Happy Birthday Al Pacino and Renee Zellweger


Al Pacino, who turns 77, is one of the winners of the unofficial Triple Crown of Acting, having won at least one competitive Oscar, Emmy and Tony in an acting category.  A former student of Lee Strasberg’s at the Actor’s Studio, he is now one of the Studio’s co-presidents along with Ellen Burstyn and Harvey Keitel.  He first became known for his stage work, winning a Tony in his Broadway debut in the play Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?  He has remained committed to the stage throughout his career, winning a second Tony for David Rabe’s The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel, and appearing over the years in multiple plays by Shakespeare and David Mamet.

In the film world, Pacino was a relative unknown when director Francis Ford Coppola cast him in what may still be his most famous screen role:

In what seems to have been a case of “category fraud,” Pacino was nominated for Best Supporting Actor as Michael Corleone in The Godfather, although he’s clearly one of the leads.  He has received seven additional Oscar nominations.  He was nominated for Best Actor for Serpico, The Godfather Part II, Dog Day Afternoon and …And Justice for All, and for Best Supporting Actor for Dick Tracy.  Then in 1993 he found himself up for both honors, for Best Actor for Scent of a Woman and Best Supporting Actor for Glengarry Glen Ross, and winning in the former category.  He has won two Emmys, for the HBO miniseries Angels in America and the HBO movie You Don’t Know Jack.

Renee Zellweger is turning 48 today.  She graduated from the University of Texas and almost immediately went into acting.  Her first major roles came in the 1994 films Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation and Love and a .45.  She then appeared opposite Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, receiving a SAG Award nomination.  She won a Golden Globe for Nurse Betty in 2000, which began a run of success that included Oscar nominations in three straight years, for Bridget Jones’s Diary, Chicago, and Cold Mountain, winning for the latter film as part of a sweep of the Best Supporting Actress awards for 2003.

Zellweger continued to enjoy success for a few years, starring in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and Cinderella Man, among other films.  The decline of her career, and her decision around 2010 to essentially take a sabbatical for several years, are discussed at length in her WTHH article.  She returned to the big screen last year in The Whole Truth and Bridget Jones’s Baby.

We have a second major Godfather-related birthday today, as Talia Shire turns 71.  She played Connie Corleone in all three films, receiving a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Godfather II, and is also known for playing Adrian Pennino-Balboa in Rocky and its sequels; she was nominated for Best Actress for the first in the series.

Jason Lee, who turns 47 today, starred as Earl Hickey on My Name is Earl and was a two-time Golden Globe nominee, and has appeared in several of Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse films.   Gina Torres, who celebrates her 48th, is known for her work with Joss Whedon, as Zoe Washburne on Firefly and Serenity and as Jasmine on Angel; more recently she was a regular on SuitsHank Azaria, who is 53, currently stars on the IFC sitcom Brockmire.  He is known for his voice work on The Simpsons, and for films such as Mystery Men, Shattered Glass, and Love & Other Drugs.

Melonie Diaz, who turns 33, is known for her work in indie films, such as Raising Victor Vargas, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, Itty Bitty Titty Committee, and Fruitvale StationSamuel Barnett, who stars in the BBC America series Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, turns 37 today.  Sara Paxton, who is 29, starred on Discovery Kids’ series Darcy’s Wild Life as a teen, and is known for films such as Aquamarine and the remake of The Last House on the Left.  She will appear in an unspecified role on Showtime’s Twin Peaks.

French filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier, who is 76 today, is a five-time Cesar Award winner.  American viewers are most likely to know him for his 1986 film Round Midnight, which featured jazz greats Dexter Gordon and Herbie Hancock.

Björn Ulvaeus is turning 72.  He was one of the members of ABBA, and along with Benny Andersson wrote the group’s songs; Andersson and Ulvaeus went on to collaborate on the musicals Chess (with Tim Rice) and Mamma Mia!  Albert King (1923-1992) was a blues great known as one of the “three Kings of the blues guitar.”  He had a number of hit R&B albums and singles in the sixties and seventies.  Astrid Varnay (1918-2006) spent over fifty years on the stages of the world’s leading opera houses.  A leading Wagnerian soprano from the forties to the sixties, she later switched to mezzo roles and character parts.

Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) was one of the legends of jazz, among the greatest jazz vocalists ever.  She began performing in her teens and continued until she was well past seventy.  Picking a single number to represent the “First Lady of Song” would be impossible, but this one is among her most famous:

Johan Cruyff (1947-2016) was one of the biggest names in international football in the past century.  He starred for club teams, primarily Ajax of Amsterdam and FC Barcelona, and led the Dutch national team to the finals of the 1974 World Cup.  Although the “Orange Crush” lost to West Germany, their success at playing “total football” was extremely influential.  After the end of his playing career, Cruyff went on to an extremely successful career as a manager at both Ajax and Barcelona.  Recently retired NBA great Tim Duncan turns 41 today.  He spent his entire 19-year professional career with the San Antonio Spurs, leading them to five NBA titles, winning two MVP awards, and making 15 All-Star teams.

Writer and director Paul Mazursky (1930-2014) was a five time Oscar-nominee, four times as a writer and once for Best Picture, for An Unmarried Woman.  Some of his other films included Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Blume in Love, Harry and Tonto, and Down and Out in Beverly Hills.

Edward II of England (1284-1327), the first king of England after the Norman conquest to be forced to abdicate, was the subject of Christopher Marlowe’s play Edward II.  He also appears as a character in the film Braveheart, played by Peter Hanly.  Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937) was an Italian engineer and inventor, who is remembered as a pioneer of radio for his development of a wireless telegraph system.

Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965) was a giant of 20th century journalism.  He became famous for his “This is London” reports during the the “Blitz” of nightly bombings by the Luftwaffe, and for the “Murrow Boys,” the team of CBS Radio journalists he assembled to cover the war.  They included, among others, William L. Shirer, Eric Sevareid, Howard K. Smith, and Richard C. Hottelet.  He later hosted the television show See It Now.  The film Good Night, and Good Luck centers on a See It Now broadcast criticizing Senator Joe McCarthy, and stars David Strathairn as Murrow.

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 April 25, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Al Pacino has had an fantastic career. I didn’t have the space in the article to fit in a mention of Heat, probably my favorite non-Godfather Pacino film.

    Other than her early film Love and a .45 I haven’t seen a lot of Renee Zellweger’s work. Chicago, of course, is on my to-watch list, and I think I’m going to want to check out Cold Mountain some day, too.

    Ella Fitzgerald is someone I definitely want to do a much more thorough write-up on in next year’s edition of this article.

    Edward R. Murrow was at least as important a figure in journalism as Fitzgerald was in jazz or Pacino is in film, maybe more so. It’s a shame that CBS treated him so poorly at the end of his career.


    • It’s difficult to do an illustrious and lengthy career such a Pacino’s justice (…And Justice for Al?); I thought you did a good job.


  2. Al Pacino is a living legend. What could I say about him that hasn’t been said before? I specifically loved his performance in Glengarry Glen Ross, just one of the greatest ensemble films I’ve ever seen.

    Just by coincidence I ran across this trivia bit about Pacino. He recently revealed in an interview that back in 1975 George Lucas offered him the role of Han Solo. “Star Wars was mine for the taking but I didn’t understand the script”, he said.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love Al Pacino, just love his filmography: “Dog Day Afternoon”, The Godfather trilogy, “Serpico”, “Carlito’s Way”, “Donnie Brasco”, “Any Given Sunday”, “Scarface”, and even though “Jack and Jill” is a floater, I think it’s worth it just to hear Pacino’s “Say hello to my chocolate blend” line.
    Renee Zellweger, I had no idea Pacino & her shared a birthday; I’m a big fan of “Nurse Betty”.
    Talia Shire, loved her as Adrian in the Rocky films (well, except for the “You can’t win!” line. I forgive Adrian for that though).
    Jason Lee, I used to be a decent fan of his, but my interest in him has cooled over the last 15 years or so. I knew him from skateboarding before the acting, but I still like films such as “Mallrats” , “Enemy of the State”, “Mumford”, and “Almost Famous”.
    Hank Azaria, Moe Szyslak is one of my favorite characters from “The Simpsons” universe; he he, I love that story he told Homer about his boxing career, how he started as Kid Gorgeous and such.
    Tim Duncan, the Spurs were a contender, but never appeared in an NBA Finals, much less won one, until he showed up. That couldn’t possibly be a coincidence.
    Edward R. Murrow, he was a pretty substantial journalistic figure, to say the least.


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