March 7: Happy Birthday Rachel Weisz and Matthew Vaughn


Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz celebrates her 47th birthday today.  She began working in British television in the early nineties, but didn’t really become well known until she starred in 1999’s The Mummy in the role of Evie Carnahan.  In the first half of the 2000s she starred in movies such as Enemy at the Gates, About a Boy, Runaway Jury, and others.  In 2005, she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress as Tessa Quayle in The Constant Gardener:

In the last decade Weisz has worked both on some big-budget endeavors, such as The Bourne Legacy and Oz the Great and Powerful, but also has had plenty of variety; her filmography includes Definitely, Maybe, The Brothers Bloom, The Whistleblower, and The Deep Blue Sea, just to name a few.  She has done stage work periodically throughout her career, and won an Olivier Award as Blanche DuBois in the 2009 London revival of A Streetcar Named Desire.  Her films from last year included Denial and The Light Between Oceans.

Producer and director Matthew Vaughn is 46 today.  He began his film career as a producer, notably on several of Guy Ritchie’s films—Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, and one Vaughn would probably prefer we forgot, the Razzie-winning  Swept Away.  His first film as a director was Layer Cake, a critically-acclaimed crime thriller somewhat in the Ritchie vein, but with a harder edge.  But he quickly showed himself adept at other genres, as his next film adapted a fantasy novel by Neil Gaiman.

After Stardust, Vaughn’s subsequent films as a director have been comic book adaptations.  Kick-Ass was a moderate box office success and a major critical hit, especially in the UK.  X-Men: First Class has had his biggest numbers at the US box office, but Kingsman: The Secret Service did better internationally.  Meanwhile, Vaughn’s career has survived producing a second Worst Picture winner at the Razzies (Fantastic Four).  He will be back in theaters this year with Kingsman: The Golden Circle, while beyond that he is linked to an adaptation of Terry Hayes’ I Am Pilgrim, while there are rumors of a Flash Gordon film from time to time.

As many readers probably know, both these headliners did very well in the marriage department; Weisz is married to 007, Daniel Craig, while Vaughn and model Claudia Schiffer have been together since 2002.

Donna Murphy, who turns 58, is known for films like Spider-Man 2 (she played Rosalie Octavius) and Tangled (where she was the voice of Mother Gothel).  But her greatest success has been on stage, where she is a five time Tony nominee, winning Best Actress in a Musical for the original 1994 production of Stephen Sondheim’s Fosca and for a 1996 revival of The King and IRuthie Henshall, who is celebrating her 50th, is another musical theater star, in her case primarily in London; she is a five-time Olivier Award nominee, winning for a 1994 revival of She Loves Me.  On Broadway she has played both Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly in Chicago.

Daniel Travanti, who is 77 today, was a two-time Emmy winner as Captain Frank Furillo on Hill Street BluesJohn Heard, who turns 72, starred in 1980s films like Cutter’s Way and The Trip to Bountiful, played Peter McCallister in the Home Alone films, and was an Emmy nominee for a guest role on The SopranosBryan Cranston celebrates his 61st.  He won a Tony for playing Lyndon Johnson in Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way, and was an Oscar nominee for Trumbo, but is best known as Walter White on Breaking Bad, for which he has won six Emmys (four for acting, two as a producer).  Wanda Sykes, who is 53, is a nine-time Emmy nominee, with several for writing for The Chris Rock Show (she won once), and others for her own comedy specials.

Peter Sarsgaard, who is celebrating his 46th, was a Golden Globe nominee and received several other acting honors for playing Charles Lane in Shattered Glass.  He is also known for films like Garden State and Kinsey and played the villain, Bartholomew Bogue, in last year’s The Magnificent SevenJenna Fischer, who is turning 43, was an Emmy nominee as Pam Beesly on The OfficeLaura Prepon, known for her roles as Donna Pinciotti on That ’70s Show and Alex Vause on Orange is the New Black, turns 37 today.  T. J. Thyne, who is turning 42 today, plays Dr. Jack Hodgins on BonesTobias Menzies, who turns 43, has been a Golden Globe nominee for his dual role on Outlander, and also plays Edmure Tully on Game of ThronesBel Powley, who starred as Minnie Goetze in The Diary of a Teenage Girl, is celebrating her 25th birthday.  Haley Lu Richardson, who is turning 22, was featured in last year’s The Edge of Seventeen.

Ivan Lendl, who is 57 today, was the top men’s tennis player in the world for much of the 1980s.  He won eight Grand Slam titles in men’s singles, and reached 19 Grand Slam singles finals.

Anna Magnani (1908-1973) was a major star of post-World War 2 Italian cinema, and also made a splash in Hollywood.  She won Best Actress for the 1955 film The Rose Tattoo, and was nominated for a second Oscar two years later for Wild Is the Wind.

Townes Van Zandt (1944-1997) is a legendary figure among American songwriters.  Never a commercial act, he spent the bulk of his career playing at small venues and when not touring lived a reclusive lifestyle.  People are most likely to have come across his songs when they have been covered by other performers, as was the case with this #1 country hit from 1983.

French composer Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) was one of the greatest artists of the first generation of post-Romantic composers.  He is known for his orchestral works like La Valse and Bolero, his piano concertos, and his brilliant orchestration of Mussorgsky’s piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition.

Michael Eisner, who turns 75 today, was a major figure in the entertainment industry for several decades, best known for his two decades as CEO of Disney, and for wearing out his welcome and being forced out of that position.  Author Bret Easton Ellis, who is 53 today, is a member of the so-called “Literary Brat Pack,” and the author of novels such as Less Than Zero, The Rules of Attraction, and American PsychoSir Ranulph Fiennes, who is turning 73, is an English explorer and adventurer who is known for exploits such as being the first person to cross the continent of Antarctica on foot.  He is a distant cousin of actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes.  Luther Burbank (1849-1926) was one of the pioneers of modern agricultural science.  He developed over 800 strains of plants during his career, including hundreds of different fruits and the Russet Burbank potato, the most widely cultivated potato in the US.

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 March 7, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Rachel Weisz is the real deal which I never would have guess based on The Mummy. I last saw her in The Lobster which was wonderfully weird.

    I liked Matthew Vaughn’s Stardust okay. Kick-Ass started off strong and then went too far for my tastes. X-Men: First Class was solid and Kingsmen was fun.

    Donna Murphy was also in Star Trek Insurrection. I never put two and two together that she was also in Spiderman and voiced Mother Gothel.

    John Heard is one of those actors that everybody sees and says “I know him from something…”

    I had seen Bryan Cranston on Malcolm in the Middle but became a fan on Breaking Bad. Wanda Sykes I knew primarily from her stand-up.

    Obviously the first thing that comes to mind for Jenna Fischer is The Office, but I also remember seeing her in her ex-husband’s horror-comedy, Slither. I was never a big That 70’s Show fan, but I was happy to see Laura Prepon show up on Orange is the New Black.

    I have said a lot about Michael Eisner here. For a while, I was mad at the guy and I was as happy as anyone to see him leave Disney. But absence makes the heart grow fonder. If I could get back the guy who ran the company for the first ten years of his tenure at Disney, I’d take him back over Bob Iger in a heartbeat. Eisner made a lot of mistakes and he definitely needed to go, but make no mistake about it. In the early days, he saved the Walt Disney Company. That has to count for something.


  2. Rachel Weisz has been a favorite of mine since I first saw The Mummy—not a great movie but she and Brendan Fraser make it entertaining. She and Matthew Vaughn have a link to Daniel Craig in common—he directed Craig in Layer Cake, she’s married to him. I’ve enjoyed all of Vaughn’s directing efforts so far, enough to forgive him those Razzies.

    Donna Murphy is yet another of the wonderful Broadway musical talents that I somehow seem to find space for in these articles—a very fine actress and singer both.

    I enjoyed Peter Sarsgaard’s performances in Shattered Glass and Garden State quite a bit. He is married to past headliner Maggie Gyllenhaal, which is doubtless why her birthday comes up as one of the auto-links.

    My impression of Michael Eisner’s time at Disney comes largely from James B. Stewart’s Disneywar, which I read several years ago. He definitely had a successful first decade, but things started to fall apart on him in the mid-nineties. He really seems to have botched the whole business with bringing Michael Ovitz in as president of Disney, only to oust him after little more than a year.


  3. I was sold on Rachel Weisz after viewing the 2003 film “The Shape of Things”. I’ve met people like her character, and she freaking nailed it. I also liked her in “Confidence” and “Runaway Jury” in that same year. Looks-wise, she’s like a British Terry Farrell to me.
    John Heard, ha ha, I just re-listened to the DVD commentary of “C.H.U.D.”; Daniel Stern and him crack me up in (“Hi, I’m John Heard and I was in “C.H.U.D.” and that’s all I have to say about that”). Of course, his roles in “Big” and the first two “Home Alone” films initially spring to mind, but that DVD commentary…
    Bryan Cranston, talk about a guy who’s career improved as he’s gone along. Nice job by him.
    Peter Sarsgaard, I like him; i remember when Roger ebert described him as sleepy-ryed, and I agree. I began paying attention to him after “Shattered Glass”, but “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh”, “Kinsey”, “Flightplan”, “Garden State”, he gave good support in those.
    Laura Prepon, there’s “That 70’s Show”, sure, but there’s also the 2006 film “Karla”, in which she Canadian serial killer accomplice Karla Homolka (messed up situation; she fatally overdosed her little sister so her serial killer fiancee could have his way with her). I thought she played that part well.


  4. I have just seen Rachel Weisz in “Agora”. That was an interesting movie, even if the ending was too sad for my taste.


  5. What would happen if Disney simply ceased to exist as a functioning company?

    It almost happened, believe it or not. In 1984, Saul Steinberg tried to take them over via greenmail after a decade of mismanagement under E. Cardon Walker; Ron Miller tried to do something about it by relaxing the studio’s G-only policy and authorizing the launch of The Disney Channel, but too little too late to save his career. Not everything they created at the time lacked merit, and despite the overt similarities to Walt-era works and reduced budgets (compromised further by inflation and an energy crisis), they could still make the new films nominally different from the old; they can’t even do that today, so they take the easy way out with remakes, remakes, remakes.

    Right or wrong, and partly because his name was on the films and Walker’s wasn’t, he took the fall for the studio’s stagnancy and resigned. Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Frank Wells came in and made gajillions with The Golden Girls, Disney-branded Saturday morning cartoons whose animation wasn’t even as good as the least accomplished theatrical animation the studio produced up to then, and a bunch of raunchy Bette Midler comedies that outgrossed all the Helen Reddy musicals and Kurt Russell monkey movies put together. Animation got an increased budget and started turning out mega-hits. Then things started turning to s***.

    In 1994, Frank Wells died in a plane crash after going skiing with Clint Eastwood. Jeffrey Katzenberg wanted to run the company with Eisner; Roy E. Disney threatened a proxy fight if they gave him the job, so Eisner said no and he left to co-found Dreamworks. Then Pixar made Toy Story and suddenly Eisner got the idea that it was the toy, not the story, that made it a hit. Wrong! The parks’ standards started declining, fans started getting antsy about why they were producing so much shit and didn’t give a damn, and unlike the 1970s they couldn’t hide behind an economic crisis to excuse cutting corners. Morale declined and many employees just up and quit; even the restoration department head responsible for restoring two Sherman Brothers musicals to their uncut versions got sick of Eisner’s crap and quit. The slow fade-out of Song of the South (while subjecting us to Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, & Justin Timberlake and their pale attempts at cultural appropriation) happened during this period, turning from perennial to pariah in one fell swoop.

    The final blow to Eisner’s reputation came when he gave up traditional animation for computer animation and laid off all the employees of that department. The department that built the studio. The living tradition that started with Walt, Mickey, and the Nine Old Men. Gone with a whim. To end with this generation instead of being passed on to the next one. Even Pixar was actually thinking of leaving Disney! Then the Save Disney campaign drove Eisner away and put Iger in his place. At first it seemed like a good idea; fans were happy again, and the quality of new movies was improving. There were even hand-drawn animated projects again. And they finally bought the Muppets along with Marvel and George Lucas; the Muppet shows that have come out of Disney have been the best in years.

    But when Roy E. Disney, the last member of the Disney family with any real power within the company, died, things started to go south. Blu-ray quality started to vary wildly, and ESPN’s ratings are down thanks to cord-cutters. And whose idea was it to cast Johnny Depp as a Native American in The Lone Ranger? And a lot of the movies just feel kind of hollow somehow in ways they never used to, and it’s not just my getting older. Now Iger is on Trump’s economic council and people are angry at that, while Disney stockholders are concerned about his failure to name a successor and his constantly pushing back his retirement date.

    If Disney were to f*** up so badly that they went bankrupt, or if some larger company were to take them over and dissolve them, what would the outcome be from that? Would society be worse off or better off than it is now?
    —Good? Bad? Indifferent? (78 views)

    9 replies 6 3 hours ago


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