July 9: Happy Birthday Kelly McGillis and Chris Cooper


As we begin the second year of the birthday article series, it is appropriate that one of our headliners is a WTHH subject.  The other is one of the greatest character actors of our time.

Kelly McGillis is turning 60 today.  Her WTHH article contains a lot of detail about her career, so I will just hit the important high points.  McGillis began working in film and television in the early eighties.  She made a couple of TV movies, appeared for a short while on One Life to Live, and starred in a feature titled Reuben, Reuben.  Then she made her breakthrough in 1985 in Witness, receiving BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations.  She starred opposite Tom Cruise in Top Gun, and two years later was one of the leads in The Accused along with Jodie Foster.

At that point, McGillis seemed established as a fairly major star.  But a variety of factors (all discussed in the WTHH piece), including a horrible experience with the filming of Cat Chaser, drove her to limit her career thereafter, although not to completely withdraw from acting.  She is starring in the upcoming thriller Mother of All Secrets, which is in post-production, and has a couple of other projects in the pipeline.

Chris Cooper is celebrating his 66th birthday today.  After college, he worked in theater for over a decade—both acting, and (since he had some carpentry experience) constructing sets.  He made his film debut in John Sayles’ Matewan, the first of several films he has made with Sayles, most notably Lone Star.  Fans of big-budget action films would know Cooper as the bent CIA spymaster Alexander Conklin in The Bourne Identity, or Norman Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

However, Cooper is more often found in indie films or prestige dramas.  Aside from his films with Sayles, he has given acclaimed performances in films like American Beauty, Capote, The Town, and August: Osage County.  But his biggest critical success, by far, has been his Oscar and Golden Globe-winning turn as John Laroche in Adaptation.

Jimmy Smits, who is 62, is known for several regular roles on televsion: as Victor Sifuentes on L.A. Law (for which he won an Emmy), as Bobby Simone on NYPD Blue (winning a Golden Globe), as Matt Santos on The West Wing, and as Nero Padilla on Sons of Anarchy.  He also played Bail Organa in three Star Wars films.  K. Todd Freeman is turning 52 today.  He is a two-time Tony nominee, most recently for the original Broadway production of Lisa D’Amour’s Airline Highway; Buffy fans will remember him as the Season 3 villain Mr. Trick.  Pamela Adlon, who is 51, has had a long career as a voice actress, including winning an Emmy as the voice of Bobby Hill on King of the Hill.  She is the star and co-creator (with Louis CK) of the current FX series Better Things.

Toby Kebbell, who is celebrating his 35th, played Victor von Doom in 2015’s Fantastic Four and Messala in last year’s remake of Ben-Hur.  He is also known for his work as a motion capture actor in films like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Kong: Skull IslandGeorgie Henley, who played Lucy Pevensie in the Chronicles of Narnia series, turns 22 today.  She has been studying at Cambridge and appeared in major roles in the films Perfect Sisters and The Sisterhood of NightDouglas Booth, who turns 25, has been seen in films like Jupiter Ascending and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and will star as poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in the upcoming Mary Shelley.

Richard Roundtree, one of the best-known stars of the blaxploitation films of the early 1970s, turns 75 today.  His best known role was private detective John Shaft, who he played in the 1971 film Shaft and two sequels, plus a cameo in the 2000 film starring Samuel L. Jackson.

Brian Dennehy is celebrating his 79th.  He is a six-time Emmy nominee, for a long list of TV movies, and won a Golden Globe as Willy Loman in a television adaptation of Death of a Salesman.  He won one of his two Tonys for the same role in a 1999 Broadway revival.  Some of his best film roles came in the 1980s, as a pair of sheriffs who pushed the wrong people around in First Blood and Silverado, and a NYPD detective who teams with a special effects man to fight crime in the F/X films.

Software engineer and entrepreneur Marc Andreesen, the co-author of Mosaic, the first widely used Web browser, and a co-founder of Netscape, turns 46 today.  Composer, pianist, and journalist John Tesh is 65.  He has won six Sports Emmys for his themes for events like the Pan American Games, hosted Entertainment Tonight for several years, and currently hosts a nationally syndicated radio show.  The multi-talented English artist David Hockney turns 80 today.  He is known for his achievements in a number of media—painting, printmaking, and photography among them.

Bluegrass music has had a number of famous brother acts through the years—the Stanley Brothers, the Osborne Brothers, the Dillards, etc.  Jesse McReynolds, who is 88 today, and his brother Jim (1927-2002) were active together for over 50 years, making them the longest-lasting of all the brotherly duos.  Since Jim’s death, Jesse has gone on recording and performing with their band, the Virginia Boys; he is currently the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Bon Scott (1946-1980) was the lyricist and lead singer of AC/DC from 1974 until his premature death in early 1980.  The all-black album cover of the band’s next album, Back in Black, was in memory of Scott.  Lee Hazlewood (1929-2007) was a songwriter, country and pop singer, and producer.  He was best known for his collaborations with Nancy Sinatra; he produced her hit “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'” and recorded duets like “Summer Wine” with her.  Eddie Dean (1907-1999) was a cowboy singer and actor.  He made a number of “singing cowboy” Western films in the forties and also recorded a number of country hits.  Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936), one of Italy’s greatest twentieth century composers, was most famous for his symphonic poems Fountains of Rome and Pines of Rome.

Mervyn Peake (1911-1968) was an English novelist, best known for his Gormenghast series, one of the most critically-acclaimed, innovative works of fantasy in the 20th century.  A BBC/PBS miniseries based on the first two books starred Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Christopher Lee, among others.  Dean Koontz, who turns 72 today, has sold over 300 million books worldwide, generally thrillers of some kind, often with horror and/or fantasy elements; Watchers, Midnight, and Lightning are a few often ranked among his best.  One of the few 20th century authors to sell more books than Koontz was the romance novelist Dame Barbara Cartland (1901-2000).  She is credited with writing over 700 novels (!), and the most conservative number I’ve found for her total sales is around 500 million.  Oliver Sacks (1933-2015) was an English neurologist, and one of the most popular writers of science-oriented books of his time.  His books generally collected several case studies of his patients; among his published books were Awakenings (adapted into a 1999 feature film) and The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat.

Vince Edwards (1928-1996) was best known for playing the title character on the early 1960s medical drama Ben Casey.

A year ago the birthday article featured headliners Tom Hanks and O. J. Simpson.

Tom Hanks is 61.  In the past 12 months he has starred as US Air pilot Chesley Sullenberger in Sully, returned to the role of Robert Langdon in a adaptation of Dan Brown’s Inferno, and starred with Emma Watson in The Circle.  He will play Ben Bradlee in Steven Spielberg’s The Papers (about the Pentagon Papers case).

O. J. Simpson is 70.  He is still in prison for armed robbery and kidnapping (with a parole hearing sometime later this month).  Courtney Love is turning 53.  She will appear in James Franco’s latest directing effort, The Long Home, and was recently seen in a Lifetime TV movie about the Menendez case.  Fred Savage, who turns 41, will be a regular on the Netflix comedy series Friends From College, which premieres later this week.  Mitchel Musso, who is 26 today, starred in the indie comedy Characterz, which came out just days after his birthday last year.

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 July 9, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I thought it fitting to kick off the second year of the birthday series with a WTHH subject in the headline. Kelly McGillis, who has faced plenty of adversity in her life, is definitely someone you want to send best wishes to on her birthday.

    Chris Cooper is another of those performers who I always enjoy seeing show up in the cast of a film. I am, of course, a big fan of his work with Sayles, but he’s had a lot of other great roles as well.

    I was not a huge fan of the Narnia films, but I thought Georgie Henley was very well cast as Lucy Pevensie. It’s nice to see she is still working.

    I read the first two of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast novels many years ago. If you are used to standard heroic fantasy they are a huge change of pace, but they are extremely good.


    • Definitely agree about McGillis. She also has the distinction of being the subject of the most recent WTHH article… for now. Let’s see. The last one was in August 2016. What the hell have I been doing all year?!?

      I’m a Chris Cooper fan as well. Tying into our overall Spidey-theme, he was the most recent actor to play Norman Osborne even if it was in the less-than-Amazing Spider-Man 2.


  2. So it’s been an official year now with the birthday deal? I know I’m only going to mention The Juice once and move on.
    Kelly McGillis, it was good to catch up on her, and I wasn’t aware that she was through so many harsh times. I thought she was good in the films I’ve seen her in; I like “Witness” quite a lot for sure, and I like what she did in “The Accused”, plus I kind of liked “The house on Carroll Street”.
    Chris cooper, I think he’s fantastic; imagine my surprise (well, not really, considering the show) to find him guest starring as a dirty cop in the “Miami Vice” episode ‘Mirror Image’ in his early days; wow, what he brought to the table was apparent then. I think “Lone Star” is a classic, and I like “Breast Men” (he he, though the film is far from funny), while I get a kick out of “Me, Myself, and Irene”, and I think his performance in “American Beauty” is unsettling. “Adaptation”, “Capote”, “The Town”…Cooper’s a factor in those films too; his filmography is worth spending some time with.
    Jimmy Smits, he’s had a habit of dying in television series: blown up in “Miami Vice” pilot, died in “NYPD Blue”, and given the Dexter in “Dexter”; I don’t know how it turned out for him in “L.A. Law”, but his series “Outlaw” was killed by NBC. I liked him as a bad guy in “Running Scared” and as the guy who was cursed in 1987’s “The Believers” too.
    Pamela Adlon, loved her character of Marcy from “Californication” (Cokey Smurf had some funny lines; he he, Calling Karen “The Prim Reaper”) and I watched a little of the series “Lucky Louie” too.
    Richard Roundtree, damn right; hey in the video game “Scarface: The World is Yours”, the player is instructed to save a drive-in (drive-in’s rule!!!), who’s owner is voiced by Roundtree and is also playing Shaft week on the screen. I also like his small part in “Antitrust”.
    Brian Dennehy, on the “First Blood” DVD commentary, Sly Stallone said Dennehy was “A man’s man and an actor’s actor”. Yeah, that sounds about right. I love a lot of Dennehy’s stuff: the F/X films, “Silverado”, “Best Seller” (a personal favorite), “Presumed Innocent”, an episode of “Miami Vice” (title: ‘Amen…Send Money’), the “Assault on Precinct 13” remake, “First Blood”, and his appearance in “10”.
    John Tesh, I never would’ve thought that the co-host of “Entertainment Tonight” in the 1980’s would compose and perform the awesome “Roundball Rock”. In general, I like New Age music, and I think he’s pretty good.
    Bon Scott, it didn’t seem that AC/DC missed a beat without him, but it’s too bad he met such an early end.
    Vince Edwards, I know him best from the 1987 film “Return to Horror high” and the “Knight Rider” pilot (this is the second time I’ve mentioned pilots; I guess I should note Kelly McGillis in “Top Gun” then).
    Tom Hanks, well, I liked him before his career REALLY blew up (“Dragnet”, “The Money Pit”, “Nothing in Common”), but my favorite Tom Hanks lines comes from “A League of their Own”: “By the way, I loved you in The Wizard of Oz”.


  3. I forgot to mention Brian Dennehy in “Gorky Park” alongside William Hurt. I like Dennehy doing the guy duo thing, I think it lead to cool moments: opposing John Rambo in “First Blood”, teaming up with Bryan Brown in the second F/X film, and working with/against James Woods in “Best Seller”.


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