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January 14: Happy Birthday Steven Soderbergh and Lawrence Kasdan

0114SoderberghKasdan

Steven Soderbergh celebrates his 55th birthday today.  As the son of a university administrator, he had a somewhat nomadic youth, ending up in Louisiana for his high school years, when he began making Super 8 films.  After graduating, he moved to Hollywood, supporting himself as a cue card holder on game shows for a while before finding work as a freelance editor.  At just 21, he was asked to direct a concert video for Yes which was released under the title 9012Live.  A few years later, he burst on the scene with his first feature, Sex, Lies, and Videotape, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes for 1989 and also brought Soderbergh an Oscar nomination for screenwriting.

Soderbergh had a few dry years after his initial breakthrough.  Films like Kafka, a quasi-biopic of the Bohemian author, and The Underneath, a remake of the noir classic Criss Cross, were unsuccessful.  But in 1998 he came back strong with a critically successful adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel Out of Sight.

In 2000, Soderbergh directed two Best Picture nominees, Erin Brockovich and Traffic, and received Best Director nominations for each, winning for the latter.  Subsequently, he has directed the Ocean’s Trilogy of caper films, the mystery/espionage drama The Good German, the blackly comic The Informant! (about an antitrust case), the modestly budgeted hit Magic Mike, and last year’s Logan Lucky, another heist film.  He is also known for unconventional films like Bubble and The Girlfriend Experiment.  He is directing the upcoming horror-thriller Unsane and is a producer on Ocean’s Eight.

Lawrence Kasdan is turning 69.  He graduated from the University of Michigan, and when a career in teaching did not pan out, he wrote advertising copy to make a living, and wrote screenplays on the side.  His first completed screenplay spent over a decade in “development hell” before it was filmed in the early 1990s—The Bodyguard.  But in 1980 and 1981, he emerged almost out of nowhere, as the screenwriter for two huge hits, The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark, and as a first time director with a steamy contemporary noir, Body Heat (which he also wrote).

Kasdan had a little over a decade as a prominent writer-director.  He received Oscar nominations for screenwriting on The Big Chill, The Accidental Tourist, and Grand Canyon, the first two of which were also Best Picture nominees.  He also made a pair of high-profile Westerns, Silverado and Wyatt Earp, the black comedy I Love You to Death, and the rom-com French Kiss.  He almost disappeared after the mid-1990s, making only a handful of films in the next 20 years, before returning to some degree of prominence by writing The Force Awakens and the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Trieste Kelly Dunn, who turns 37, is known for her regular television roles on Canterbury’s Law and Banshee and for indie films like Cold Weather and Infinity BabyJordan Ladd (daughter of Cheryl Ladd of Charlie’s Angels fame), known for horror films like Cabin Fever and Grace, is turning 43.  Zach Gilford, who is 36 today, has been a regular on several series, most notably Friday Night Lights, and costarred in The Purge: Anarchy.  Television producer and writer Dan Schneider is 52 today.  He is the creator of a lengthy list of children’s programs, mostly for Nickelodeon, including Drake & Josh, Zoey 101, iCarly, and Victorious, and has received several Emmy nominations as a producer.

Mark Goodson (1915-1992) was a television producer.  He was best known for his partnership with Bill Todman; they produced game shows like Beat the Clock, Family Feud, and The Price is RightGuy Williams (1924-1989) was well known to TV audiences of the late fifties and sixties as the star of Disney’s Zorro (as the title character) and CBS’s Lost in Space (as John Robinson).  Harold Russell (1914-2002) was one of only two non-professional actors to ever win an Oscar for acting; a US Navy veteran who lost both hands in the war, he won Best Supporting Actor as Homer Parrish in The Best Years of Our Lives.

Marcus Antonius, usually known in English-speaking circles as Mark Antony (83-30 BCE) was a Roman politician and general of the late Republic, remembered as part of the Second Triumvirate formed after Julius Caesar’s death and for losing the subsequent civil war for mastery of Rome to Gaius Octavius (later known as Augustus).  He is a central character in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra and as such has been played on stage and screen by a very long list of actors.

Last January 14, Faye Dunaway and Emily Watson were our headliners.

Faye Dunaway is turning 77.  She appeared in last year’s features The Bye Bye Man and Inconceivable, and also made an appearance at the Oscar’s which she’d probably rather be able to do a second take of.  Emily Watson, who is 51, had roles in Kingsman: The Golden Circle and On Chesil Beach, and played Marmee in a BBC miniseries adaptation of Little Women and Elsa Einstein on the first season of the anthology series Genius.

Carl Weathers, who is 70 today, was a regular on the sole season of Chicago Justice, the short-lived legal drama in the Chicago franchise.  Mark Addy, who will costar in the thriller Lies We Tell, which releases in the US next month, is turning 54.  Holland Taylor, who is 75, will make her first feature appearance in nearly a decade in Sebastian Lelio’s Gloria (a remake of his Spanish-language film of that title).  Jason Bateman, who celebrates his 49th, is the star and an executive producer of Netflix’s OzarkGrant Gustin, who is 28 today, continues to play Barry Allen/The Flash on the various Arrowverse series (including starring on The Flash, of course), and will star in the upcoming feature KrystalKevin Durand, who is 44, has finished the final season of FX’s The Strain, and appeared in last fall’s Tragedy GirlsLL Cool J, who co-hosts Spike’s musical reality competition Lip Sync Battle, is 50 today.  Dave Grohl, who is 49, remains the frontman and primary songwriter of Foo Fighters, who released their latest album, Concrete and Gold, in September of last year.

Let’s let Grohl and Foo Fighters have a final musical word for today.

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 January 14, 2018, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I’ve enjoyed a number of Steven Soderbergh’s films through the years. Ocean’s Eleven is a very entertaining caper film. The sequels are of lesser caliber, but Logan Lucky was a nice variation on standard heist movie tropes. The Informant! manages to make an antitrust price fixing case into an good movie. But my favorite of his will always be Out of Sight.

    I sometimes wonder if Lawrence Kasdan might have peaked at the start of his career, with the scripts to Raiders and Empire and with writing and directing Body Heat. The Big Chill is one I’ve never warmed up to. As a Western fan, I find Silverado entertaining, although in terms of story it’s really just a big-budget B-Western; Wyatt Earp, however, is much too long and slow.

    Harold Russell’s performance in The Best Years of Our Lives was very moving; he actually won two Oscars for it. The Academy gave him a special Honorary Oscar, for “bringing hope to veterans,” and then he added the Best Supporting Actor win.

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    • I have enjoyed every one of Soderbergh’s movies that I have seen. But Ocean’s Eleven and Out of Sight are the only two I have watched repeatedly. I am in agreement that Out of Sight is the best. I also agree that Kasdan peaked early. With Grand Canyon, you could see him slipping. By Mumford, there was no coming back.

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      • When it was announced that Kasdan would be co-writing The Force Awakens I was initially optimistic. After all Kasdan helped co-write Empire Strikes Back, the best Star Wars movie ever made. Turns out the Force Awakens was rather disappointing. Kasdan also wrote the upcoming spin-off film Solo but that has all the earmarks of a turkey in the making; just 5 months left until it releases and still not a single trailer released yet, a bad sign. It’s sad to see Kasdan lost his touch because there was a time when he was an exceptional writer.

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        • I think if you go back and look at past articles and comments, it will bear out what I am about to say. While I was slightly encouraged by Kasdan’s involvement, my first thought was that modern day Kasdan is not the same guy who wrote Raiders and Empire. That guy has been missing for decades.

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  2. Kasdan is one, like Reiner, who I wish could find his mojo, and return with a flourish. Such incredible beginnings in film, and then….

    “The Big Chill” is one of my all time favorite films. As a lonely teenager in 1983, I so wanted that to be what my 30’s would be like. (Not even close, but it was a great crazy decade for me.) “Body Heat” and even “Continental Divide”, with a kinder, gentler Belushi I really enjoyed. Maybe they will return again…

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    • Continental Divide is a bit underrated, and I like to think an indicator of where Belushi’s career might have went in later years had he lived.

      By the way, did you ever notice that Kasdan lifted from himself in Divide? The scene where John Belushi gets injured and just hurts everywhere, Blair Brown asks him well where doesn’t it hurt, then starts kissing him in those spots – just as Marion did to Indy in Raiders! Kasdan stole from himself! ha ha

      Kasdan wrote Continental Divide first – it was the screenplay that caught the notice of Spielberg (who bought it to produce it, Amblin’s very first film) and that in turn got him the job of writing Raiders, so this “where does it hurt” bit was borrowed from the Divide screenplay, but then Divide the film in turn used it after it appeared in Raiders first on screen!

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      • I saw Continental Divide on TV when I was going through my Belushi phase. I remember liking it well enough. I tried a bit of it not too long ago. Didn’t especially want to watch the whole thing. It’s okay. I do think it showed Belushi was capable of more than Animal House. The thing is, his fans rejected that movie hard. Maybe if he had lived long enough, Belushi could have eased into more dramatic roles ala Bill Murray.

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      • i didn’t know that! I haven’t seen “Continental Divide” probably since HBO played 27 times a day back than. Thank you!

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  3. I can certainly see a WTHH story on Lawrence Kasdan in the future joining Shyamalan, Singleton, Reitman, McTiernan and Dante on the list of directors with their rising highs and ultimate lows. With every “Body Heat” and “The Big Chill”, you get “Wyatt Earp” and “Dreamcatcher”.

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