October 23: Happy Birthday Ang Lee and Sam Raimi


As headliners today, we feature directors who have in common that each of them was responsible for bringing a pre-MCU version of a Marvel superhero to the big screen.

Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee celebrates his 63rd today.  After his service in the Taiwanese navy, he studied theater at the University of Illinois, and then earned a master’s in film at NYU, where one of his classmates was Spike Lee (no relation—but you knew that 😉 ).  Although his master’s thesis film was highly praised, it took several years before he had the chance to direct.  In 1990, he won a contest for screenplays sponsored by the Taiwanese government, and as a result was able to make the three films that are informally known as the “Father Knows Best” Trilogy.

In between the second and third of those films, Lee made his Hollywood debut in 1995, directing an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility which starred Emma Thompson.  Later in the 1990s he returned to the US to make The Ice Storm and Ride With the Devil, both critical but not commercial successes.  He capped the decade by making one of his most famous films, the wuxia action drama Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which won several Oscars, including Best Foreign Language Film, and was nominated for Best Picture.

Lee then made his superhero film, Hulk, which was only a mixed success, but followed it with another critical triumph.  Brokeback Mountain won the BAFTA and Golden Globe Best Picture honors and the Golden Lion at Venice, while Lee swept the major Best Director honors.  Since then, Lee’s films have included the historical thriller/romance Lust, Caution, another critical success in Life of Pi, and last year’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.

Sam Raimi turns 58 today.  He began making films while he was attending Michigan State, filming his first feature, It’s Murder!, with a cast including his brother Ted and his high school friend and frequent collaborator Bruce Campbell.  Early in his career, he was often associated with horror films, such as his early shorts Clockwork and Within the Woods, as well as the Evil Dead franchise.  He has periodically returned to the horror genre, with the feature Drag Me to Hell, and as the executive producer and developer of the TV series Ash vs. Evil Dead.

In the late 1990s, Raimi was known for producing a pair of popular syndicated TV series, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess.  During this period he also directed films like The Quick and the Dead and A Simple Plan.  But his greatest mainstream, commercial success came in the 2000s, when he, too, brought a Marvel superhero to the big screen—three times, in fact, but the first of the three was the biggest hit.

After the relative failure of Spider-Man 3, Raimi has directed only two more features, the aforementioned Drag Me to Hell and Oz the Great and Powerful.

Margaret Qualley, the daughter of three-time Golden Globe nominee Andie MacDowell, is turning 23 today.  She became known as a regular on HBO’s The Leftovers, and last year had a major supporting role in The Nice Guys.  Her three film appearances this year include her first lead role in NovitiateBriana Evigan, daughter of Greg Evigan of B.J. and the Bear fame, is 31.  She has been a prominent scream queen in the last decade, starring in films like Sorority Row and Burning Bright, and is also known for starring in two of the Step Up series of dance films.  Masiela Lusha, who turns 32, is best known for playing Carmen Consuela Lopez on ABC’s George Lopez.  She is also an author who has written five collections of poetry and a novel.  English actress Beatie Edney, who is 55 today, is known to Highlander fans for playing Heather MacLeod in two films, and currently is a regular on the BBC drama series Poldark.

Our sports birthday today is Krešimir Ćosić (1948-1995).  The Croatia native was one of the first international basketball players inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.  He was a college star in the US for BYU, but returned to Croatia rather than play in the NBA.  He played for Yugoslavia’s national team in four Olympic Games, winning a gold medal in 1980 and silver medals in 1968 and 1976.

Novelist Laurie Halse Anderson is 56 today.  An author of young adult and historical fiction, she is best known for the young adult novel Speak, adapted into a 2004 feature film starring Kristen StewartGordon Korman, who turns 54, has written over 80 children’s and young adult books.  He is known for series like the Macdonald Hall novels and the Monday Night Football Club books, the latter of which was adapted into the Disney Channel series The Jersey.

One year ago today, Ryan Reynolds and Emilia Clarke were the headliners.

Ryan Reynolds is turning 41.  His star turn in Deadpool brought him a Golden Globe nomination earlier this year, he has starred in this year’s Life and The Hitman’s Bodyguard, and he began filming Deadpool 2 in June.  Emilia Clarke is celebrating her 31st.  She stars in the upcoming thriller Above Suspicion, and will appear next year in Solo: A Star Wars Story.  While she and the rest of the cast of Game of Thrones missed out on Emmy nominations this year due to the scheduling of the seventh season, her performance as Daenerys Targaryen continued to be well received.

Documentarian Alex Gibney is turning 64.  His latest feature, No Stone Unturned, came out in September, and he is now working on a documentary about Roger Ailes of Fox News.  Kate del Castillo, who stars on the Mexican web series Ingobernable (carried by Netflix, is 45 today.  Jessica Stroup, who is 31, can also be seen on Netflix on Marvel’s Iron Fist as Joy Meachum.  Amandla Stenberg, who turns 19 today, starred in the romantic drama Everything, Everything, and has two or three films in the pipeline.  Taylor Spreitler, one of the stars of CBS’s Kevin Can Wait, is 24 today.  Weird Al Yankovic, who turns 58, appeared as himself in the films Sandy Wexler and How to Be a Latin Lover earlier this year.  Miguel Pimentel, who is 32 today, released the first single from his upcoming album, War & Leisure, earlier this year.

Since today was the birth date of songwriter Ellie Greenwich (1940-2009), let’s have one of the tunes she composed with Jeff Barry as a closing number.

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 October 23, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I can remember seeing portions of Ang Lee’s Hulk on cable back in the early 2000s but I am pretty sure I never saw it all the way through. I love Crouching Tiger, and I thought that Ride With the Devil was a good human drama that captured some of the moral complexities of the US Civil War era. Lust, Caution is worth a look, too.

    I have never gotten into the Evil Dead films, so I known Sam Raimi mostly for producing Hercules and Xena and for the Spider-Man trilogy, two of which were quite good.

    I thought Margaret Qualley was quite good in The Nice Guys and hope to see more of her in the future.

    Ryan Reynolds’s success with Deadpool was such a surprise, and so big, that I have to think that it’s going to be hard for the sequel to live up to expectations. The first film was a real lightning-in-a-bottle situation of the kind that’s hard to duplicate.

    As Emilia Clarke nears the end of her time on Game of Thrones, you have to wonder if she will be able to leverage her success into a decent film career.


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