Guy Pearce celebrates his 50th today. Born in England, he spent most of his youth in Australia, and began his screen career with a three-year run on the durable Australian soap opera Neighbors, after which he had a brief stint on the other long-running Aussie soap, Home and Away, and a regular role on Snowy River: The McGregor Saga. He also made a few Australian films in the early 1990s; he played a drag queen in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which was a surprise success.
However, Pearce was still little-known in the US when he was cast as Ed Exley, one of the three protagonists of Curtis Hanson’s neo-noir L.A. Confidential, adapted from James Ellroy’s novel. After that success, Pearce appeared in two major Hollywood productions in 2000. One, Rules of Engagement, was a relative failure, barely making back its production budget, while the other, a more modestly-budgeted picture, overcame marketing and distribution difficulties to become a financial and critical success.
Dame Julie Andrews celebrates her 81st birthday today. She had a classical/operatic voice teacher, but went into musical theater, feeling her voice was too light for opera. She made her London professional debut at 12 and her Broadway debut one day before her 19th birthday, in a musical called The Boy Friend. Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe then offered her the part that would make her famous, Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady.
Concurrent with My Fair Lady’s Broadway run, Andrews appeared on television in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Lerner and Loewe then wrote the part of Queen Guinevere in Camelot for Andrews. She had a brief setback in the early 1960s; when Warner Brothers prepared to film My Fair Lady, Jack Warner decided that Andrews was too unknown to headline a major movie, preferring to cast Audrey Hepburn (and Marni Nixon’s singing voice). Andrews instead made her film debut in a Disney movie about a British nanny: