Category Archives: Celebrity Birthdays
Jessie Mueller, our latest headliner from the world of musical theater, is celebrating her 35th. She grew up in the Chicago area, and after studying at Syracuse University, returned to her hometown and worked in Chicago-area theater for several years. During that time she won two Joseph Jefferson Awards (sort of the Chicago-area equivalents of Tonys), one as Carrie Pipperidge in Carousel, the second as Amalia Balash in She Loves Me.
In late 2011, Mueller made her Broadway debut in a revival of the musical On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, and received a Tony nomination in the role of Melinda Wells. In the next three years, she appeared in a Public Theater production of Into the Woods as Cinderella, and returned to the role of Carrie Pipperidge in a Lincoln Center concert performance of Carousel, while continuing to work on Broadway. In 2014 she starred as Carole King in the original Broadway production of Beautiful: A Carole King Musical, and won her first Tony Award, as Best Actress in a Musical, and also shared in a Grammy won by the original cast album.
Today is Victoria Justice’s 25th birthday. She began getting TV guest roles when she was 10 years old, and in 2005 was cast as Lola Martinez on Nickelodeon’s Zoey 101, beginning a lengthy association with Nickelodeon. She then starred on Nick’s TV movie musical Spectacular!—she also contributed to several numbers on the soundtrack, which reached #44 on the Billboard 200. In 2010, she was cast in the starring role of Tori Vega on Victorious, a show about an aspiring teenage singer. Justice was also featured, naturally, on the soundtrack albums for all three seasons of the series, the first two of which reached the Top Ten, and the first of which included three charted singles.
Our two headliners today both became very well known in the 1970s, and subsequently each has had some major career ups and downs.
John Travolta is turning 64 today. He dropped out of high school after his junior year, becoming part of the touring cast of Grease and appearing on Broadway in Over Here! He emerged as a star in the mid-seventies, first in the role of Vinnie Barbarino on Welcome Back, Kotter, then as a singer with the hit single “Let Her In,” then receiving a Best Actor nomination as Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever. He went on to star in the film version of Grease, Urban Cowboy, and Brian De Palma’s Blow Out, before his career went into a tailspin discussed in his WTHH article.
Travolta’s resurgence began with his starring role in the surprise hit Look Who’s Talking. While sequels to that film were less successful, in 1994 he extended his comeback when he received his second Oscar nomination, as Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction.
Rene Russo is celebrating her 64th birthday today; she is today’s WTHH birthday. She was signed to a contract by the Ford Modeling Agency in her late teens—the story is she was spotted by an agent at a Rolling Stones concert—and spent over a decade as a top model with a number of magazine covers to her credit. In the mid-1980s she moved into acting. After a screen debut in the short-lived ABC series Sable in 1987, she moved into feature film work 1989’s Major League. Her breakout role was as Internal Affairs investigator Lorna Cole in Lethal Weapon 3, following which she costarred with Clint Eastwood in In the Line of Fire, and played Z-list actress Karen Flores in Get Shorty.
Jack Benny (1894-1974) learned the violin as a boy, and began performing at vaudeville theaters in his late teens. Early in his career he was a serious violinist, but by the beginning of the 1920s he used it mostly as a prop. In the 1930s, he moved into radio; The Jack Benny Program began airing in 1932, featuring a cast headed by Benny as himself, with Eddie Anderson as his valet, Rochester, Benny’s wife, Sadie Marks, as Mary Livingstone, and also including Mel Blanc, Dennis Day, and many more.
At the end of the 1940s, Benny moved to television, with his show airing regularly for fifteen seasons beginning in 1950. Most of the cast carried over, although Mary Livingstone, who began suffering from severe stage fright in the early fifties, seldom appeared on the television show.
Christina Ricci celebrates her 38th birthday today. She first attracted notice acting in an elementary school play at 8 years of age; two years later she made her feature film debut in Mermaids, as the younger sister of Winona Ryder’s character. During much of the 1990s she was a well-known juvenile and teenage actress, starring in the big-screen adaptation of Casper the Friendly Ghost and in a remake of That Darn Cat, and appearing in an ensemble cast in Now and Then, sometimes considered a distaff counterpart to Stand by Me. She also played Wednesday Addams in the two Addams Family feature films.
Burt Reynolds is celebrating his 82nd birthday today. After an injury during his sophomore year of college ended his hopes of a football career, Reynolds was encouraged to go into acting by an English professor. By the early sixties he was working hard on television, most notably as Quint Asper for three seasons of Gunsmoke. He also starred on a one-season crime drama on ABC, Dan August.
Reynolds began working in film in the sixties as well, but didn’t become a major film performer until about 1972, when he played the macho Lewis Medlock in Deliverance. In the next few years he emerged as major box office draw in films like The Longest Yard and W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings. In 1977 he had a huge success, starring in the biggest hit film of that year not to involve lightsabers.
Our two headliners have been photographed together on a few occasions, including the premiere of Hick, when the above photo was taken (with Roberts on the left, Moretz on the right).
Chloë Moretz is celebrating her 21st birthday today. Her first screen appearance came shortly after her 7th birthday, in a guest appearance on The Guardian. Over the next few years, she made several additional TV guest appearances, and also was the voice of Darby for the Disney Channel’s My Friends Tigger & Pooh. She made her first feature film appearances in 2005, including one in the remake of The Amityville Horror. In the next few years, she had several additional film roles, including a significant one in Lori Petty’s The Poker House (which starred a young Jennifer Lawrence), before landing her breakout role as Mindy McCready/Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass.
Our two headliners today are both connected to the Warner Brothers/Legendary Monsterverse franchise. Hiddleston was one of the stars of Kong: Skull Island, while Zhang will appear in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which will come out next year.
Tom Hiddleston is turning 37 today. He began acting in student productions at Cambridge, and later studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He began working in British film, theater and television in the early 2000s. One of his early television roles was Randolph Churchill in the BBC/HBO production The Gathering Storm, while on stage, he won an Olivier Award in a dual role in a 2007 revival of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, and a year later played Cassio in a production of Othello. In 2011, he made his first appearance in his best known film role.
Two-time Oscar winner Jack Lemmon (1925-2001) was born in Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard. He began working in film and television at the end of the 1940s, and had his first significant film role in 1954’s It Should Happen to You. A year later, he had a breakout performance, winning Best Supporting Actor as Ensign Pulver in Mister Roberts. His stature as a top star was confirmed at the end of the decade, when he made a pair of films with director Billy Wilder. He played the bass player Jerry, alias Daphne, in Some Like it Hot, and then starred as the office worker who grows a backbone, C. C. Baxter, in The Apartment. He received Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards for Best Actor, along with Oscar nominations, for each film.
Ashton Kutcher turns 40 today. He grew up in Iowa, and dropped out of the University of Iowa when he won a modeling contest. After working as a model for a short time, he moved to Los Angeles in 1998, and was cast in the period sitcom That ’70s Show in the role of Michael Kelso. He remained with the series for seven seasons and made several guest appearances during the 8th and final season. In the early 2000s he also began working regularly in film. He starred in a number of films, such as the comedies Dude, Where’s My Car? and Just Married and the sci-fi thriller The Butterfly Effect, which were poorly received critically but were financial successes (thanks in part to being modestly budgeted).
In 2003 Kutcher and Jason Goldberg created the MTV reality comedy series Punk’d, which Kutcher hosted from 2003-2007. He has also been a producer on several other television programs, like the reality series Beauty and the Geek. He continued to work regularly in films like What Happens in Vegas and No Strings Attached, but has done little film work since playing Steve Jobs in the 2013 biopic Jobs. He has returned successfully to series television; he replaced Charlie Sheen as the lead on Two and a Half Men for its final four seasons, and currently stars on Netflix’s The Ranch.
Today is Alice Eve’s 36th birthday. Her parents, Trevor Eve and Sharon Maughan, are well known to English theater and television audiences (Trevor Eve is a two-time Olivier Award winner). She made her film and television debuts in 2004, and in 2006 had a mini-breakthrough, with good roles in the romantic comedy Starter for 10 and the black comedy/crime film Big Nothing. American audiences are most likely to know her for her roles in Men in Black 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness (as Carol Marcus). She has appeared in romantic comedies like She’s Out of My League and The Decoy Bride, and this blog took notice of her starring role in Neil LaBute’s Dirty Weekend. One of her best performances was in the indie film noir Cold Comes the Night.
Many readers probably know that our two headliners appeared together in the HBO miniseries John Adams—she was Abigail Adams, he was Ben Franklin—and that they each won an Emmy and a Golden Globe. What you may not know is that they also appeared together in the 2005 horror film/courtroom drama The Exorcism of Emily Rose; Wilkinson was a priest who attempted the titular exorcism, Linney the attorney who defended him in court.
Tom Wilkinson is turning 70 today. He began acting in the mid-seventies, and worked in relative obscurity for nearly 20 years, largely in British theater and television. He began to build a reputation when he was a BAFTA Television Award nominee for an adaptation of Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit in 1994, and then won a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor for The Full Monty. He began working in Hollywood in films like Shakespeare in Love and The Patriot, and was nominated for Best Actor for the 2001 drama In the Bedroom.