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August 11: Happy Birthday Viola Davis and Sophie Okonedo

0811DavisOkonedo

Viola Davis is turning 52 today.  She studied theater at Rhode Island College and then did further study at Juilliard.  She made her film debut in 1996 in a brief appearance in The Substance of Fire, and then had small parts in Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight and Traffic, and a more substantial role in the director’s Solaris in 2002.  These days, many people will recognize Davis for her roles in some big budget films, such as Knight and Day, Blackhat, and especially Suicide Squad.

However, her stature as an actress is tied most of all to the three roles for which she has been an Oscar nominee.  Her first nomination came for the role of Mrs. Miller in John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt, and her second, her only Best Actress nomination, was as Aibileen Clark in The Help.  Earlier this year, she won her first Oscar, Best Supporting Actress, for the role of Rose Maxson in Fences.

In addition to her film career, Davis has had significant success on stage and television.  She has won two Tony Awards, for two different plays in August Wilson’s Pittsburgh cycle—Best Featured Actress for the original 2001 production of King Hedley II, and Best Actress for the 2010 revival of Fences.  David and Denzel Washington returned to their roles for the 2016 film, and Davis became only the tenth performer to win an Oscar and a Tony for the same role.  Davis has also won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama for How to Get Away with Murder, making her the first African-American to win the Triple Crown of Acting.

Today is Sophie Okonedo’s 49th birthday.  She studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and like Viola Davis, she is a Tony winner, receiving Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play for her Broadway debut in a 2014 revival of A Raisin in the Sun, and being nominated a second time for her performance in last year’s revival of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

Okonedo made her screen debut in the 1991 film Young Soul Rebels.  She has done a lot of television work.  She was a Golden Globe nominee for the 2007 miniseries Tsunami: The Aftermath, and is a two-time BAFTA Television Award nominee.  One of her recent projects was playing Queen Margaret on The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses.  In film, she has received accolades for her roles in films like The Secret Life of Bees, but she is probably best known for her Oscar-nominated performance as Tatiana Rusesabagina in Hotel Rwanda.

Director Rob Minkoff, who is 55 today, is best known for animated films.  At Disney, he directed two Roger Rabbit shorts along with The Lion King; his later work includes two Stuart Little films, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, and the live-action crime comedy Flypaper.

Chris Messina, who was a regular on The Mindy Project for four seasons and will appear in HBO’s series adapted from Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects, is 43 today.  Merrit Wever, who is turning 37, won an Emmy as Zoey Barkow on Nurse Jackie and played Denise Cloyd on The Walking DeadJoe Rogan, known as the host of Fear Factor, for his podcast The Joe Rogan Experience, and as a standup comic, is turning 50.  Ashley Jensen turns 48.  She is a semi-regular on Catastrophe and was an Emmy and BAFTA Award nominee for Extras and a regular on Ugly Betty.  Like most voice actors, Roger Craig Smith, who is 42, keeps busy.  He is the current voice of Sonic the Hedgehog and of Chris Redfield in the Resident Evil games.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, aka “the Woz,” turns 67.  He was played by Josh Gad in the 2013 feature Jobs, and by Seth Rogen two years later in Steve Jobs.

Cyclist Kristin Armstrong, who turns 44, has won the gold medal in the women’s individual time trial at three consecutive Olympics, from 2008-2016.  She is not related to cyclist Lance Armstrong, nor should she be confused with his ex-wife, also named Kristin.

Singer-songwriter Eric Carmen turns 68.  He was the lead singer for the power pop band The Raspberries in the early seventies, and then had several hit singles as a solo artist, notably the #2 hit “All By Myself.”  He also wrote the Top 10 hits “That’s Rock and Roll” and “Hey Deanie” for Shaun Cassidy.  Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly (1978-2013) was half of the rap duo Kriss Kross, who had an auspicious debut in 1992 with their #1 album Totally Krossed Out and #1 single “Jump,” but never repeated that level of success; Kelly died of a drug overdose in 2013.

English actress Anna Massey (1937-2011) was the daughter of Raymond Massey.  She had major roles in Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom and Hitchcock’s Frenzy, and had a lengthy career in British television, winning a BAFTA Award for Hotel du LacIan Charleson (1949-1990) is known for his film roles as Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire and Rev. Charles Andrews in Gandhi.  He had a length British stage career before his death of AIDS in 1990.

Chris Hemsworth and Hulk Hogan were the headliners one year ago.

Chris Hemsworth is celebrating his 34th.  He has three Marvel Cinematic Universe films in the pipeline, with the most imminent being Thor: Ragnarok later this year.  He is also starring in an adaptation of journalist Doug Stanton’s book Horse Soldiers.

Ian McDiarmid, who turns 73, continues to work on stage and appeared in The Lost City of Z, which was out earlier this year.  Embeth Davidtz, who is 52, made her most recent appearance as Sonia Kovitzky on Ray DonovanAlyson Stoner continues to do television and video game voice work as she turns 24.  Will Friedle appeared in the final episode of Girl Meets World as Eric Matthews; he is 41 today.  Anna Gunn is 49; she had a major supporting role in Sully late last summer and appears in the recurring role of Julia Ayres on Shades of BlueJacqueline Fernandez remains one of India’s most popular actresses as she turns 32; she has appeared in two features in the last year and has at least three more in production.

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 August 11, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. For a little musical bonus to today’s article, how about Eric Carmen with his biggest hit:

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    • Whenever I hear this song, I think about Nicole Kidman singing it in To Die For after having had her husband killed.

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      • In addition to Eric Carmen’s version, which reached #2 on the Hot 100, Celine Dion did a cover around 1996 which reached #4.

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        • I may have to look that up. After I played the Eric Carmen song, YouTube started playing a mix of BeeGees videos. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m all ears when the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack is playing. But after that, I’ll have to track down the Celine Dion version of All By Myself.

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