s happened to her. It’s a role that so easily could have sunk into knowing smirks and strained sassiness, yet Page keeps a tight rein on Juno’s quirks. She’s sardonic but fragile and the digs at the people she loves hurt her just as much.

    At the age of 20, Page received an Oscar nomination for Juno (she lost to Marion Cotillard), yet her post-Oscar career didn’t set the night alight. She remained an indie actress through and through, with another Sundance debut, Smart People, which opened to mixed reviews, a middling psychological thriller called Peacock, and a narration gig on a documentary about bees. There are wonderful highlights during this period: The hugely underrated roller derby comedy Whip It, the sole directorial effort of Drew Barrymore, is a warm and punchy story of female solidarity and power that offered Page an opportunity to add new shades to her Juno performance; and, of course, Inception.

    It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Christopher Nolan, for all his exceptional talents, is not great at writing women. To his credit, he seems painfully aware of this fact, and Dunkirk is partly his acknowledgement that he’s better off just not including women in his films. As Ariadne in Inception, the film that finally landed Nolan a Best Picture nomination, Page may be the exception to that rule. She plays the token woman in Leonardo DiCaprio’s team of crooks who infiltrate the dreams of their targets to steal their secrets. Ariadne, an accomplished grad student of architecture, is recruited to help build the dream worlds.

    Anyone with a passing knowledge of Nolan’s films could easily imagine where Ariadne’s arc would end, but thankfully she’s given more substantive material to work with (or at least as substantive as any character in the film, which is almost a rag-tag ensemble of tropes from an old-school action movie than anything traditionally Nolan). Acting as an audience surrogate, Ariadne nonetheless has the enthusiasm and savvy to comfortably fit in with the crew, and most of the time she seems like the most mature one there. Page is good at these roles – mature beyond her years but still too green to be cynical about it, the level head in the room who could probably dominate everyone else with nary a glance if she wanted to.

    An interesting mish-mash of roles followed: She went delightfully crazy in Super, as a wannabe superhero’s demented sidekick; there was a fascinating turn in the underseen eco terrorist thriller The East; she garnered her first producer credit with Into The Forest, starring alongside Evan Rachel Wood; and she took to the world of video games with a motion-capture performance in Beyond: Two Souls. Page can make an impact in bigger projects but she’s decidedly an indie star, finding comfort in the freedom smaller budgets and increased creative control can give her.

    Yet it wasn’t a film that brought her back into major headlines. In 2014, while giving a speech at a Human Rights Conference event, Page came out as gay. Rumours of her sexuality had floated around, as such things are want to do, although she was also subject to gossip around speculation she was hooking up with her co-star from The East, Alexander Skarsgård. She even mocked the rumours of her sexuality in a sketch on SNL. In her speech, she said, ‘I feel a personal obligation and a social responsibility. I also do it selfishly, because I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission.’ It’s a wonderful speech and I recommend you watch it in its entirety. You can practically see the weight being lifted from her shoulders as she speaks. When asked in an interview in 2016 if she felt her coming out had affected he career, she said, ‘I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t something I feared, and that’s the big reason so many people haven’t come out. For me, being out within my life became far more important than being in any movie… I think my gayness was already playing its role in regards to my career. I’m not naive to that element of the business. I hope it changes.’

    It’s true that there aren’t many notable projects on Page’s filmography after her coming out, but it hasn’t changed much in terms of the work she was already doing. She always did smaller projects, she always kept a foot in the Canadian industry, and she continues to produce. If anything has changed, it’s that Page is now more comfortable being herself on screen and all that entails.

    Freeheld is not a good movie – in fact, it’s toe curling in its cloying take on an immensely important real-life event – but when you watch it, it’s hard to ignore how little you see what you’re seeing: A highly buzzed about movie with a major A-list cast, where one of them is openly gay and playing a gay character. It just doesn’t happen as much as you’d think it would. LGTBQ+ roles are still the bastion of straight actors, and it’s a job that carries an insulting weight to a heterosexual world because it opens the floodgates for people like Jake Gyllenhaal and Cate Blanchett and Eddie Redmayne to be asked about how difficult it must have been and how they’re so brave for taking on the mantle. Nobody ever asks Ellen Page if she feels brave or challenged for kissing men on-screen; it’s just assumed that’s the cultural and societal default. Freeheld may be pretty bad but Page is wonderful in it, taking the most cliched dialogue and making it sing with fragility and determination.

    Page’s next role was simply to be herself, taking on hosting duties for Viceland’s travel series, Gaycation. Alongside her friend Ian Daniel, the pair visit parts of the world and explore them from an LGBTQ perspective. Not everything about the show works – it’s too Vice-esque to be as introspective as it needs to be and there are some uncomfortable imperialistic moments to their travels – but this is also Page at her most personal. As a famous gay woman followed around the world with a pack of cameras, she has to constantly read this line of fun, combative and journalistic. She has to pick her fights carefully, especially when confronting homophobes on their home turf, and she doesn’t always succeed. Sometimes she panics or gets flustered when trying to formulate cohesive thoughts, and this naturalistic approach – so achingly Vice – has its good and bad sides. Yet I do recommend you watch a few episodes if only to see Page at her most self-interrogating, which is something that major stars don’t tend to do so freely, much less with a documentary crew tagging along.

    When she came out, Page talked about that personal responsibility she felt as a public figure to use her voice. It’s a battle marginalized people often face, particularly in the public eye, where your status forces an identity upon you as ‘the voice of the demographic’ in a way never demanded of straight white men. You can see Page wearing this badge in her work and life, and doing so with immense responsibility. She works with LGBTQ+ rights and feminist organisations, she produces films written, directed by and starring women (her upcoming film, My Days of Mercy, about two women who fall in love across the divide of the death penalty debate, is also produced by her), and she takes her status as the film industry’s most famous young gay woman very seriously, from the Human Rights Campaign to Gaycation. Hollywood’s obvious prejudices may have put a few bumps in her page, but Ellen Page has always fought for more.

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