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August 24: Happy Birthday Stephen Fry and Ava DuVernay

0824FryDuVernay

English actor, writer and comedian Stephen Fry is turning 60 today.  Maybe the best place to begin covering Fry’s multi-faceted career is with his partnership with Hugh Laurie, which began when they were students at Cambridge.  They have collaborated on a variety of British television projects, such as Alfresco, Blackadder, A Bit of Fry & Laurie, and Jeeves and Wooster.  Fry’s television work has also included a long run as the presenter of the British game show QI, and he has made a number of BBC documentary series.

Fry made his film debut in an uncredited cameo in Chariots of Fire.  He was a Golden Globe nominee for starring as Oscar Wilde in Wilde.  He has appeared in films such as Gosford Park, V for Vendetta, and two of the Hobbit trilogy, and in one of his best known performances, appeared as Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

Fry has also had a considerable career as a writer.  In addition to writing on his projects with Laurie, he wrote the English translation of the libretto for Kenneth Branagh’s film adaptation of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.  He has also written a dozen books, including several novels and three volumes of memoirs.

Ava DuVernay is celebrating her 45th birthday today.  She studied literature at UCLA and then worked for a while as a journalist and in public relations.  Her first film was the 2008 documentary This Is the Life, and she has remained an active documentary filmmaker even as her feature directing career has flourished.  Her 2016 film 13th was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.  Her first narrative feature, I Will Follow, was well-received, and she then made Middle of Nowhere, which likewise received a positive response.  However, it was her third feature that probably has put her on the map; Selma was nominated for Best Picture, while it brought DuVernay a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director.

DuVernay has two major projects at present.  She is the creator and executive producer of Queen Sugar, her first television series, which airs on the Oprah Winfrey Network.  She is also directing a feature adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, which is scheduled to be released next year.

Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki, known for her roles in films like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, is 27 today.  Barret Oliver, who is 44, was a prominent child actor of the eighties, known for playing Bastian in The Neverending Story and the title character in D.A.R.Y.L., and for his role in the Cocoon films.  Mexican actress Martha Higareda is 34.  She is known to US audiences for her roles in films like Borderland and Smokin’ Aces 2Takashi Miike, who is 57, is a prolific Japanese director who often directs several features a year; his Shield of Straw was a Palme d’Or nominee at Cannes in 2013.  Swedish actress Pia Degermark, who turns 68, had a very short career, but it included playing the title character in the 19677 film Elvira Madigan.

Mercedes Lackey, who turns 67, is one of the most prolific authors of fantasy in the last thirty years.  Her two biggest bodies of output are the high fantasy Valdemar books (also sometimes called the Velgarth series), which is currently at over 30 novels and counting, and the Elves on the Road books, which are urban fantasy, and currently number around twenty.

Other birthdays of a literary nature include Robert Herrick (1591-1674), the English poet known for the poems like “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time,” which were gathered in his collection Hesperides.  Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) was a leading figure in 20th century Spanish-language literature, known for short story collections like A Universal History of Infamy and as one of the pioneers of the “magical realism” movement in literature.  Malcolm Cowley (1898-1989), while known as a novelist and poet, was most influential as an editor and critic; one of his biggest contributions was editing The Portable Faulkner, which helped establish William Faulkner as one of the greatest American writers.

Harry Hooper (1887-1974) is probably one of the least-recognized members of Baseball’s Hall of Fame.  He was an outstanding defensive outfielder and a key member of the Boston Red Sox as they won four World Series from 1912-1918.

William Wilberforce (1759-1833) was an English politician and social reformer.  He is remembered most of all for leading the campaign to abolish the slave trade, and later slavery itself, in the British Empire.  His campaign to pass the Slave Trade Act is depicted in the 2006 film Amazing Grace, which starred Ioan Gruffudd as Wilberforce.

One year ago, we had Rupert Grint and Steve Guttenberg as the headliners.

Rupert Grint celebrates his 29th.  He is currently busy in British television.  He is an executive producer and star of the series Snatch, which is based on the Guy Ritchie feature and airs on Crackle, and will also star in the upcoming comedy series Sick NoteSteve Guttenberg, who turns 59, appears as Wayne Hastings, Jr., on HBO’s Ballers, and appears to have some film projects in the pipeline.

Marlee Matlin, who is 52, has been playing Melody Bledsoe on Switched at Birth, which just finished its five-season run.  Kevin Dunn, seen last fall in Keeping Up With the Joneses, is turning 61.  Dave Chappelle, who turns 44 today, hosted Saturday Night Live for the first time last fall, while Netflix released two of his recent comedy concerts earlier this year.  Chad Michael Murray was a regular on CMT’s Sun Records as Sam Phillips; he is 36 today.

James D’Arcy is turning 42; he was seen recently in Christopher Nolan’s DunkirkGrey DeLisle continues to do an enormous variety of voice work as she celebrates her 44th.  Likewise, Alex O’Loughlin is still saying “Book ’em, Danno!” on Hawaii Five-0 as he turns 41.  Jared Harris, who turns 56, was a BAFTA Award nominee as King George VI of England on Netflix’s The Crown.

Novelist John Green is 40.  His newest novel, Turtles All the Way Down, comes out in October of this 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.

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Posted on August 24, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I am familiar with Stephen Fry largely for his roles in V for Vendetta and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. I’ve seen him in the Hobbit films as well, but since he plays the Master of Laketown, and since I found the Laketown sequences among the most unwatchable in the trilogy, I don’t really remember Fry for them. He certainly seems to be a very talented individual.

    Ava DuVernay’s Selma is on my “must watch some day” list, and I am really interested to see what she’s done with A Wrinkle in Time.

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    • As a bit of an Anglophile I became familiar with Fry a good while ago, mostly through Jeeves and Wooster, Blackadder, and a variety of other British television productions. Check him out as one of the students from a snobby rich school on a University challenge show alongside Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson in the great The Young Ones.

      This is a pretty deep set of birthdays. Marlee Matlin and Jared Harris have managed to go two years round without being featured up top.

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      • We have now had three headliners from the Cambridge Footlights crew from the beginning of the 1980s—that’s quite a concentration of talent. The fourth “Footlights College” team member in the above video, I discovered after a bit of research, is Ben Elton, who has had a pretty productive career himself—15 novels, a lot of writing for British television, wrote the books for several musicals, including We Will Rock You and Love Never Dies, etc.

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