June 27: Happy Birthday J. J. Abrams and Isabelle Adjani


J. J. Abrams (the initials stand for Jeffrey Jacob) is turning 51.  He began working in film as a writer and producer in the early 1990s.  His film credits, in one role or the other, included Regarding Henry, The Pallbearer, Gone Fishin’ and Armageddon.  He also had a handful of acting cameos, one of which I will get back to later in this article.  People first started to pay attention to Abrams, however, when his first TV series premiered in 1998.  From the beginning of Felicity’s run, there was not one season in the next fifteen when at least one show created by Abrams was not on the prime time schedule (that covers the runs of Alias, Lost, and Fringe).

In 2006 Abrams directed his first feature film, Mission: Impossible III.  Since then he has gone on to direct two Star Trek reboots, one Spielberg homage (Super 8), and one other film that, whatever else might be said about it, certainly gave a lot of moviegoers the kind of things they wanted to see.

Abrams currently is occupied almost exclusively as a producer (or executive producer on TV), on projects such as the next Star Wars and Mission: Impossible films and HBO’s Westworld.

Isabelle Adjani, who celebrates her 62nd, is a major figure in French and international film.  She is one of a short list of French or French-born actresses with multiple Oscar nominations, and one of only two actresses (Marion Cotillard is the other) to be nominated for two Oscars in French-speaking roles.  She has made a few major Hollywood films.  Her first was Walter Hill’s The Driver, her second was Ishtar (a notorious bomb), and her third was Diabolique (in which J. J. Abrams made one of his acting cameos as a photographer).

However, Adjani’s greatest success has come in French film.  She has won the Cesar Award for Best Actress five times, giving her more awards in that category than any two actresses, and more acting Cesars in any category than any other performer.  She first became known in the mid-seventies for The Story of Adèle H, which brought her her first Oscar and Cesar nominations.  Her five Cesar wins were for Possession, One Deadly Summer, Camille Claudel (also her second Oscar nomination), Queen Margot, and Skirt Day.

Tobey Maguire, our WTHH birthday celebrant, is 42 today.  Known for his roles in Pleasantville, Seabiscuit, and the Spider-Man trilogy, Maguire starred in the 2015 biopic Pawn Sacrifice as Bobby Fischer and was heard as a voice actor earlier this year in The Boss Baby.

Sam Claflin, who turns 31, played Finnick Odair in the Hunger Games films and last year starred in The Huntsmen: Winter’s War and Me Before YouDrake Bell is also 31 today.  After his years on Nickelodeon’s The Amanda Show and Drake & Josh, he has made a bunch of direct-to-DVD movies and provided the voice of Spider-Man for several animated projects.  Matthew Lewis is celebrating his 28th.  He played Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter films, played a supporting role in Me Before You, and has worked on several British television series, such as Bluestone 42 and Ripper Street.  Also turning 28 is Kimiko Glenn, best known as Brook Soso on Orange is the New Black; she made her Broadway debut as Dawn Williams in the musical WaitressEd Westwick, who turns 30, stars on the BBC’s White Gold, and played Chuck Bass on Gossip Girl.

We have two Walking Dead birthdays today.  Chandler Riggs, who has played Carl Grimes since the show’s debut, is turning 18.  Alanna Masterson, who is 28, joined the cast in season 4 as Tara Chandler.

We have several additional representatives of international cinema today.  Brazilian actor Wagner Moura is turning 41.  He starred in the Elite Squad movies in his home country, had a supporting role in Elysium, and was a Golden Globe nominee for Netflix’s Narcos.  Leung Chiu-wai, better known as Tony Leung, celebrates his 55th.  He has starred in a long list of Chinese language films, including Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express and In the Mood for Love, as well as Infernal Affairs and Red Cliff.  Polish cinematographer Janusz Kamiński, who is 58, moved to the US in 1980 and has worked regularly with Steven Spielberg, winning Oscars for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan.

Julia Duffy, who was a seven-time Emmy nominee as Stephanie Vanderkellen on Newhart, is turning 66.  Her long list of subsequent TV guest roles includes some appearances on Drake & JoshKathryn Beaumont, who is 79, had a relatively short acting career, but many would recognize her voice, as she was the voice actress for the heroines of two Disney classics, Alice in Alice in Wonderland and Wendy in Peter Pan.

English singer and actor Michael Ball turns 55.  He has had a lengthy career as a concert singer and released several albums, but is best known for his musical theater work.  He has won two Olivier Awards, for Hairspray and Sweeney Todd, while his other West End roles have included Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera and Marius in Les Miz.  Another singer-actor is Christian Kane, who is celebrating his 43rd.  He stars on TNT’s The Librarians, and was previously a regular on Leverage, while Angel fans will remember him as Lindsey McDonald.  He is also the lead singer of the southern rock band Kane.

Krzysztof Kieślowski (1941-1996) was one of the leading European directors of the late 20th century.  He was Polish-born but made several films in France.  His best known works include Dekalog, a sequence of 10 one-hour films, The Double Life of Veronique, and the Three Colors trilogy, the last of which, Red, brought him Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.

John McIntire (1907-1991) worked on screen for over 40 years, despite not making his debut until he was about forty.  He usually, but not always, played some sort of upright authority figure, such as a police commissioner in The Asphalt Jungle or an anti-corruption crusader in The Phenix City Story.

English novelist Dame Catherine Cookson (1906-1998) may not be enormously well known in the US, but she was one of England’s best-selling authors for several decades, with total sales of her books, generally some sort of romance, in excess of 100 million.

Historical birthdays today include Helen Keller (1880-1968).  Most people know the story, oft told on stage and screen, of how Annie Sullivan was able to teach the deaf and blind Helen how to communicate; some may also know that Keller was the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor’s degree, or of her long history of political and social activism.  She has been played on screen by Patty Duke, Melissa Gilbert and Mare Winningham, and on stage by Duke and Abigail Breslin.

Emma Goldman (1869-1940) was also a renowned political activist, a free-thinker and anarchist and an uncompromising individualist who seldom fit well into organized movements.  Maureen Stapleton played her in RedsCharles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891) was one of the most effective Irish nationalist leaders of the late 19th Century, a member of the British Parliament who advocated for land reform and home rule for Ireland.

For over a generation, Bob Keeshan (1927-2004) was a part of growing up in America.  Young TV viewers in the late forties and early fifties saw him as Clarabell the Clown on the early seasons of Howdy Doody.  Soon after he left that role, he began a run of nearly thirty years as Captain Kangaroo, joined by friends such as Mr. Green Jeans, Mr. Moose, and the Bunny Rabbit.  And ping-pong balls…

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 June 27, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I was a pretty big fan of J. J. Abrams’ TV shows. I really loved Alias when it started out, but that was a case of diminishing returns. I kept watching hoping it would get better, but it got progressively worse. Mindy liked Felicity and I caught a lot of that second-hand in reruns. I’m not the intended audience for that show, but I could appreciate that it was a well-done coming of age drama. Of course I got caught up in Lost which I enjoyed, but yeah, the ending was disappointing. As you can see from the articles I wrote in the “related” section, I haven’t been a big fan of Abrams’ movies. Although MI3 was good.

    I was trying to remember what I know Isabelle Adjani from. It’s Ishtar.

    With a new Spider-man movie around the corner, we’ll be talking a bit more about Mr. Maguire’s time in the red and blue tights pretty soon. This is stupid, but I heard on the radio the other day that Drake Bell was put out about not being invited to the wedding of former costar Josh Peck. While I’m critical of the show, I’m fond of the cast of The Walking Dead which includes Chandler Riggs and Alanna Masterson.

    I watched a lot of Julia Duffy on Newhart. Didn’t she end up on Designing Women? Let me check. Yep, she did. She also appeared on a few episodes of Drake & Josh. I wonder if she got invited to the wedding?

    Like a lot of people, I watched Captain Kangaroo as a kid.


  2. J. J. Abrams has had quite a high profile for the last 20 years or so. I never really became a regular viewer of any of his TV series—I gave Felicity a couple of tries but found it hard to fit it into my schedule. His feature films as a director do not exactly blow me away; there’s a kind of lowest common denominator factor to most of them where they give a viewer entertainment at a basic level but not a lot more.

    Isabelle Adjani is one of the leading European actresses of her generation and makes a lot of “most beautiful women in film” lists. I am familiar with her from The Driver, Queen Margot (a very good if bloody period drama/romance), and her supporting role in Bon Voyage, a World War II era romantic adventure.

    I haven’t seen very much of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Polish films, but I really like The Double Life of Veronique and the Three Colors trilogy.

    I was part of the generation that grew up watching Captain Kangaroo & Co. Seeing the Captain get deluged with ping-pong balls, hearing Mr. Moose’s knock-knock jokes, watching the Bunny Rabbit filch carrots, and of course the Dancing Bear were all part of growing up for me.


  3. J.J Abrams, I watched “Fringe” quite a few times, have seen “The Pallbearer”, and like “Taking Care of Business”, but I’ve never been big into Star Trek (still like the older films, like The Wrath of Khan one and The Voyage Home, more than newer though) or the Mission Impossible films.
    Isabelle Adjani, I know of her form the American remake of “Diabolique” (I once had a girlfriend who was impressed that her mother could pronounce the film title), but I haven’t seen her in much else.
    Tobey Maguire, I just reread Emilio Estevez’s write up on her, maybe I’ll soon check out Maguire’s again. I thought he was a good spider-Man, and i liked some of his other roles from films like “Fear and loathing in Las Vegas” “Pleasantville”, and Wonder Boys”.
    Helen Keller, my grandparents had her biography in their reading room (they also had Red Skelton), so I read it back when I was a kid. She’s a very significant world figure.


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