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April 15: Happy Birthday Emma Thompson and Emma Watson

0415ThompsonWatson

Our two headliners today share a first name and currently are both starring in a hit movie.

Emma Thompson is turning 58 today.  After winning a BAFTA Award for a pair of British TV miniseries in 1987, she embarked on a distinguished film career.  She was a regular for a time with Merchant-Ivory, winning her first Oscar, for Best Actress, in Howard’s End, and then being nominated for a second for The Remains of the Day.  She also made several films with Kenneth Branagh, her husband from 1989-1995; she made her big screen debut in his Henry V, starred in Dead Again, and then played Beatrice to his Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing.

Thompson went on to display multiple talents in the 1995 film of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.  She was nominated for another Best Actress Oscar for playing Elinor Dashwood, and won Best Adapted Screenplay, becoming the only person ever to win Oscars in both acting and writing.  Since 1995 she has appeared in a wide variety of films, including Love Actually, Nanny McPhee, three Harry Potter films as Sybil Trelawney, Brideshead Revisited, and Saving Mr. Banks.  After a long absence from the stage, she recently appeared as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd at both Lincoln Center and the English National Opera.  She currently is on a lot of multiplex screens as Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast.

Emma Watson is celebrating her 27th birthday today.  When she was cast as Hermione Granger in the first film in the Harry Potter series, her only acting experience was in productions at her school—her drama teacher had recommended her to the casting agency involved with the series.  A decade and eight movies later, there were probably very few people in the world who had not heard of her.

Following the end of the Harry Potter series, for several years Watson stayed away from big-budget, tentpole style films, aside from a role in Darren Aronofsky’s Noah.  She had a supporting role in My Week with Marilyn and was part of an ensemble cast in The Bling Ring, and played lead roles in the coming-of-age tale The Perks of Being a Wallflower and the political thriller Colonia.  Her starring role as Belle in Beauty and the Beast, the one blockbuster hit so far in 2017, seems likely to end up as the biggest hit of her career—so far.

The Beauty and the Beast cast has a third birthday to celebrate today, as Luke Evans, who celebrates his 38th, will remind us “who can make up these endless refrains like Gaston.”  Evans has also played Bard the Bowman in the Hobbit trilogy, Owen Shaw in the Fast and the Furious films, and Aramis in the 2011 version of The Three Musketeers.

Bond Girl Lois Chiles turns 70 today.  Along with playing Holly Goodhead in Moonraker, she is known for her roles in The Way We Were, The Great Gatsby, Death on the Nile, and Broadcast News.  Italian actress Claudia Cardinale, who is turning 79, had a long career in European cinema, including major roles in Visconti’s The Leopard and Fellini’s .  She made a number of English-language films in the sixties, including The Pink Panther, The Professionals, and Once Upon a Time in the WestThomas F. Wilson, who is turning 58, is best known for playing Biff Tannen in the Back to the Future films.  Danish director Susanne Bier, who is celebrating her 57th today, directed the Oscar-winning In a Better World, and won an Emmy for directing the miniseries The Night Manager, which aired on AMC in the US.

Seth Rogen, who is 35 today, has starred in hit comedies like Knocked Up, Pineapple Express, and Neighbors.  He has also written and produced several films, often as part of the Judd Apatow circle, played more serious roles in Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz and in Steve Jobs (as Steve Wozniak), and co-created the AMC series Preacher.  Brazilian actress Alice Braga, who celebrates her 34th, first became known for Fernando Meirelles’ City of God.  She has had major roles in I Am Legend, Predators, and Elysium, and currently stars on USA Network’s Queen of the SouthMadeleine Martin, who turns 24, made her Broadway debut at 10 in a revival of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, playing the title role, and played Becca Moody on Showtime’s CalifornicationMaisie Williams, who was an Emmy nominee as Arya Stark on Game of Thrones, is 20 today.

Our sports birthday is Evelyn Ashford, who is 60 today.  Ashford represented the US in track and field at four Olympic games (and would have gone to a fifth if not for the US boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games), and won four gold medals as a sprinter.

Bessie Smith (1894-1937), the “Empress of the Blues,” was one of the most popular blues singers of the twenties and thirties, known for her recordings of songs like “Downhearted Blues” and “Nobody Knows When You’re Down and Out.”  Country singer Roy Clark, who is 84, was the long-time co-host of the country variety-comedy show Hee HawLinda Perry, who turns 52, is the lead singer of 4 Non Blondes, but is best known as a songwriter and producer.  She has written and produced several of Christina Aguilera’s hits as well as Pink’s “Get the Party Started.”  Michael Kamen (1948-2003) was best known as a film composer.  He was a two time Oscar nominee for Best Original Song and wrote the scores for the Lethal Weapon films, the first three Die Hard films, Brazil, Licence to Kill, Adventures in Babysitting, and many more.  English violinist and conductor Sir Neville Marriner (1924-2016) was best known as the founder and longtime conductor of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, one of the world’s leading chamber orchestras.

Elizabeth Montgomery (1933-1995) will most likely be remembered as a five-time Emmy nominee for playing Samantha Stephens, the witch who married a mortal, on Bewitched.  English actor John Williams (1903-1983, no relation to the composer or the classical guitarist) won a Tony for playing Chief Inspector Hubbard in the play Dial M for Murder, then reprised the role in the Hitchcock film; he also had prominent roles in films like Sabrina and Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief.  Character and voice actor Hans Conried (1917-1982) was the voice of Captain Hook and Mr. Darling for Disney’s Peter Pan and and was a regular guest star on The Danny Thomas Show as Uncle Tonoose.

Henry James (1843-1916) was one of the leading novelists of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  He wrote over 20 full-length novels, of which at least a half dozen are considered classics, including Washington Square, The Portrait of a Lady, and What Maisie Knew.  Also notable are his novellas Daisy Miller and The Turn of the ScrewJeffrey Archer, who turns 77, is an English politician and novelist.  His political career has been quite checkered, often plagued by scandals.  His writing has been much more consistently successful, as his novels, such as Kane and Able and the Clifton Chronicles series, have sold well over 100 million copies worldwide.

A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979) was a prominent American labor and civil rights leader.  He was the founder and first president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and helped persuade Presidents Roosevelt and Truman to issue executive orders banning racial discrimination in defense industries and desegregating the armed services, respectively.  King Henry IV of England (1367-1413) is remembered as the title character of two of Shakespeare’s best-known historical plays.  Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971) was First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953-64, noted for his “secret” speech denouncing Josef Stalin’s “cult of personality,” and his de-Stalinization efforts.  After the deaths of Stalin and Mao Zedong, the leading “cult of personality” in the world was probably that created by Kim Il-Sung (1912-1994), the “fatherly leader” of North Korea for over forty years.

Along with Michelangelo and Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is considered one of the three master artists of the Italian Renaissance.  He is remembered for his paintings Mona Lisa and The Last Supper and his drawing Vitruvian Man.  In addition to being an artistic genius, Leonardo was one of the greatest figures in science, math and engineering of his time, capable of designing machines that would not be possible to build for centuries.

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 April 15, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I had been hoping to find a picture of our two headliners together, inasmuch as they are both currently part of the cast of a hit movie and all, but was unable to find anything other than a screenshot or two from one of the Harry Potter films, with Emma Thompson completely unrecognizable in her Sybil Trelawney costume and makeup.

    Anyways, I have enjoyed a variety of Emma Thompson’s performances through the years, such as her Beatrice in Much Ado or her heartbreakingly honest turn in the likable but usually schmaltzy Love Actually. Meanwhile, if Emma Watson was in any danger of becoming a potential WTHH candidate, that surely has vanished as Beauty and the Beast blasts through the $1 billion mark in worldwide box office.

    While I didn’t much care for the Hobbit trilogy, I did think that Luke Evans was a good choice as Bard the Bowman.

    Lois Chiles was a lovely Bond Girl who had the misfortune to be in one of the sillier films from the Roger Moore era; however, I thought she was perfectly cast as the spoiled heiress in Death on the Nile.

    Claudia Cardinale was one of the most beautiful women working in film in the sixties; I have had the pleasure of seeing not only several of her English-language films but a number of her European movies as well. The scene in The Leopard where she dances with Burt Lancaster is one of the most memorable in either his career or hers.

    Alice Braga has been a favorite of mine since I first saw her in City of God, and it’s always nice to see her get steady work.

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  2. It was an Emma double feature on this day.
    I really enjoyed Emma Thompson, in “Dead Again” “Howards End”, and “In the Name of the Father”.
    I almost went to see “Beauty and the Beast” at the local theater, and that would’ve been my first experience viewing any project with Emma Watson in it.
    Lois Chiles, yeah, I kind of like her: my first exposure to her was ‘The Hitchhiker’ segment from “Creepshow 2” (I think she’s a hoot there), and later 1985’s “Sweet liberty”. I didn’t view “Moonraker” until much later, but I thought she was very pretty there and did a nice job with the role (maybe a harbinger of her “Creepshow 2” role, in which she just went with what was in front of her).
    Thomas F. Wilson, I also liked him in 1986’s “April Fool’s Day”, where he’s a bit more likable & smarter than his Biff Tannen character.
    Seth Rogen, he’s constructed quite a career for himself, especially considering that he seems rather laid back while working in a cutthroat business.
    Elizabeth Montgomery, she really knew how to wrinkle her nose, but how about her portrayal of Lizzie Bordon in 1975’s “The Legend of Lizzie Bordon”? I found her performance riveting there.
    Leonardo da Vinci, I got to spend some time with his video game equivalent while playing “Assassin’s Creed II” and it’s two following installments. Those games are known for mixing a lot of historical facts, including giving one tons to read on real-life subjects, so I learned more about da Vinci (what jestak2 pointed out in his write up, that he was a big time inventor in his day, like flying machines and tanks that just weren’t ready for the technology of the era).

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