Author Archives: jestak2
Andrea Martin celebrates her 70th today. The actress and comedian began her screen career as something of a scream queen, in Cannibal Girls (an early Ivan Reitman film) and Black Christmas. More recently her filmography has included roles in Boris and Natasha: The Movie, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding and its sequel. Her television resume includes a very long list of guest roles, along with starring in the Hulu series Difficult People. But the high point of her screen career remains her work on Second City Television from 1976-1984, for which she won two Emmys for writing and received one nomination for acting in roles like Edith Prickley:
Faye Dunaway is celebrating her 76th birthday today. She made her Broadway debut as Margaret More in A Man For All Seasons shortly after graduating from Boston University. A few years later came her film debut in The Happening in 1967; that same year she received her first Oscar nomination as Bonnie Parker in Bonnie and Clyde. A year later, she co-starred with Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair:
Orlando Bloom celebrates his 40th today. He began acting in his teens, spending two years with London’s National Youth Theatre and appearing on the BBC series Casualty. He had a small role in a 1997 biopic of Oscar Wilde and then attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Following his graduation, he would up spending some time down in New Zealand, for the shooting of the films which gave him his first big role:
Kirstie Alley turns 66 today. She worked for several years as an interior designer before being cast in her first acting role, as Lt. Saavik in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. As the eighties went on she had several successful film roles, starring in Summer School, Shoot to Kill, and especially Look Who’s Talking. In 1987, she joined the cast of the hit sitcom Cheers as Rebecca Howe, and was nominated five straight years for the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy, winning in 1991.
Today is definitely one of the three or four lightest days for celebrity birthdays since this series began last July.
Known as the “Queen of Hip Hop Soul,” Mary J. Blige turns 46 today. As a teenager, she made a tape in a recording booth at a local mall, which her mother’s boyfriend sent to an executive at Uptown Records, and she was signed to a contract. Initially she was used as a backup singer, but she prepared an album under the tutelage of Sean “Puffy” Combs. That album, What’s the 411?, was released in 1992 and made Blige an immediate success.
Blige has remained a successful recording artist for nearly 25 years now, while also branching out to take an occasional acting role, as in the 2012 film Rock of Ages. Over her career, she has displayed a striking ability to reinvent herself. She has won nine Grammys, which have come in four different music categories—Rap, R&B, Pop, and Gospel. She has had four #1 albums and five singles reach #1 on the R&B chart.
Director and writer Walter Hill is turning 75 today. Hill began working in film in the late 1960s, serving as a second AD on The Thomas Crown Affair and Woody Allen’s Take the Money and Run. He began to find work as a writer in the early seventies, notably on The Getaway and The Mackintosh Man. His first film as a director was the boxing movie Hard Times, but it was his second directing effort, the 1978 crime film The Driver, that began to put him on the map.
Two music legends, known for very different kinds of music, headline today’s article.
Folk icon Joan Baez celebrates her 76th today. She began performing in her late teens. Folkie Bob Gibson invited her to perform with him at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival, and she then signed a recording contract with Vanguard Records. Her first album, Joan Baez, came out in 1960, and reached a respectable 20th on the Billboard 200. Baez’s sound and style have evolved a lot through the years; at the beginning, it was very austere—just Baez singing a variety of traditional songs, accompanying herself on the guitar, with Fred Hellerman of the Weavers supplying a second guitar on a few tracks:
Canadian actress, writer and director Sarah Polley celebrates her 38th today. She began working as a child performer in Canadian television, first as the title character in Ramona, a series adapted from Beverly Cleary’s series of children’s novels, and then starring for several years as Sara Stanley, the lead character of Road to Avonlea, adapted from the novels of Lucy Maud Montgomery.
In the late 1990s, Polley began to build an impressive resume in independent films. She had a pivotal role in Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter, and in 1999 appeared in several films, including David Cronenberg’s Existenz and Doug Liman’s Go:
Jeremy Renner is turning 46 today. He went into acting after taking a community college drama course. He made his film debut in a supporting part in National Lampoon’s Senior Trip. Over the next decade he had a number of guest roles on television and supporting parts in major films like S.W.A.T. and North Country. He also had lead roles in independent films like the horror biopic Dahmer and the rural noir A Little Trip to Heaven. His big break came when Kathryn Bigelow cast him in the lead role of Sergeant William James in The Hurt Locker; the film won Best Picture while Renner was nominated for Best Actor.
Eddie Redmayne celebrates his 35th birthday today. He made his screen debut as a teenager on British television and began a stage career while studying art history at Cambridge. He made his film debut in the 2006 Anglo-Australian co-production Like Minds, and that same year had a small role in his first American film, The Good Shepherd. He first began to be noticed with his starring role as Colin Clark in My Week With Marilyn, and then played Marius in the feature film version of Les Misérables.
Redmayne then starred as one of the most prominent scientific thinkers of our time, Stephen Hawking, in the biographical romance The Theory of Everything. Redmayne’s highly praised performance gave him a clean sweep of the major Best Actor awards for 2014: Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA Award and SAG Award.
Our two headliners today appeared together in one of the greatest movies of all time, and fortunately had a few scenes where they were onscreen together.
Robert Duvall, a seven-time Oscar nominee, is turning 86 today. He began acting in a summer theater on Long Island in the 1950s, and was very busy in the next decade plus with theater and television roles. He had his first notable film role as Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird in 1962, but it wasn’t until the end of the sixties that he began to get good film roles regularly—Ned Pepper in True Grit, Frank Burns in MASH, the title character in George Lucas’s THX 1138.
Duvall’s breakthrough as an actor came in 1972. Francis Ford Coppola, the producer of THX 1138, cast Duvall in a central role in a film he was adapting from a best-selling novel about the Mafia:
Three time Oscar nominee (and avid Los Angeles Lakers fan) Dyan Cannon is celebrating her 80th birthday today. Cannon began acting on television in the late 1950s and made her first feature films in the early sixties, but was almost certainly better known back then for her short marriage to Cary Grant. That changed at the end of the 1960s when Cannon was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.
The 1970s were Cannon’s heyday. She starred in a variety of films, including The Love Machine, Shamus, The Last of Sheila, and Revenge of the Pink Panther. In 1976, she directed, produced and wrote a short film called Number One, which was nominated for Best Live Action Short. And she capped the decade by receiving her third Oscar nomination, starring opposite Warren Beatty in Heaven Can Wait:
Mel Gibson celebrates his 61st birthday today. He moved to Australia when he was 12 and began his film career there in the late 1970s. He first became known through director George Miller’s Mad Max films, the first of which was released in 1979. He also made a pair of notable films with Peter Weir, Gallipoli and The Year of Living Dangerously, and starred in the 1984 film The Bounty as Fletcher Christian, opposite Anthony Hopkins as William Bligh.
Gibson made his Hollywood debut starring opposite Sissy Spacek in the 1984 film The River. However, his real breakthrough to stardom came in 1987, in a film that some people may have voted for in the new bracket game: