Author Archives: jestak2
Jason Sudeikis turns 42 today. He began his career working in improv comedy, first with ComedySportz in Kansas City, then with a variety of other comedy troupes across the country. In 2003 he was hired as a writer for Saturday Night Live, and was added to the show’s regular performing cast two years later, remaining through 2013. His regular sketches and characters included DJ Supersoak, Pete Twinkie, the ESPN host, and performing with Kristen Wiig in the “Two A-holes” sketches.
During his SNL year, Sudeikis also had recurring roles on 30 Rock and Eastbound & Down, and was a regular, as a voice actor, on The Cleveland Show. He began to get prominent film roles around 2010, with major supporting roles in The Bounty Hunter, the Horrible Bosses films, and The Campaign. His first leading role came in We’re the Millers in 2013.
Sam Esmail is celebrating his 40th birthday. He grew up in New Jersey and became one of the long list of film or television creators who attended NYU’s Tisch School, and then earned an MFA from the AFI Conservatory. He began working in film and television in the late 2000s, when he wrote his first screenplay, and worked as a post-production supervisor for HBO First Look. However, Esmail did not begin to actually work as a filmmaker until several years later; his first feature, Comet, which he wrote and directed, came out in 2014. That same year he wrote the screenplay for Mockingbird.
Esmail is best known as the creator of the USA Network series Mr. Robot, which will return for its third season next month. Esmail has written over half of the show’s 22 episodes so far and directed about two-thirds of them. Esmail is also involved in a new Amazon series title Homecoming, which reportedly will star Julia Roberts. He has won a Golden Globe for Mr. Robot, and while he has not yet received any honors from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, he does have an Emmy. 🙂
It’s Alexis Bledel’s 36th birthday today. She grew up in the Houston area and was encouraged by her mother to get involved in community theater; she also made an uncredited cameo in Rushmore, which was filmed in the Houston area. Her first prominent film role came in a 2002 adaptation of Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting. In the mid-2000s she made a few high-profile films, appearing as Becky in Sin City and Lena Kaligaris in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants films. More recently, she has appeared in indie films such as The Kate Logan Affair and Violet & Daisy.
Bledel has begun working in theater again; she is one of a long list of actresses who have appeared in the off-Broadway production of Nora and Delia Ephron’s Love, Loss, and What I Wore. She has made a few TV guest appearances, and recently won her first Emmy, for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series, for her appearance on Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale. However, most of America got to know her when she starred for seven seasons as Rory Gilmore on Gilmore Girls (and, recently, on Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life).
Today is Oliver Stone’s 71st birthday. He attended Yale for two short periods, then enlisted in the US Army and served in Vietnam. He eventually graduated from NYU and worked at various jobs while trying to get a start in the film industry. He directed his first film, Seizure, in 1974, but didn’t really start to become known until winning his first Oscar, for Best Adapted Screenplay for the 1979 film Midnight Express.
Stone then wrote a number of screenplays in the early 1980s, ranging from Scarface to Conan the Barbarian, before having a breakthrough year in 1986. Salvador, the first of his two films that year, was a critical success, but a box office failure. It was eclipsed by the partly autobiographical Platoon, which won Best Picture and brought Stone a Best Director Oscar.
South Korea filmmaker Bong Joon-ho is celebrating his 48th birthday today. He began working in film as a screenwriter in the 1990s, and made his first film as a director in 2000, Barking Dogs Never Bite. He followed that up with Memories of Murder, a crime drama, a monster film titled The Host, and a family drama, Mother. All three of these won Best Picture at one or more of the Grand Bell Awards, the Blue Dragon Awards (these are the Korean counterparts to the Oscars), or the Asian Film Awards. Bong’s most recent film, Okja, screened for the Palme d’Or at Cannes earlier this year. However, American audiences are most likely to know him for his first English language film, the 2013 post-apocalyptic thriller Snowpiercer.
Producer Frank Marshall is turning 71 today. He got his start in the film industry through Peter Bodgdanovich; he met the director at a party and wound up as Bogdanovich’s assistant on Targets. He then worked with Bogdanovich on several subsequent films, taking on more responsibility each time until he was a credited producer on Nickelodeon. Marshall then worked with Martin Scorsese on The Last Waltz and with Walter Hill on The Driver and The Warriors. In 1981, he began his must durable association with a director, working on a film that became the first of five Best Picture nominees he would produce.
Ben McKenzie is turning 39 today. He has been a regular on series television for nearly fifteen years. In 2003, at a time when he had only had a couple of TV guest spots, he was cast as Ryan Atwood, the troubled teen who was a central character on The O.C.; he appeared in every episode of the series four-year run. Two years after that gig ended, he was cast as rookie cop Ben Sherman on TNT’s Southland (the series originally aired on NBC).
McKenzie’s film career has largely been in supporting roles, in films such as Junebug (his feature film debut) and Goodbye World. A couple of exceptions have been in his portrayal of Joe Bonham in the one-man show adaptation of Johnny Got His Gun, and, in a bit of casting that was subsequently ironic, as Bruce Wayne/Batman in an animated adaptation of Batman: Year One. For the past three years, he has been starring as James Gordon on Fox’s Gotham.
Brian De Palma is celebrating his 77th today. He made his first feature, The Wedding Party, featuring a very young Robert De Niro, in 1963, but it was not released until 1969. He made several documentaries in the sixties, and re-teamed with De Niro for the 1968 film Greetings, which won a Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. In the early 1970s, he made his first forays into the psychological thriller genre, films such as Sisters and Obsession that some have found Hitchcockian.
Then he became a pioneer of another sort, when in 1976 he directed the film adaptation of the first novel by a not-yet-world-famous Stephen King.
Joe Perry becomes our latest rock guitar great to headline in the series, as he turns 67 today. While he has done some recording as a solo artist and with the Joe Perry Project, he is best known for his work as a member of Aerosmith; except for a hiatus of about 5 years, he has been their lead guitarist, and Steven Tyler’s frequent songwriting partner, since the band’s founding. Aerosmith are one of the best-selling hard rock bands of all time, possibly the top sellers of all, depending on where you draw the line between “hard rock” and “not hard rock.”
Aerosmith came into existence in 1970 when Steven Tyler and his band at the time played at the same venue as Jam Band, which included Perry, drummer Joey Kramer, and bassist Tom Hamilton. The four decided to merge into a new band, and after about a year were joined by rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford in Aerosmith’s classic, and current, lineup. They had great commercial success in the seventies, went through some tough times during which Perry and Whitford temporarily left the band, and then reunited in 1984 to enjoy more success, receiving their first Grammy nomination in 1990 for a song written by Perry and Tyler.
Today is Adam Sandler’s 51st birthday. He is part of a very long list of film and television industry alumni of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, graduating in 1988. He made his first TV guest appearances while still at NYU, and made his film debut in Going Overboard in 1989. A year later, he was hired as a writer for Saturday Night Live, and he joined the show’s performing cast in 1991, remaining until 1995.
Sandler’s first real film success came in 1995, when he wrote and starred in Billy Madison. A critical bust, the film nevertheless succeeded at the box office, making over $25 million domestically against a $10 million budget. Happy Gilmore, a year later, was a similar story, following which Sandler had a very good 1998, starring with Drew Barrymore in The Wedding Singer, and writing, producing and starring in his biggest box office hit ever in inflation-adjusted terms, The Waterboy.
Patsy Cline (1932-1963) was born in Virginia, and when her father walked out of the house when she was 15, she dropped out of high school to work as a waitress and bring in some income. She began singing at a local radio station, and for several years became increasingly popular in the tri-state area where she lived. In 1955 she signed her first record contract. She made a lot of records in the late 1950s, and had one major hit, “Walkin’ After Midnight,” which reached #2 on the Country chart in 1957.
However, it wasn’t until she got free of her initial record contract, which had some very restrictive provisions, that Cline began to enjoy consistent success. She had her first #1 hit, “I Fall To Pieces,” in 1961; it also did well as a crossover hit. Although she had a temporary setback due to a late 1961 auto accident, she rebounded with several additional hit singles in the next year and a half. She also began to act as a mentor and support figure for other women trying to make it as solo country acts, like Loretta Lynn and a very young Barbara Mandrell.
Toby Jones is celebrating his 51st birthday today. He made his film debut in the 1992 film Orlando, an adaptation of a Virginia Woolf novel. Many will know him from his roles in three major franchises: he played Dobby in the Harry Potter series, Claudius Templesmith in the Hunger Games films, and Arnim Zola in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Next year, he will appear in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
He has also appeared in a wide variety of other films. He starred as Truman Capote in Infamous, and has had supporting roles in Amazing Grace, Frost/Nixon, My Week With Marilyn, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (as Percy Alleline), and in this summer’s Atomic Blonde.
Jones has also had a noteworthy television career. He has been nominated for three BAFTA Television Awards, brought his film character of Arnim Zola to an episode of Agent Carter, and appeared as Culverton Smith during the latest season of Sherlock. One of his most acclaimed television performances was as Alfred Hitchcock in the HBO movie The Girl, which brought him his first BAFTA nomination as well as Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.
Naomie Harris, who celebrates her 41st, was born in London; her mother was from Jamaica and her father from Trinidad. She began acting in British television as a child and continued to do so into the 1990s. Her first major film role was in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later; she later worked with Boyle again when he directed a National Theatre production of Nick Dear’s Frankenstein.
Harris has had roles in two major franchises, as Tia Dalma/Calypso in the Pirates of the Caribbean films, and as Eve Moneypenny in the two latest Bond films, Skyfall and Spectre. She had a prominent supporting role in Michael Mann’s Miami Vice, played Winnie Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and appeared in last year’s Our Kind of Traitor (adapted from John Le Carré’s novel). Her most acclaimed performance was as Paula Harris in last year’s Moonlight, for which she received nominations for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.