About City Connect Cambridge

City Connect was first established in Cambridge and aims to spread to other cities nationally and internationally in the future. City Connect's online magazine style website reaches out to a wide audience and has something for everyone. City Connect offers a comprehensive range of features and articles, such as news, film and music reviews, trends and hot topics, dating advice, culture and style to name but a few. City Connect also holds networking events to join our writers, advertisers and readers together. City Connect events range from the casual to the formal, but everyone with a passion for networking is welcome.

Happy Birthday George Bernard Shaw

On 26 July, City Connect celebrates the anniversary of the birth of George Bernard Shaw. He is well known for his play “Pygmalion” which was made into the popular Hollywood musical “My Fair Lady” starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. However there is a lot more to Shaw than meets the eye. Read more about this fascinating playwright below.

Biography

George Bernard Shaw (26 July 1856 – 2 November 1950) was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60 plays. Nearly all his writings address prevailing social problems, but have a vein of comedy which makes their stark themes more palatable. Shaw examined education, marriage, religion, government, health care, and class privilege.

He was most angered by what he perceived as the exploitation of the working class. An ardent socialist, Shaw wrote many brochures and speeches for the Fabian Society. He became an accomplished orator in the furtherance of its causes, which included gaining equal rights for men and women, alleviating abuses of the working class, rescinding private ownership of productive land, and promoting healthy lifestyles. For a short time he was active in local politics, serving on the London County Council.

In 1898, Shaw married Charlotte Payne-Townshend, a fellow Fabian, whom he survived. They settled in Ayot St. Lawrence in a house now called Shaw’s Corner. Shaw died there, aged 94, from chronic problems exacerbated by injuries he incurred by falling.

He is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize for Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938), for his contributions to literature and for his work on the film Pygmalion (adaptation of his play of the same name), respectively. Shaw wanted to refuse his Nobel Prize outright because he had no desire for public honours, but accepted it at his wife’s behest: she considered it a tribute to Ireland. He did reject the monetary award, requesting it be used to finance translation of Swedish books to English.

Pygmalion: A Romance in Five Acts (1912) is probably Shaw’s most famous play. It is about a professor of phonetics called Henry Higgins who makes a bet that he can train a bedraggled Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, to pass for a duchess at an ambassador’s garden party by teaching her to assume a veneer of gentility, the most important element of which, he believes, is impeccable speech. The play is a sharp lampoon of the rigid British class system of the day and a comment on women’s independence, packaged as a romantic comedy.

In ancient Greek mythology, Pygmalion was the creator of a sculpture which came to life and was a popular subject for Victorian era English playwrights, including one of Shaw’s influences, W. S. Gilbert, who wrote a successful play based on the story in 1871, called Pygmalion and Galatea.

Pygmalion was the most broadly appealing of all Shaw’s plays. But popular audiences, looking for pleasant entertainment with big stars in a West End venue, wanted a “happy ending” for the characters they liked so well, as did some critics. During the 1914 run, to Shaw’s exasperation but not to his surprise, Tree sought to sweeten Shaw’s ending to please himself and his record houses. Shaw returned for the 100th performance and watched Higgins, standing at the window, toss a bouquet down to Eliza. “My ending makes money, you ought to be grateful,” protested Tree. “Your ending is damnable; you ought to be shot.” Shaw remained sufficiently irritated to add a postscript essay, “‘What Happened Afterwards,” to the 1916 print edition for inclusion with subsequent editions, in which he explained precisely why it was impossible for the story to end with Higgins and Eliza getting married.

He continued to protect the play’s and Eliza’s integrity by protecting the last scene. For at least some performances during the 1920 revival, Shaw adjusted the ending in a way that underscored the Shavian message. In an undated note to Mrs. Campbell he wrote,

“When Eliza emancipates herself — when Galatea comes to life — she must not relapse. She must retain her pride and triumph to the end. When Higgins takes your arm on ‘consort battleship’ you must instantly throw him off with implacable pride; and this is the note until the final ‘Buy them yourself.’ He will go out on the balcony to watch your departure; come back triumphantly into the room; exclaim ‘Galatea!’ (meaning that the statue has come to life at last); and — curtain. Thus he gets the last word; and you get it too.” (This ending is not included in any print version of the play.)

Shaw fought uphill against such a reversal of fortune for Eliza all the way to 1938. He sent the film’s harried producer, Gabriel Pascal, a concluding sequence which he felt offered a fair compromise: a romantically-set farewell scene between Higgins and Eliza, then Freddy and Eliza happy in their greengrocery/flower shop. Only at the sneak preview did he learn that Pascal had shot the “I washed my face and hands” conclusion, to reassure audiences that Shaw’s Galatea wouldn’t really come to life, after all.

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Happy Birthday Ross Kemp

Ross Kemp is a BAFTA award-winning British actor, author and journalist. He turned 48 years old this year and was born on 21 July 1964 in Essex. Kemp became a celebrity when he rose to fame after playing the role of Grant Mitchell in BBC’s Eastenders.

His gritty portrayl of tough guy Grant Mitchell in the popular BBC TV soap opera Eastenders for nearly ten years from 1990 won him the accolade of Best Actor in the British Soap Awards in 1999. Kemp made his debut on the show in February 1990. On-screen, Kemp, as Grant, was often at the centre of EastEnders’ plots, amongst them abusive marriages to Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean) and Tiffany Mitchell (Martine McCutcheon), and the “Sharongate” storyline, that saw Grant’s brother Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) conduct an affair with his wife.

Since leaving Eastenders, he has become better known for hard hitting investigative journalism such as “Ross Kemp in Afganistan” and “Ross Kemp on Gangs” which won Best Factual Series in the 2006 BAFTA Awards. The award-winning TV series saw Kemp interview gang members from around the world. The first series featured gangs and police corruption in Brazil, Māori gangs in New Zealand, neo-Nazi skinheads in California, gangsters in London, and teenagers from Blaenau Gwent.

The second series featured “MS13” from El Salvador, neo-Nazis in Russia, football hooligans in Poland, American “Bloods” and “Crips” gangs in St. Louis, and the Numbers gang in South Africa. The show returned in September 2008 for four more episodes, starting in the Los Angeles district of Compton. “Ross Kemp on Gangs” has also been released on DVD which you can purchase from all good retailers. In early 2007 Kemp published his experiences from the TV programme in book form, simply titled “Ross Kemp. Gangs”.

Kemp is a keen amateur rugby player and is known for his trademark bald head which adds to his hardman image on screen. However, not many people know that Kemp’s first television appearance was for an advert of Kellogg’s Fruit ‘n Fibre breakfast cereal – see below.

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Happy Birthday Sir Edmund Hillary

City Connect celebrates the 91st anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary’s birth. New Zealand’s best known explorer has been truly inspirational to others since his record breaking achievements of being the first to climb Mount Everest and the first to drive overland to the South Pole.

Biography

Sir Edmund Percival Hillary, KG, ONZ, KBE (20 July 1919 – 11 January 2008), was a New Zealand mountaineer, explorer and philanthropist. On 29 May 1953 at the age of 33, he and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers known to have reached the summit of Mount Everest. They were part of the ninth British expedition to Everest, led by John Hunt. Hillary was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

Hillary became interested in mountaineering while in secondary school, making his first major climb in 1939, reaching the summit of Mount Ollivier. He served in the Royal New Zealand Air Force as a navigator during World War II. Before the successful expedition in 1953 to Everest, he had been part of a reconnaissance expedition to the mountain in 1951 and an unsuccessful attempt to climb Cho Oyu in 1952. As part of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition he reached the South Pole overland in 1958. He would later also travel to the North Pole.

Following his ascent of Everest he devoted much of his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal through the Himalayan Trust, which he founded. Through his efforts many schools and hospitals were built in this remote region of the Himalayas. He was the Honorary President of the American Himalayan Foundation, a United States non-profit body that helps improve the ecology and living conditions in the Himalayas. He was also the Honorary President of Mountain Wilderness, an international NGO dedicated to the worldwide protection of mountains .

Hillary was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) on 6 June 1953; member of the Order of New Zealand (ONZ) in 1987; and Knight of the Order of the Garter (KG) on 22 April 1995. The Government of India conferred on him its second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan, posthumously, in 2008. He was also awarded the Polar Medal for his part in the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition,[43] and the Order of the Gurkha Right Hand, 1st Class (Suprasidha-Prabala-Gorkha-Dakshina-Bahu) of the Kingdom of Nepal in 1953.

His favoured New Zealand charity was the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre of New Zealand of which he was Patron for 35 years. Hillary was particularly keen on the work this organisation did in introducing young New Zealanders to the outdoors in a very similar way to his first experience of a school trip to Mt Ruapehu at the age of 16.

In 1992 Hillary appeared on the updated New Zealand $5 note, thus making him the only New Zealander to appear on a banknote during his or her lifetime, in defiance of the established convention for banknotes of using only depictions of deceased individuals, and current heads of state.

On 11 January 2008, at the age of 88, Hillary died of heart failure at the Auckland City Hospital. Hillary’s death was announced by New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark who stated that his passing was a “profound loss to New Zealand”. His death was recognised by the lowering of flags to half-mast on all Government and public buildings and at Scott Base in Antarctica. Actor and adventurer Brian Blessed, who attempted to climb Everest three times, described Sir Edmund as a “kind of titan”.

On 21 January 2008, Hillary’s casket was taken into Holy Trinity Cathedral to lie in state. A state funeral was held for Hillary the following day after which his body was cremated. On 29 February 2008, in a private ceremony, most of Hillary’s ashes were scattered in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf as he had desired. The remainder went to a Nepalese monastery near Everest.

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Biography text reproduced from Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Happy Birthday Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson OBE

On 07 July, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Irish actor, Liam Neeson, OBE, who has been nominated for an Oscar, a BAFTA and three Golden Globe Awards. He has starred in a number of notable roles including Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s List, Michael Collins in Michael Collins, Peyton Westlake in Darkman, Bryan Mills in Taken, Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars (the film Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Alfred Kinsey in Kinsey, Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises, and the voice of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia film series.

He starred in other notable films such as Excalibur, The Dead Pool, Nell, Rob Roy, Les Misérables, The Haunting, Love Actually, Kingdom of Heaven, Clash of the Titans and Wrath of the Titans, The A-Team, Unknown and The Grey, as well as smaller arthouse films (e.g. Deception, Breakfast on Pluto, Chloe). He was ranked at number 69 on Empire magazine’s 100 greatest movie stars of all time in 1997.

Biography

Neeson was born on 7 June 1952, in Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

In 1980, filmmaker John Boorman saw him on stage, acting as Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men, and offered him the part of Sir Gawain in the upcoming Arthurian film, Excalibur. After Excalibur, Neeson moved to London, where he continued working on stage, small budget films and television series. He lived with the actress Helen Mirren at this time, whom he met working on Excalibur. Between 1982 and 1987, Neeson starred in five films; most notably alongside Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins in 1984’s The Bounty and Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons in 1986’s The Mission. He also starred as a guest actor in the third season of the television series Miami Vice in 1986.

In 1987, Neeson made a conscious decision to move to Hollywood in order to star in high-profile roles. That year, he starred alongside Cher and Dennis Quaid in Suspect. The role brought Neeson critical applause, but it was 1990’s Darkman that would bring his name to public attention. Although the film was successful, Neeson’s following years would not give him the same recognition. In 1993, he joined Ellis Island co-star and future wife Natasha Richardson in the Broadway play Anna Christie. (They also worked together in Nell, released the following year.)

Director Steven Spielberg, impressed by his performance in Nell, offered him the coveted role of Oskar Schindler in the film about the Holocaust, Schindler’s List. His critically acclaimed performance later earned him a nomination for a Best Actor Oscar; however, the award went to Tom Hanks for his performance in Philadelphia. Neeson also garnered BAFTA and Golden Globes nominations for Schindler’s List. Schindler’s List established Neeson as a widely sought-after actor.

In 1999, Neeson starred as Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, in director George Lucas’ Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. As it was the first Star Wars film to be released in over sixteen years, it was surrounded by a large amount of anticipation from the media. Neeson’s connection to the Star Wars films started in the Crown Bar, Belfast. Neeson stated to Ricki Lake, “I probably wouldn’t have taken the role if it wasn’t for the advice of Peter King in the Crown during a Lyric reunion.” The Phantom Menace was an enormous box-office success and remains the most financially successful Star Wars film unadjusted for inflation.

After being nominated for a Tony Award for his role opposite Laura Linney in The Crucible, Neeson teamed up with Harrison Ford in Kathryn Bigelow’s submarine thriller K-19: The Widowmaker (2002) as Captain Mikhail Polenin and appeared in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York (with Leonardo DiCaprio, Brendan Gleeson, Cameron Diaz and Daniel Day-Lewis). He also played a recently widowed writer in Richard Curtis’ ensemble comedy Love Actually (2003). His role as Alfred Kinsey in Kinsey again put Neeson up for nomination for a Golden Globe Award but lost to Leonardo DiCaprio for The Aviator.

Neeson starred in the action film Taken in 2008, a French produced film also starring Famke Janssen and Maggie Grace. Taken was a huge worldwide box office hit, grossing $223,882,658 worldwide and making almost $200,000,000 more than its initial budget. The film brought Neeson’s image back into the public eye and resulted in his casting in many more mainstream Hollywood movies.

In 2010, Neeson played Zeus in the remake of the 1981 film, Clash of the Titans. The film went on becoming a huge box office hit and grossing $475 million worldwide.

Neeson also starred in the erotic thriller Chloe, theatrically released by Sony Pictures Classics on 26 March 2010. Chloe had enjoyed commercial success and became director Atom Egoyan’s biggest money maker ever. Later the same year, he played John “Hannibal” Smith in the spin-off movie from the TV series The A-Team.

Neeson was married to actress Natasha Richardson from 3 July 1994, until her death on 18 March 2009, when she suffered a severe head injury in a skiing accident at the Mont Tremblant Resort, in Quebec.

He was appointed as Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in her 1999 New Year Honours. In March 2011, Neeson was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.

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Trailers reproduced from YouTube / Saundatron08
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Happy Birthday Cheryl Cole

On 30 June, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Cheryl Cole (née Tweedy) who was born on this day in 1983. Having divorced from her husband Ashley Cole, the singer has decided to be professionally known as Cheryl. She’s had a rough ride in the last couple of years so we wish Cheryl all the best at 29 and hope she finds commercial and critical success with her new solo album A Million Lights which was released earlier this month.

Cheryl in L'Oréal Elnett Advert

Biography

Cheryl rose to fame in late 2002 when she auditioned for the reality television show Popstars: The Rivals on ITV. The programme announced that Cole had won a place as a member of the girl group, Girls Aloud. The group’s debut single “Sound of the Underground” peaked at number one on the UK Singles Chart, becoming the 2002 Christmas number one. Girls Aloud hold the record for the shortest time between formation and reaching number one.

Since 2003, Cheryl Cole has been part of Girls Aloud twenty consecutive top-ten singles, with all but one charting within the top ten, and 15 reaching top five positions in the UK. Their singles “I’ll Stand by You”, “Walk This Way”, and “The Promise” have charted at number one. All five of their studio albums have been certified platinum with their greatest hits album The Sound of Girls Aloud and 2008’s Out of Control, both of entering the UK Albums Chart at number one. Girls Aloud have earned five BRIT Award nominations from 2005 to 2010. In 2009, Girls Aloud won “Best British Single” at that year’s Brit Awards for “The Promise”.

Girls Aloud have become one of the few UK reality television acts to achieve continued success, and had amassed a fortune of £25 million by May 2009. The 2007 edition of Guinness World Records listed them as “Most Successful Reality TV Group”.

Cheryl began dating England and Chelsea footballer Ashley Cole in September 2004, announcing their engagement after he proposed in Dubai in June 2005 and the couple were married on 15 July 2006. The couple were hit with Kiss and Tell stories about Ashley’s infidelities but they reconciled and stayed together.

In June 2008, it was announced Cole would replace Sharon Osbourne as a judge for the fifth series of The X Factor alongside Dannii Minogue, Simon Cowell and Louis Walsh. Cole was given the girls category (made up of female contestants between 16 and 25) and subsequently ended up as the victorious judge when Alexandra Burke was crowned the fifth winner of The X Factor on 13 December 2008.

Cole returned for the sixth series of The X Factor in 2009 and was given the boys category (made up of male contestants aged 16 to 25). Cole emerged as the winning judge for a second consecutive year after Joe McElderry was crowned the sixth winner of The X Factor. Simon Cowell, the show’s creator, said, “I knew she was going to be good because she speaks like normal people speak. People can relate to that. And I think that is the best sign of a judge.” Cowell has referred to Cole as “one of the best I’ve ever worked with.”

In 2009, Girls Aloud announced their musical hiatus and Cheryl Cole went on to release two solo albums, which both went to number one in the UK: 3 Words (2009) and Messy Little Raindrops (2010). She achieved a number of hits, including two number one singles: “Fight for This Love” and “Promise This”.

In early February 2010, news broke that Cole’s husband had cheated on her with five more women. On 23 February, Cole announced she was separating from her husband and subsequently filed for divorce at London’s High Court citing “unreasonable behaviour” of estranged husband Ashley as the reason for their break-up. She was granted a decree nisi on 3 September 2010.

On 3 July 2010, Cole was admitted to hospital with suspected acute malaria after a visit to Tanzania.

Cole returned for the seventh series of The X Factor in 2010 to mentor the girls category once again. In this series, Cole faced intense scrutiny from the public and the media after she rejected popular contestant Gamu Nhengu to go through to the live shows in favour of Cher Lloyd and Katie Waissel, even though both had fluffed their performances at judges’ houses. Cole also receive more criticism after she refused to vote for an act in the fifth week, which resulted in claims that the show was fixed. This series would also mark the first that Cole was not the winning mentor, after a contestant in her category, Rebecca Ferguson, lost out to Matt Cardle, who was mentored by Dannii Minogue.

On 5 May 2011, it was officially announced after months of speculation that Cole would appear as a judge alongside Simon Cowell, L.A. Reid, and Paula Abdul on the American version of The X Factor. However, after only three weeks as a judge and completing the auditions in Los Angeles and Chicago, Cole departed the show following rumours she had been sacked.

Cole is set to release her third solo album A Million Lights on the 18 June 2012, with lead single “Call My Name” released on May 18, 2012. The single was written and produced by Calvin Harris and the music video for the single was directed by Anthony Mandler and shot in Downtown Los Angeles.

Cole has become a recognised and photographed style icon; referred to as a fashionista by the press. She has been photographed for the covers of British Vogue, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar, while also becoming the new face of cosmetic company L’Oréal in late 2009. However, her recent advertising campaign promoting the L’Oréal Elvive shampoo and conditioner range attracted criticism amid claims that she had deliberately deceived persons wishing to buy the product, since it shows Cole with hair extensions.

Cheryl has been involved in a number of charitable activities. Most notable were in March 2009 when she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in aid of Comic Relief with a group of other celebrities. The trek raised £3.4 million for the charity. Between 3 February and 23 March 2009, Cole raised money for Comic Relief by providing the voice for the BT Speaking Clock. In February 2011, Cole launched her own charitable foundation with The Prince’s Trust following a meeting with The Trust’s President, HRH Charles, Prince of Wales. The Cheryl Cole Foundation will provide vital funds for The Trust in the North East, helping disadvantaged young people from Cole’s region. On 13 June 2011, she auctioned 20 dresses with ASOS to raise funds for the foundation.

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Happy Birthday Selma Blair

On 23 June, City Connect celebrates the birthday of American actress Selma Blair, who was born on this day in 1972. Selma Blair’s career has included commercial and critical successes; she has starred in feature films including Cruel Intentions, Legally Blonde, The Sweetest Thing, Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. She also played the titular role of Kim in the US version of the Australian comedy TV series Kath & Kim. She has recently released a new line of handbags & wallets called SB designed by herself. In 2012, Blair is set as the female lead in the new FX comedy series Anger Management opposite Charlie Sheen, which is scheduled for worldwide release at the end of June 2012.

Selma Blair in 2012

Biography

After several auditions, independent film roles and guest roles in various television series, Blair starred in a mainstream movie with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe in the 1999 film Cruel Intentions, based on the novel “Les Liaisons Dangereuses”.

In 2000, Blair portrayed a predatory and sexy seductress college girl in the teen comedy Down To You alongside Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Julia Stiles. Her film career continued in the 21st century with the independent drama Kill Me Later opposite Max Beesley. She later co-starred in the well-received comedy Legally Blonde opposite Reese Witherspoon in which Blair played a snobby and preppy law student.

Selma Blair then starred in the controversial Storytelling (2001), a drama set in 1985 alongside Leo Fitzpatrick where Blair portrayed a college student forced to have a relationship with her teacher. In 2002, Blair co-starred in the comedy The Sweetest Thing alongside Cameron Diaz and Christina Applegate, her role got her the nomination for “Best Actress in a Comedy” in the Teen Choice Awards. At the same time, Blair appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone on 25 April 2002. Later, she had a guest-starring role in the episode “The One with Christmas in Tulsa” on the hit TV series Friends.

In early 2003, Blair co-starred in the romantic comedy A Guy Thing with Jason Lee and Julia Stiles. Blair then appeared in several supporting roles before being cast in one of her most recognized roles, “Liz Sherman” a depressed pyrotechnic superhero, in the Guillermo Del Toro blockbuster Hellboy co-starring Ron Perlman. The fantasy film is based on the Mike Mignola’s popular comic and was a commercial success, topping the box office in the U.S. and Canada.

Blair as Liz Sherman in Hellboy

In November 2005, she starred opposite Tom Welling and Maggie Grace in John Carpenter’s ghost movie The Fog, in which Blair did her own stunts, remaining twelve hours in a water tank for two days to shoot her underwater scenes. The movie was a commercial success and debuted at number one in its opening weekend in the United States and Canada.

In 2008, she again starred as Liz Sherman in Hellboy II: The Golden Army, in this sequel, her character was much more extensive and influential in the film, for which she was nominated for the Scream Awards for Best Actress in a Fantasy Movie or TV Show; the film was a worldwide commercial success, ranking first at the box office in North America, United Kingdom, Germany and Italy among other countries.

From 2008-2009, Blair accepted the titular role in NBC’s TV series Kath & Kim, opposite Molly Shannon and Mikey Day, the sitcom is based on the Australian television series of the same name about a mother and daughter who are obsessed with celebrity culture, Blair plays Kim, a self-absorbed suburban young princess, who is forced to reassess her relationship with her mother. Blair also appeared with Rainn Wilson singing Baby, It’s Cold Outside for the 2008 GAP winter ad campaign.

In the early summer of 2011, Selma Blair returned to the stage, taking the lead role as Kayleen in Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries opposite stage actor Brad Fleischer, the drama talks about why people hurt themselves emotional and physically to win love and attention.

Recently, Blair starred in the home invasion thriller Replicas opposite Rachel Miner and James D’Arcy, the film had its world premiere in NYC at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival with a mixed critical response. She also plays the role of an immature troubled woman in arrested development, in the comedy-drama Dark Horse with Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow, due for worldwide release in June 2012.

In 2012, Selma Blair began shooting as the female lead in the new FX comedy series Anger Management opposite Charlie Sheen, which is scheduled for worldwide release on June 28, 2012. The series is based on the 2003 movie of the same name and stars Charlie Sheen as the role originated by Jack Nicholson in the movie.

The series follows Charlie (Charlie Sheen), a former minor-league baseball player who has overcome his past anger issues to become a “non-traditional” therapist. However, his life is continuously complicated by his family and friends. This will be Sheen’s first acting role since his firing from the hit CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men on 7 March 2011. Selma Blair has been cast as Charlie’s therapist and possible love interest.

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Happy Birthday Nicole Kidman

On 20 June, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Nicole Kidman – actress, singer, producer and humanitarian – born on this day in 1967. Nicole Kidman began her career in 1983, starring in various Australian film and television productions until her breakthrough in the 1989 thriller Dead Calm. Nicole Kidman’s notable films include To Die For (1995), Eyes Wide Shut (1999), Moulin Rouge! (2001), The Hours (2002), Cold Mountain (2003), The Interpreter (2005), Australia (2008) and Rabbit Hole (2010).

Nicole Kidman at Tropfest 2012

Biography

After appearing in the Australian miniseries Bangkok Hilton, Nicole Kidman starred in Dead Calm (1989) which garnered strong reviews and brought Kidman to international recognition. She moved on to star alongside her then-boyfriend and future husband, Tom Cruise, in the 1990 auto racing film Days of Thunder. This was Kidman’s American debut and was among the highest-grossing films of the year.

In 1991, her work in the film Billy Bathgate earned Nicole Kidman her first Golden Globe Award nomination, for Best Supporting Actress. The following year, she and Cruise re-teamed for Ron Howard’s Irish epic Far and Away (1992), which was a modest critical and commercial success. In 1993, she starred in My Life opposite Michael Keaton and the thriller, Malice opposite Alec Baldwin.

In 1999, Nicole Kidman reunited with then husband, Tom Cruise, to portray a married couple in Eyes Wide Shut, the final film of Stanley Kubrick. The film opened to generally positive reviews but was subject to censorship controversies due to the explicit nature of its sex scenes. The film received further attention following Kubrick’s death shortly before its release. After brief hiatus and a highly publicized divorce from Cruise, Kidman returned to the screen to play a mail-order bride in the British-American drama Birthday Girl.

In 2001, Nicole Kidman played the cabaret actress and courtesan Satine in Baz Luhrmann’s musical Moulin Rouge!, opposite Ewan McGregor. The film was a critical and commercial success. Subsequently, Kidman received her second Golden Globe Award, for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, as well as other acting awards. She also received her first Academy Award nomination, for Best Actress.

In 2003, Nicole Kidman won critical praise for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf in Stephen Daldry’s The Hours. Kidman wore prosthetics that were applied to her nose making her almost unrecognisable playing the author during her time in 1920s England, and her bouts with depression and mental illness while trying to write her novel, Mrs. Dalloway. The film earned several nominations, including for an Academy Award for Best Picture. Kidman won numerous critics’ awards, including her first BAFTA, third Golden Globe, and the Academy Award for Best Actress. As the first Australian actress to win an Academy Award, Kidman made a teary acceptance speech about the importance of art, even during times of war, saying, “Why do you come to the Academy Awards when the world is in such turmoil? Because art is important. And because you believe in what you do and you want to honour that, and it is a tradition that needs to be upheld.”

Following her Oscar win, Nicole Kidman appeared in Anthony Minghella’s war drama Cold Mountain (2003), was a critical and commercial success. Kidman appeared opposite Jude Law and Renée Zellweger and received her sixth Golden Globe nomination at the 61st Golden Globe Awards for Best Actress.

In 2004 Nicole Kidman appeared in the black comedy-science-fiction film The Stepford Wives, a remake of the 1975 film of the same name. The film, directed by Frank Oz, was critically panned and a commercial failure. The following year, Kidman appeared opposite Sean Penn in the Sydney Pollack thriller The Interpreter, playing UN translator Silvia Broome.

In conjunction with her success in the film industry, Nicole Kidman became the face of the Chanel No. 5 perfume brand. She starred in a campaign of television and print ads with Rodrigo Santoro, directed by Moulin Rouge! director Baz Luhrmann, to promote the fragrance during the holiday seasons of 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2008. The three-minute commercial produced for Chanel No. 5 made Kidman the record holder for the most money paid per minute to an actor after she reportedly earned US$12million for the three-minute advert.

Nicole Kidman starred in the commercially successful fantasy-adventure, The Golden Compass (2007), playing the villainous Marisa Coulter. In 2008, she reunited with Moulin Rouge! director Baz Luhrmann in the Australian period film Australia, set in the remote Northern Territory during the Japanese attack on Darwin during World War II. Kidman played opposite Hugh Jackman as an Englishwoman feeling overwhelmed by the continent. Despite the film’s mixed reviews, the acting was praised and the movie was a box office success worldwide.

In 2010, Nicole Kidman starred with Aaron Eckhart in the film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Rabbit Hole. In 2011, Nicole Kidman starred alongside Nicolas Cage in director Joel Schumacher’s action-thriller Trespass, with the stars playing a married couple taken hostage.

In 2012, Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen perform in an HBO film directed by Philip Kaufman about Ernest Hemingway and his relationship with Martha Gellhorn. entitled Hemingway & Gellhorn. Kidman will also star in Lee Daniels’ adaptation of the Pete Dexter novel, The Paperboy with Zac Efron.

Nicole Kidman has raised money for, and drawn attention to, disadvantaged children around the world. In 1994, she was appointed a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. On Australia Day 2006, Kidman received Australia’s highest civilian honor when she was made a Companion of the Order of Australia. Kidman has been married twice, first to actor Tom Cruise, and then to singer Keith Urban.

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Happy Birthday Joe McElderry

On 16 June, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Joe McElderry born on this day in 1991. Joe McElderry won the sixth series of the ITV show The X Factor in 2009. His first single “The Climb” reached number one on the UK Singles Chart and Irish Singles Charts. Joe McElderry was also crowned the winner of the second series of Popstar to Operastar, two years later in 2011. To date he has released three albums – two of them reaching the UK top three. He is currently working on his fourth studio album. On 30 July 2010, Joe McElderry announced on his official website that he is gay. The gay charity Stonewall has listed McElderry as a gay role model.

Joe McElderry

Biography

Joe McElderry won The X Factor in 2009, mentored by Cheryl Cole, beating runner up Olly Murs with his version of Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb”. He signed a recording contract with Simon Cowell’s Syco record label, whose parent company is Sony Music Entertainment. Joe McElderry’s debut single, “The Climb”, was released in December 2009 and had the fifth highest sales of all UK singles released in 2009 staying one week at number 1. It was also the top selling Irish single of 2009 where it remained at the top spot for four consecutive weeks.

In 2010, Joe McElderry recorded his debut album Wide Awake. The first single released from Wide Awake was “Ambitions”, a cover of a song by Norwegian band Donkeyboy. The song debuted at #6 on the UK Singles Chart and #4 on the Irish Chart. Wide Awake debuted at number 3 on the UK Albums Chart but fell to number 20 the following week, and to number 40 the week after that. “Someone Wake Me Up” was the second single taken from the album and it debuted and peaked at number 68 on the UK Singles Chart.

Joe McElderry was approached by Twentieth Century Fox to record the specially written track, “There’s A Place For Us”, written by American songstress Carrie Underwood, which features in the soundtrack to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and was also the B-side to “Someone Wake Me Up”. The song was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in 2011 for Best Original Song – Motion Picture.

After “Someone Wake Me Up,” Joe McElderry released no further singles or albums with Syco. On 15 April 2011, it was reported in the media that his contract with Syco would not be renewed. Joe McElderry has stated that his split with Syco was amicable.

In 2011, Joe McElderry appeared as a contestant on the second series of ITV’s Popstar to Operastar and won the show on 10 July 2011. After the show it was revealed that, in all of the episodes in which he competed, McElderry received more votes than all of the other contestants combined. He defeated Cheryl Baker in the final with 77.1% of the public vote.

He signed a new recording contract with Decca Records and his second studio album, Classic, was released in August 2011 and debuted on the official UK top 40 albums chart at number 2. The album was certified gold, within 10 days after the release.

Joe McElderry took part in the Great North Run half marathon on 19 September 2010 raising money for Teenage Cancer Trust, which he is also an ambassador for. He ran the Great North Run again in 2011, once again supporting the Teenage Cancer Trust, finishing in 1 hour and 42 minutes. Also in 2011, Joe McElderry was put up for auction on the shopping channel QVC in aid of Breast Cancer Care and eventually sold for £6,350. The top bidder received a unique concert from Joe in her living room.

Joe McElderry embarked on his debut solo tour, Classic Tour in November 2011 and released a Christmas album titled Classic Christmas later that month. The album debuted at number 15 on the UK Albums Chart. On 8 December, he performed at Durham Cathedral to an audience of 1,500, singing, “In the Bleak Midwinter” and “A Winter’s Tale”.

Joe McElderry started recording his fourth album in February 2012. It is due for release in September 2012 and is set to include collaborations with Marcella Detroit and Ludovico Einaudi.

On 3 June 2012, he performed at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Water Pageant, he sang for guests on board a Dunkirk ship, The Viscount.

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Happy Birthday Zachary Quinto

On 02 June, City Connect celebrates the birthday of the American actor and producer Zachary Quinto who was born on this day in 1977. Zachary Quinto is famous for his role as series antagonist Sylar in the science fiction drama Heroes from 2006 to 2010. He was cast as Spock in Star Trek (2009). Zachary Quinto publicly came out as gay in October 2011. He explained that, after the suicide of gay teenager Jamey Rodemeyer, he realized “that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it, is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality.”

"Sylar" "Heroes" "Spock" "Star Trek"

Zachary Quinto in 2011

Biography

Quinto, who is of half-Italian and half-Irish descent, was born in Pittsburgh and grew up in Green Tree, Pennsylvania, with his mother Margo and his brother Joe. His father, John, who was a barber, died of cancer when Quinto was 7 years old. He graduated from Central Catholic High School in 1995, where he participated in their musicals and won the Gene Kelly Award for Best Supporting Actor, and then attended Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama, from which he graduated in 1999.

Quinto first appeared on television in the short-lived television series The Others, and appeared as a guest star on shows including CSI, Touched by an Angel, Charmed, Six Feet Under, Lizzie McGuire, and L.A. Dragnet. In 2003, he landed a recurring role as computer expert Adam Kaufman on the Fox series 24; Quinto appeared in 23 episodes of the third season.

In 2006, Quinto played the role of Sasan, the haughty, gay Iranian-American best friend of Tori Spelling on her VH1 series So NoTORIous. Later that year, he joined the cast of Tim Kring’s Heroes as Gabriel Gray, better known as the serial killer Sylar. He worked on the series until its cancellation in 2010 after four seasons.

His casting as a young Spock in the J. J. Abrams-directed reboot of the Star Trek film franchise was officially announced at the 2007 Comic-Con. Speaking alongside Leonard Nimoy at a press conference to promote the new Star Trek film, Quinto revealed that Nimoy had been given casting approval over who would play the role of the young Spock. “For me Leonard’s involvement was only liberating, frankly,” says Quinto. “I knew that he had approval over the actor that would play young Spock, so when I got the role I knew from the beginning it was with his blessing.”

In a September 2008 interview, Abrams said of Quinto’s performance as Spock: “Zachary brought a gravity and an incredible sense of humor, which is a wonderful combination because Spock’s character is deceivingly complicated. The revelation for me watching the movie, when I finally got to watch the whole thing after working on sequences, was that he is extraordinary. He was doing things I didn’t even realize while we were shooting – these amazing things to track his story.”

Following Star Trek, he appeared in the comedy short Boutonniere (2009). It “…was a movie written and directed by my former landlady and friend [actress Coley Sohn]. She called up and said, ‘Would you do me a favor and be in my short film?'”

"Oscars 2012"

Zachary Quinto at the 84th Annual Academy Awards 2012

Quinto has joined with Corey Moosa and Neal Dodson to form Before the Door Pictures. The company is working on projects in film, television, new media, and the graphic novel arena. It announced a three-book publishing deal with comic book publisher Archaia at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con. The first project from the partnership is expected to be a 100-page graphic novel called Mr. Murder is Dead, created by writer Victor Quinaz. It will be followed by the comic book series LUCID: A Matthew Dee Adventure written by writer/actor Michael McMillian.

Quinto’s theatre experience includes roles in a variety of productions, including Much Ado About Nothing at the Los Angeles Shakespeare Festival and Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow at the Old Globe Theatre. Baseline Studio Systems announced in January 2010 that Steven Spielberg may direct a biopic about George Gershwin, which is scheduled for release in 2012, with Quinto confirmed for the lead role. From October, 2010 to February 2011, Quinto played the lead role of Louis Ironson in an Off-Broadway revival of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America at the Signature Theatre, New York City. For this role, Quinto received the Theatreworld Outstanding Debut Performance award. He has modeled for magazines including GQ and August.

In 2010, Quinto’s company Before the Door Pictures produced Margin Call, an independent film about the financial crisis. Quinto played the role of Peter Sullivan in the film, in a cast that included Jeremy Irons, Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci and Demi Moore. Margin Call premiered in January 2011 at the Sundance Film Festival. In October 2011, Quinto began his recurring role on the FX series, American Horror Story, as Chad, former owner of the house. Quinto will return for the second season in a lead role.

Quinto publicly came out as gay in October 2011. Prior to his coming out, Quinto had long been an active supporter of gay rights and organizations like the Trevor Project. In 2009, he appeared in the one-night production Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays, a benefit stage reading in response to the passing of Proposition 8, as well as in the play The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, about the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard. In 2010, Quinto contributed a video (see below) to the It Gets Better Project, an Internet-based campaign that aims to prevent suicide among LGBT youth.

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Happy Birthday Victoria Wood

On 19 May, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Victoria Wood CBE, the English comedienne, actress, singer-songwriter, screenwriter and director. Wood has written and starred in sketches, plays, films and sitcoms, and her live comedy act is interspersed with her own compositions, which she accompanies on piano. She is noted for her skills in observing culture, and in satirising social classes. Wood frequently works with long-term collaborators Julie Walters, Duncan Preston and Celia Imrie.

Victoria Wood winning 2 BAFTAs in 2007

Biography

Victoria Wood started her career in 1974 by winning the ATV talent show New Faces. It wasn’t until the 1980s that she began to establish herself as a comedy star and became one of Britain’s most popular stand-up comedians starting with the award-winning television series Victoria Wood As Seen On TV. Wood began working at the BBC in 1984 and her sketch show Victoria Wood As Seen On TV went into production. Wood chose actors and actresses herself: her friend Julie Walters starred, as did Duncan Preston. Wood’s friend Celia Imrie was also cast, as well as Susie Blake and Patricia Routledge. As Seen On TV was notable for featuring classic sketches such as Acorn Antiques, a spoof of low-budget soap opera and rumoured to be named after an antiques shop in her birthplace. Acorn Antiques is remembered for characters such as “Mrs Overall” (played by Walters), the deliberately bad camera angles and wobbling sets, as well as Celia Imrie’s sarcastic tone as “Miss Babs”. Below is “Episode 1” of Acorn Antiques starring Walters, Imrie and Preston.

Between 1989 and 1999, Wood began to move away from the sketch show format and into more self-contained works, often with a more bittersweet flavour. The television film, Pat and Margaret (1994), starring Wood and Julie Walters as long-lost sisters with very different lifestyles, continued her return to stand-alone plays with a poignant undercurrent to the comedy. In 1998, she wrote her first sitcom, dinnerladies, which continued her now established milieu of mostly female, mostly middle-aged characters depicted vividly and amusingly, but with a counterpoint of sadder themes.

December 2000 saw the Christmas sketch show special Victoria Wood with All The Trimmings, starring her traditional troupe of actors and actresses as well as a string of special guest stars. Here’s her parody of Brief Encounter that was one of the sketches on the show.

Wood wrote her first musical, Acorn Antiques: The Musical!, which opened in 2005 at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, for a limited period, directed by Trevor Nunn. It starred most of the original cast, with Sally Ann Triplett playing Miss Berta (played in the series by Wood). Wood played Julie Walters’ character Mrs. Overall for matinee performances.

Wood wrote the 2006 one-off ITV serious drama Housewife, 49, an adaptation of the real diaries of Nella Last, and played the eponymous role of an introverted middle-aged character who discovers new confidence and friendships in Lancashire during World War II. Housewife, 49 was critically praised, and Wood won BAFTAs for both her acting and writing for this drama — a rare double.

In 2007, Wood appeared in her own travel documentary show on BBC One called Victoria’s Empire, in which she travelled around the world in search of the history, cultural impact and customs which the British Empire placed on the parts of the world it ruled. The three programmes covered India, Hong Kong, Borneo, Ghana, Jamaica, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Zambia, finishing at the Victoria Falls.

Wood returned to television comedy for a one-off Christmas comedy sketch-show special, her first in 9 years, titled Victoria Wood’s Mid Life Christmas, transmitted on BBC One on Christmas Eve 2009. The special, which reunited Wood with long-time collaborator Julie Walters, included a spoof of BBC period dramas Lark Rise to Candleford, Little Dorrit and Cranford entitled Lark Pies to Cranchesterford, a spoof documentary following Acorn Antiques star Bo Beaumont (Walters) titled Beyond The Marigolds and a reprise of Wood’s most famous song “The Ballad of Barry and Freda” (“Let’s Do It”).

Wood has received many awards in her long career. In 1997, she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Earlier in 1994, she was made an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Sunderland. She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours.

Wood has four BAFTA wins from fourteen nominations winning Best Light Entertainment Performance in 1986 for Victoria Wood As Seen On TV and in 1989 for An Audience With Victoria Wood. In 2007, Wood won Best Actress and Best Single Drama BAFTAs for Housewife 49. In December 2011, she received the British Comedy Awards award for “Best Female TV Comic” beating competition such as Sarah Millican.

Wood is a Quaker and a vegetarian, once remarking; “I’m all for killing animals and turning them into handbags. I just don’t want to have to eat them.” She lives in Highgate, North London.

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Happy Birthday Gabriel Byrne

On 12 May, City Connect celebrates the birthday of the actor Gabriel Byrne who has starred in over 35 feature films, such as The Usual Suspects, Miller’s Crossing, Stigmata and End of Days. As a film producer his credits include the Academy Award-nominated In the Name of the Father. More recently, Gabriel Byrne has received much critical acclaim for his role as Dr. Paul Weston in the HBO drama In Treatment.

Gabriel Byrne in 2010

Biography

Gabriel Byrne attended University College Dublin, where he studied archaeology and linguistics. Byrne worked in archaeology when he left UCD. He maintained his love of his language, later writing the first television drama in Irish, Draíocht, on Ireland’s national Irish-language television station, TG4, when it began broadcasting in 1996.

Before becoming an actor, Gabriel Byrne had many jobs, including archaeologist, cook, and Spanish and History schoolteacher at Ardscoil Éanna in Crumlin, Dublin. He started acting at age 29, beginning his career on stage with the Focus Theatre and the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. He later joined the Royal Court Theatre and the Royal National Theatre in London. Byrne came to prominence on the final season of the Irish television show The Riordans, subsequently starring in his own spin-off series, Bracken. He made his film debut in 1981, as King Uther Pendragon in John Boorman’s King Arthur epic, Excalibur. In 1983, he appeared with Richard Burton in the miniseries Wagner, co-starring Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson.

Gabriel Byrne has starred in over 35 feature films and is also a film director, film producer, writer, cultural ambassador and audiobook narrator.

Byrne, who retains his Irish citizenship, did not arrive in the United States until 1987, when he was 37. He had begun a relationship with actress Ellen Barkin, and had relocated to New York City to be with her. A year later, in 1988, Byrne married Barkin, with whom he has two children, John “Jack” Daniel (born 1989) and Romy Marion (born 1992). The couple separated amicably in 1993, and then divorced in 1999. Gabriel Byrne currently resides in Manhattan, New York City.

Byrne is also actively involved in various charities, in addition to being a human rights activist. In 2004, Gabriel Byrne was appointed a UNICEF Ireland Ambassador. He became a patron of Croi (The West of Ireland Cardiology Foundation) in 1997 in response to the care given to his mother while she was a patient in a Galway hospital.

At the 5th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival in 2007, Gabriel Byrne was presented with the first of the newly created Volta awards, for lifetime achievement in acting. He also received the Honorary Patronage of the University Philosophical Society, of Trinity College, Dublin on February 20, 2007. In November of that same year, he was awarded an honorary degree by the National University of Ireland, Galway; the president of the University, Dr Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh, said that this award is in recognition of the actor’s “outstanding contribution to Irish and international film”.

Gabriel Byrne won critical acclaim for his role as therapist Dr. Paul Weston in the HBO primetime weeknight series In Treatment. The series is about a 50-something psychologist and his weekly sessions with patients, as well as those with his own therapist at the end of the week. Each episode of In Treatment focuses on one patient, including Paul, who is seeing his clinical supervisor and psychotherapist, Gina, played by Dianne Wiest. The programme debuted on January 28, 2008, as a five-night-a-week series. The programme’s format, script and opening theme are based on, and are often word-for-word translations of, Hagai Levi’s Israeli series BeTipul.

After winning critical acclaim and numerous honours, including Emmy, Golden Globe and Writers Guild awards, In Treatment returned for a second season, premiering on April 5, 2009. The second season built on the success of the first, winning a 2009 Peabody Award. The third season premiered on October 26, 2010, with four episodes per week. On March 30, 2011, HBO said In Treatment would not continue in its existing form but the network was talking with the show’s producers about possibly continuing in a different format.

Gabriel Byrne was named as TV’s “latest Dr. McDreamy” by the New York Times for his role as Dr. Paul Weston in HBO’s In Treatment, and he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Drama Series in 2008. He also received his first Emmy Award nomination (Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series) for the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards that same year.

Upon his return to theatre in 2008, he appeared as King Arthur in Camelot with the New York Philharmonic from May 7 to May 10, following the footsteps of veteran actors Richard Burton and Richard Harris.

Gabriel Byrne has mentioned in interviews and his 1995 autobiography, Pictures In My Head, that he hates being called “brooding”. Although the actor is noted as a fiercely private person, he released a documentary for the 20th Galway Film Fleadh in the summer of 2008 called Stories from Home, an intimate portrait about his life.

Gabriel Byrne has been listed by People as one of the “Sexiest Men Alive”. Entertainment Weekly has also dubbed Byrne as one of the hottest celebrities over the age of 50.

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Happy Birthday Adele

On 05 May, City Connect celebrates the 25th birthday of Adele, the superstar singer who in 2013, she received an Academy Award as well as the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song for her song “Skyfall”, written for Skyfall, the twenty-third James Bond film. After suffering from a vocal cord haemorrhage in October 2011, Adele underwent laser microsurgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in November of that year.

Record breaking artist Adele

Biography

Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, better known mononymously as Adele (often stylized as ADELE), is an English recording artist and songwriter. Adele was offered a recording contract from XL Recordings after a friend posted her demo on MySpace in 2006. The next year she received the Brit Awards “Critics’ Choice” and won the BBC Sound of 2008. Her debut album, 19, was released in 2008 to much commercial and critical success. The album is certified four times platinum in the UK, and double platinum in the US. Her career in the US was boosted by a Saturday Night Live appearance in late 2008. At the 2009 Grammy Awards, Adele received the awards for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

Adele released her second album, 21, in early 2011. The album was well received critically and surpassed the success of her debut. 21 helped Adele earn six Grammy Awards in 2012 including Album of the Year, making her the second female artist after Beyoncé Knowles in Grammy Awards history to win six categories in a single night.

Adele poses with her 6 GRAMMYS – Feb 2012

The album has also helped her receive numerous other awards, including two Brit Awards and three American Music Awards. 21 has been certified 15 times platinum in the UK; in the US the album has held the top position longer than any other album since 1985. The album has sold over 4 million copies in the UK where it is the fifth best-selling album of all time. Since 21 was released in 2011, it has spent 23 weeks at number one and has beaten Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black to become the biggest selling album of the 21st Century.

The success of 21 earned Adele numerous mentions in the Guinness Book Of World Records. She is the first artist to sell more than 3 million copies of an album in a year in the UK. With her two albums and the first two singles from 21, “Rolling in the Deep” and “Someone Like You“, Adele became the first living artist to achieve the feat of two top five hits in both the UK Official Singles Chart and the Official Albums Chart simultaneously since the Beatles in 1964.

With her third release from the album, “Set Fire to the Rain“, becoming her third number one single in the US, Adele became the first artist in history to lead the Billboard 200 concurrently with three Billboard Hot 100 number ones.

Adele is also the first female artist to have three singles in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 at the same time, and the first female artist to have two albums in the top five of the Billboard 200 and two singles in the top five of the Billboard Hot 100 simultaneously.

21 is the longest running number one album by a female solo artist on the UK Albums Chart and is the longest running number one album by a female in Billboard history.

In 2011, Billboard named Adele artist of the year. In 2012, Adele was listed at number five on VH1′s 100 Greatest Women In Music, and American magazine Time named Adele one of the most influential people in the world.

Adele graces the March 2012 issue of US Vogue

Adele appeared on the cover of the March 2012 issue of US Vogue looking stunning and did not appear to have a problem with her weight after the recent controversy surrounding Karl Lagerfeld’s comment that she was “too fat”.

In October 2012, Adele confirmed that she had been writing and recording the theme song for Skyfall, the twenty-third James Bond film. The song “Skyfall”, co-written with producer Paul Epworth, was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, and features orchestrations by J. A. C. Redford. Adele stated recording “Skyfall” was “one of the proudest moments of my life.” On 14 October, “Skyfall” rose to number 2 on the UK Singles Chart with sales of 92,000 copies bringing its overall sales to 176,000, and “Skyfall” entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 8, Adele’s first song to debut in the Top 10, selling 261,000 copies in the United States in its first three days. This tied “Skyfall” with Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill” as the highest-charting James Bond theme song on the UK Singles Chart. “Skyfall” has sold more than two million copies worldwide. In January 2013 Adele won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and in February 2013 Adele won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Skyfall”.

Adele’s voice is categorised as contralto. Initially, critics suggested that her vocals were more developed and intriguing than her songwriting, a sentiment with which Adele agreed. Adele’s first album is of the soul genre, with lyrics describing heartbreak and relationship. Her success occurred simultaneously with several other British female soul singers, with the British press dubbing her a new Amy Winehouse. This was described as a third British Musical Invasion of the US. However, Adele called the comparisons between her and other female soul singers lazy, noting “we’re a gender, not a genre”. By the beginning of 2009, listeners and critics started to describe Adele as unique. AllMusic wrote that “Adele is simply too magical to compare her to anyone.”

American singer Beyoncé Knowles cited Adele as one of the influences for her fourth album, 4. Madonna expressed a desire to collaborate with Adele, commenting; “I think she’s brilliant, I love her”. J. J. Burnel of The Stranglers is also a fan, stating; “She had me riveted… Of course she’s huge and normally that would turn me off because it’s too commercial. But I was seriously impressed”. Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and Nirvana has repeatedly praised Adele in interviews.

It was reported in January 2012 that Adele was dating charity entrepreneur and Old Etonian Simon Konecki. In June 2012, Adele announced that she and Konecki were expecting a baby. Adele gave birth to the couple’s son on 19 October 2012.

When on tour, Adele requires all backstage visitors to donate a minimum charitable contribution of $20 for the UK charity Sands, an organization dedicated to “supporting anyone affected by the death of a baby and promoting research to reduce the loss of babies’ lives”. During the UK and European leg of her Adele Live tour, Adele collected $13,000 for the charity.

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Happy Birthday Penélope Cruz

On 28 April, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Penélope Cruz, the Spanish actress. She made her feature film debut in Jamón, jamón (1992). She was the first Spanish actress in history to receive an Academy Award for her supporting role in Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) and the first Spanish actress to receive a star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

penelope cruzBiography

Signed by an agent at age 15, she made her acting debut at 17 to critical acclaim. Her subsequent roles in the 1990s and 2000s included Open Your Eyes (1997), The Hi-Lo Country (1999), The Girl of Your Dreams (2000) and Woman on Top (2000). Cruz achieved recognition for her lead roles in the 2001 films Vanilla Sky and Blow.

She has since built a successful career, appearing in films from a wide range of genres, including the comedy Waking Up in Reno (2002), the thriller Gothika (2003), the Christmas movie Noel (2004), and the action adventure Sahara (2005). She has received critical acclaim for her roles in Volver (2006) and Nine (2009) receiving Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for each. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2008 for Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Cruz has modeled for companies such as Mango, Ralph Lauren and L’Oréal. Penélope and her younger sister Mónica Cruz have designed items for Mango. She has donated both her time and money to charities. Cruz has volunteered in Uganda and India, where she spent one week working for Mother Teresa; she donated her salary from Hi-Lo Country, TheThe Hi-Lo Country to help fund the late nun’s mission. A wax sculpture of Cruz will be placed in a premier spot in the Grevin Wax Museum in Paris.

Cruz in L'Oreal Elnett Satin ad

Cruz in L’Oreal Elnett Satin ad

Cruz has donated money and time to charity. In addition to work in Nepal, she has volunteered in Uganda and India, where she spent a week working for Mother Teresa that included assisting in a leprosy clinic. That trip inspired Cruz to help start a foundation to support homeless girls in India, where she sponsors two young women. She donated her salary from her first Hollywood movie, The Hi-Lo Country, to Mother Teresa’s mission. In the early 2000s, she spent time in Nepal photographing Tibetan children for an exhibition attended by the Dalai Lama. She also photographed residents at the Pacific Lodge Boys’ Home, most of whom are former gang members and recovering substance abusers. She said: “These kids break my heart. I have to control myself not to cry. Not out of pity, but seeing how tricky life is and how hard it is to make the right choices.” A pregnant Cruz showed her support for the battle against AIDS by lighting up the Empire State Building with red lights in New York City December 1, 2010 on International AIDS Day, as part of (RED)’s new awareness campaign, ‘An AIDS Free Generation is Due in 2015,’ which aims to eradicate the HIV virus from pregnant mothers to their babies. In 2012, she posed for an ad supporting PETA’s anti-fur campaign.

Cruz & Javier Bardem in Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Cruz & Javier Bardem in Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Cruz is a friend of director Pedro Almodóvar, whom she has known for almost two decades and with whom she has worked on films.Cruz is known to friends as Pe. Cruz owns a clothing store in Madrid and designed jewelry and handbags with her younger sister for a company in Japan.

Cruz had a three-year relationship with Tom Cruise after they appeared together in Vanilla Sky. It ended in January 2004. Cruz dated actor Matthew McConaughey from February 2005 to June 2006. In 2007, Cruz began dating Spanish actor Javier Bardem, who was her co-star in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. They married in early July 2010 in a private ceremony at a friend’s home in The Bahamas. Cruz gave birth to their first child, son Leonardo Encinas, in January 2011 at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. In February 2013, it was announced that Cruz is pregnant with the couple’s second child.

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Happy Birthday James McAvoy

On 21 April, City Connect celebrates the birthday of James McAvoy, the Scottish actor first known for his role as Steve McBride in the Channel 4 TV series Shameless. James McAvoy has also starred in the films The Last King of Scotland (2006) and Atonement (2007) amongst others. Most recently James McAvoy played Charles Xavier in X-Men: First Class(2011), a role he will reprise in X-Men: Days of Future Past in 2014

James McAvoy

Biography

James McAvoy was born in Port Glasgow, Scotland in 1979. James McAvoy’s acting debut came at the age of 15 in The Near Room (1995). He graduated from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in 2000. In 2004, James McAvoy acted in a supporting role in the romantic comedy Wimbledon which also featured American actress Kirsten Dunst as a co-lead. Also starting in 2004, James McAvoy appeared in the first two seasons of Shameless as Steve McBride, the moral hero of the BAFTA-winning Channel 4 programme, giving the actor a big break in his career.

His public profile was raised in 2005 with the release of Walt Disney Pictures’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. James McAvoy starred as Mr. Tumnus in the fantasy adventure film based on the C. S. Lewis children’s novel. The film was released in the UK on 9 December 2005. At the UK box office, this movie opened at number one, earning around £8.7 million at 498 cinemas over the weekend. Worldwide, Narnia grossed £463 million, making it the 41st highest-grossing film of all-time worldwide.

In 2006, James McAvoy also accepted the principal role of Brian Jackson, a nerdy university student who wins a place on a University Challenge quiz team in the mid-1980s, in Starter for 10. In spite of positive buzz, the movie flopped at the box office, unable to recover its production costs of £5.7 million.

Forrest Whittaker had suggested McAvoy to director Kevin Macdonald for the role of Nicholas Garrigan in 2006’s Academy Award-winning low-budgeted The Last King of Scotland. McAvoy portrayed a Scottish doctor that becomes the personal physician to dictator Idi Amin (played by Whittaker) while in Uganda. While the movie is based on factual events of Amin’s rule, the story between the two is fictional and adapted from Giles Foden’s acclaimed 1998 novel. An overwhelmed McAvoy fainted during his first take of what would be the hardest scene for him to shoot, Nicolas’s torture. McAvoy was named Best Actor of the year by the Scotland’s own BAFTA Awards, where the film swept the major categories, and received a nomination from the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. The movie itself walked away with three wins, including the honour for Outstanding British Film of the Year. This was accompanied by praise for McAvoy’s performance.

Following that, he played Irish attorney Tom Lefroy and love-interest to Jane Austen in Becoming Jane, a 2007 historical movie inspired by the author’s early life. Next up was Penelope, which premiered at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival. Also starring co-producer Reese Witherspoon, it generated polarised reviews.

The breakthrough role in McAvoy’s career came in Atonement, Joe Wright’s 2007 adaption of Ian McEwan’s novel of the same title. A romantic war film, it focuses on lovers Cecilia and Robbie’s (Keira Knightley and McAvoy) lives being torn apart after her jealous younger sister (Saoirse Ronan) falsely accuses him of a crime.

Upon reading the script, McAvoy thought to himself, “if I don’t get the part I’m not reading the book because it’ll be devastating. It’s an amazing role and I really wanted it.” McAvoy has called the movie “incredibly sad” but considers it an uplifting experience. He also shared that he hoped viewers will be left “absolutely devastated and harrowed.” Screenings of Atonement were held at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival, where it was one of most acclaimed films present, and Venice Film Festival. Atonement was a big awards contender; it was nominated for fourteen BAFTAs and seven Academy Awards. Both McAvoy and Knightley were nominated for their performances at the 65th Golden Globe Awards, respectively. The film was also highly praised by critics.

One of the biggest highlights of McAvoy’s career was starring opposite Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman in Wanted (2008), an action movie where he personified Wesley Gibson, a young American slacker who learns he is heir to a legacy of assassins. McAvoy had never done this type of genre before and thought of Wanted as a chance to be more versatile. The movie received favourable reviews from the press, who generally liked that it was fast-paced. At the box office, Wanted was a success, grossing £207 million against a £45 million production budget.

In mid-2010, McAvoy was cast as telepathic superhero Professor X, leader and founder of the X-Men, in X-Men: First Class. He joined an ensemble that included Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Kevin Bacon. Based on the Marvel Comics and a prequel to the film series, it is set primarily during the Cuban Missile Crisis and focuses on the relationship between Professor X and Magneto and the origin of their groups. The film was well-received by critics and grossed £5 million from ticket sales during its opening weekend.

In 2011, McAvoy began filming the role of Max Lewinsky in the British thriller, Welcome to the Punch. He was also cast as the lead role in the upcoming Danny Boyle film, Trance. In early 2012, McAvoy was cast as Bruce Robertson in Filth, an adaptation of an Irvine Welsh novel of the same name. The film’s ensemble cast includes Jamie Bell, Jim Broadbent, Eddie Marsan, and Imogen Poots.

It was also announced that he was cast as co-star with Jessica Chastain in a double-feature film project, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. McAvoy was cast to star in Shakespeare’s Macbeth on London’s West End in 2013.

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Happy Birthday Sarah Michelle Gellar

On 14 April, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Sarah Michelle Gellar, the American actress & producer famous for her leading role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and most recently appearing in the well-received drama series Ringer. She has been married to Freddie Prinze Jr. since 2002. The couple have two children.

Sarah Michelle Gellar in 2011

Biography

After being found by an agent in a local restaurant in New York City, she had a role in the made-for-TV movie An Invasion of Privacy and went on to appear in shows like Spenser: For Hire. She originated the role of Kendall Hart on the ABC daytime soap opera All My Children, winning the 1995 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Actress in a Drama Series.

Gellar came into promincence in the late 1997 when landed significant parts in the successful horror films I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream 2 and played Buffy Summers on the WB/UPN television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for which she won six Teen Choice Awards and the Saturn Award for Best Genre TV Actress and received a Golden Globe Award nomination. In her feature in Esquire magazine Gellar expressed her pride for her work on Buffy, “I truly believe that it is one of the greatest shows of all time and it will go down in history as that. And I don’t feel that that is a cocky statement. We changed the way that people looked at television.”

She found film critics praise for her performace in the teen drama Cruel Intentions (1999), a modern-day retelling of Les Liaisons dangereuses featured a kiss between Gellar and co-star Selma Blair that won the two the “Best Kiss” award at the 2000 MTV Movie Awards. This film was a modest hit at the box office, grossing over $38 million in the United States and over $75 million worldwide, and earned several awards and nominations. Critic Roger Ebert stated that Gellar and co-star Ryan Phillippe “develop a convincing emotional charge” and that Gellar is “effective as a bright girl who knows exactly how to use her act as a tramp”. Gellar’s role showed her versatility as an actress, and many were surprised to see her playing a brunette cocaine addict with an appetite for manipulating and using people. Her performance was praised by a number of critics, including Rob Blackwelder for SPLICEDwire, who wrote about the “dazzling performance by Sarah Michelle Gellar who plunges headlong into the lascivious malevolence that makes Kathryn so delightfully wicked. (Plus she looks great in a corset.)”.

Sarah Michelle Gellar subsequently appeared in the box office hits Scooby-Doo (2002), Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, (2004) and the American remake of Japanese horror film The Grudge (2004).

Since then she has starred in limited released and straight-to-video films such as 2006’s Southland Tales, 2007’s Suburban Girl and 2008’s The Air I Breathe.

More recently she starred in the television series Ringer, which started airing in late 2011. In 2011, Gellar signed on to star and work as executive producer for the drama series, in which she plays a woman on the run who manages to hide by living the life of her wealthy twin sister. The show was originally made for CBS but was picked up by its sister channel The CW in May 2011. Gellar has stated that part of her decision to return to a television series was because it allows her to both work and raise her daughter. The series premiered with high rating for the network (the first episode brought 2.84 million viewers) and mixed-positive reviews. E! Online wrote that Gellar was “awesome” and “fantastic”, TV Line remarked she “does a fine job” as both characters and USA Today found her performance “well-defined”.

On 15 February 2013, it was reported that Gellar would return to television with a pilot for CBS entitled Crazy Ones opposite Robin Williams. The show will be a single-camera comedy, about an advertising agency run by a father (Williams) and his daughter (Gellar).

Gellar is an active advocate for various charities, including breast cancer research, Project Angel Food, Habitat for Humanity and CARE. Of her charitable pursuits, she says, “I started because my mother taught me a long time ago that even when you have nothing, there’s ways to give back. And what you get in return for that is tenfold. But it was always hard because I couldn’t do a lot. I couldn’t do much more than just donate money when I was on the show because there wasn’t time. And now that I have the time, it’s amazing.”

Sarah Michelle Gellar has a black belt in taekwondo and four tattoos.

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Happy Birthday Russell Crowe

On 7 April, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Russell Crowe, the Australian actor, producer and musician. He came to international attention for his role as Maximus Decimus Meridius in Gladiator (2000), directed by Ridley Scott, for which Russell Crowe won an Academy Award for Best Actor. Recently Crowe portrayed Javert in Les Misérables (2012), an adaptation of the popular musical. Russell Crowe will appear in Man of Steel (2013), where he will play Jor-El, the father of Superman, and star in Noah (2014), in which he will play the title role.

Russell Crowe in 2012

Russell Crowe in 2012

Biography

Russell Crowe was born on 7 April 1964 in Wellington, New Zealand but lived the vast majority of his life in Australia and became an Australian citizen in 2006.

Russell Crowe began his performing career as a musician in the mid-1980s. He starred in a number of stage musicals before appearing in the TV soap opera Neighbours and a number of films such as The Crossing (1990) and Romper Stomper (1992).

After initial success in Australia, Crowe began acting in American films. He co-starred with Denzel Washington in Virtuosity and with Sharon Stone in The Quick and the Dead in 1995. He went on to receiving three consecutive best actor Oscar nominations, for The Insider (1999), Gladiator (2000) and A Beautiful Mind (2001).

Within the six-year stretch from 1997–2003, Russell Crowe also starred in two other best picture nominees, L.A. Confidential (1997) and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003). In 2005, he re-teamed with A Beautiful Mind director Ron Howard for Cinderella Man. In 2006 he re-teamed with Gladiator director Ridley Scott for A Good Year, the first of two consecutive collaborations (the second being American Gangster (2007) co-starring Denzel Washington.

In 2010, Russell Crowe appeared in Robin Hood and The Next Three Days. After a year off acting, Crowe played Jackknife in The Man with the Iron Fists before taking on the role of Inspector Javert in the musical film of Les Misérables (2012).

Russell Crowe will portray Superman’s biological father Jor-El in Christopher Nolan’s Superman reboot, Man of Steel, due to be released in the summer of 2013. He will play the lead in the Darren Arnofsky film Noah, due to be released in early 2014, and the role of a gangster in the film adaptation of Mark Helprin’s 1983 novel Winter’s Tale.

Between 1999 and 2005 Crowe was involved in three altercations which gave him a reputation for having a bad temper. In 1999, Crowe was involved in a scuffle at the Plantation Hotel in Coffs Harbour, Australia, which was caught on security video.

Four years later, when part of Crowe’s appearance at the 2002 BAFTA awards was cut out to fit into the BBC’s tape-delayed broadcast, Crowe used strong language during an argument with producer Malcolm Gerrie. The part cut was a poem in tribute to actor Richard Harris who was then terminally ill, and was cut for copyright reasons. Crowe later apologised. Later that year, Crowe was alleged to have been involved in a “brawl” with businessman Eric Watson inside a fashionable Japanese restaurant in London. The fight was broken up by British actor Ross Kemp.

In June 2005, Crowe was arrested and charged with second-degree assault by New York City police, after he threw a telephone at an employee of the Mercer Hotel who refused to help him place a call when the system did not work from his room, and was charged with fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon (the telephone). Crowe pleaded guilty and settled the lawsuit out of court.

Crowe’s work has earned him several accolades, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, three Academy Award nominations in a row (1999–2001), one Golden Globe Award for Best Actor, one BAFTA, and an Academy Award. Due to his success and character variety, he has been called a “virtuoso” actor.

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Happy Birthday Ewan McGregor

On 31 March, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Ewan McGregor OBE, the Scottish actor who has had widespread success in mainstream, indie, and art house films. He is perhaps best known for his roles as heroin addict Mark Renton in the drama Trainspotting (1996), Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy (1999–2005), and poet Christian in the musical film Moulin Rouge! (2001). He has also received critical acclaim for his starring roles in theatre productions of Guys and Dolls (2005–07) and Othello (2007–08). Ewan McGregor was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to drama and charity.

McGregor at the 2009 Venice Film Festival

Biography

In 1994, McGregor earned critical praise for his performance in the thriller Shallow Grave, for which he won an Empire Award, and which marked his first collaboration with director Danny Boyle. His international breakthrough followed in 1996 with the role of heroin addict Mark Renton in Boyle’s Trainspotting, an adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel of the same name. The film was the first of several times that McGregor would appear nude on screen.

McGregor played the male romantic lead in the 1998 British film Little Voice. In 1999, McGregor starred in the blockbuster Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace as the young Obi-Wan Kenobi, a role originally made famous by Sir Alec Guinness in the original Star Wars trilogy. In 2001, he starred in Moulin Rouge! as the young poet Christian, who falls in love with the terminally-ill courtesan Satine, played by Nicole Kidman. The role was a perfect platform for McGregor to display his impressive singing voice.

McGregor reprised his role of Obi-Wan Kenobi for the subsequent prequel Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones in 2002. In 2003, he starred alongside Renée Zellweger in Down With Love. He also portrayed the younger Edward Bloom in the critically acclaimed film Big Fish alongside Albert Finney, Jessica Lange, Alison Lohman and Billy Crudup. During that year, he also received critical acclaim for his portrayal of an amoral drifter mixed up with murder in the drama Young Adam, which co-starred Tilda Swinton.

In 2005, McGregor appeared for the final time as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. He took very special care—especially in Revenge of the Sith—to ensure that his portrayal of Obi-Wan’s mannerisms, speech timings, and accents closely resembled Alec Guinness’ version. Also in 2005, McGregor played two roles—one a clone of the other—opposite Scarlett Johansson in Michael Bay’s The Island, and he appeared in Marc Forster’s Stay, a psychological thriller co-starring Naomi Watts and Ryan Gosling.

From June 2005 to April 2007, McGregor starred alongside Jane Krakowski, Douglas Hodge, and Jenna Russell in the original Donmar Warehouse production of Guys and Dolls at the Piccadilly Theatre in London. He played the leading role of Sky Masterson, made famous by Marlon Brando in the film of the same name. McGregor received the LastMinute.com award for Best Actor for his performance in 2005, and he was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical in 2007.

McGregor with Jenna Russell in Guys & Dolls

In 2007, McGregor starred opposite Colin Farrell in the Woody Allen film Cassandra’s Dream. From December 2007 to February 2008, McGregor starred as Iago in Othello at the Donmar Warehouse alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor as Othello and Kelly Reilly as Desdemona. He reprised the role on BBC Radio 3 in May 2008.

In 2009, he co-starred with Jim Carrey in I Love You Phillip Morris and appeared in Amelia alongside Hilary Swank. Also in 2009, he portrayed Camerlengo Patrick McKenna in Angels & Demons, the film adaptation of Dan Brown’s novel of the same name.

In 2010, McGregor starred in the film The Ghost, a political thriller directed by Roman Polanski and adapted from the Robert Harris novel, The Ghost, with the screenplay written by Polanski and Harris. It also starred Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall and Olivia Williams. McGregor was awarded with the European Film Award for Best Actor for his role as the Ghost Writer. In the same year, Ewan McGregor also had a starring role in Beginners, a romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Mike Mills. It tells the story of Oliver (Ewan McGregor), a man reflecting on the life and death of his father (Christopher Plummer) while trying to forge a new romantic relationship with a woman (Mélanie Laurent) dealing with father issues of her own. Beginners premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, where the Los Angeles Times heralded it as a “heady, heartfelt film” with a cast who has “a strong sense of responsibility to their real-world counterparts”.

In 2011, Ewan McGregor played the role of Kenneth in Haywire, a action-thriller film directed by Steven Soderbergh, which also starred Gina Carano, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum, and Michael Fassbender. In the same year, McGregor also has a starring role in the movie Perfect Sense directed by David Mackenzie and starring Eva Green as the female lead. The film premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival to mixed reviews.

In 2012, Ewan McGregor starred in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, a British romantic comedy-drama film directed by Lasse Hallström and also starring Emily Blunt and Kristin Scott Thomas. The plot centres on a fisheries scientist (McGregor) who finds himself reluctantly involved in a project to bring salmon fishing to the wadis of the Highlands of Yemen, a project which surprisingly changes the course of his life.

Also in 2012, Ewan McGregor starred in The Impossible alongside Naomi Watts who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role. The film is based on María Belón and her family’s experience of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

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Happy Birthday Alyson Hannigan

On 24 March, City Connect celebrates the birthday of American actress Alyson Hannigan who is known for her roles as Willow in the cult TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Michelle Flaherty in the American Pie films and Lily Aldrin from the hit CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother.

Alyson Hannigan in 2003

 Biography

Although Alyson Hannigan appeared in an industrial film for “Active Parenting” as a baby, as well as having starred in a commercial for the Duncan Hines cookie mix in 1978, it was not until 1985, when she moved to Los Angeles, California, that she formally began her acting career. Living with her mother and attending North Hollywood High School, she successfully auditioned for agents while visiting her father in Santa Barbara. After attending North Hollywood High School, she attended California State University, Northridge where she earned a degree in psychology.

Alyson Hannigan’s first major film role was in My Stepmother Is an Alien, a science fiction comedy released in 1988; one of her co-stars in the film was actor Seth Green, who would later join her in the regular cast of Buffy as her on-screen boyfriend. Then in 1989, her first regular role on a TV series came when she was cast in the short-lived ABC sitcom Free Spirit.

In 1997, at 23 Alyson Hannigan was cast to play Willow Rosenberg, Buffy’s best friend, on the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The show became a huge success, and Hannigan gained further recognition, subsequently appearing in several notable films aimed at teenage audiences, including American Pie, American Pie 2, Boys and Girls, and American Wedding. By the time Buffy ended in 2003, Alyson Hannigan was earning a US$250,000 salary for each episode.

In early 2004, Alyson Hannigan made her West End debut, starring in a stage adaptation of When Harry Met Sally… at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, opposite Luke Perry.

In 2005, Alyson Hannigan returned to starring in a regular television series, appearing in the hit CBS comedy, How I Met Your Mother, as Lily Aldrin. Set in Manhattan, How I Met Your Mother follows the social and romantic lives of Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) and his friends Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel), Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders), Lily Aldrin (Hannigan) and Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris). How I Met Your Mother has been a critical success, has received consistently strong ratings throughout its run and is now in it’s seventh season on CBS. It has won five Emmy Awards, including a nomination for “Outstanding Comedy Series” in 2009. The show won the People’s Choice Awards 2012 for Best TV Network Comedy and Neil Patrick Harris won the Best Male Comedy Actor for his role as Barney. The Bro Code, cited by Barney many times throughout the series, is a set of written rules for bros to follow, and has been published as a tie-in novel, an audiobook and an iPhone App.

In February 2006, Alyson Hannigan starred as Julia Jones in Date Movie, a parody of romantic comedies. She was also a guest star on the ABC animated sitcom The Goode Family in 2009.

Also in 2009, Alyson Hannigan joined forces with Emily Deschanel, Jaime King, Minka Kelly, and Katharine McPhee in “The Booby Scare” – a “video slumber party” featured on FunnyorDie.com (see below) to promote regular breast cancer screenings for the organization Stand Up 2 Cancer.

Alyson Hannigan recently became the new face of Head & Shoulders Shampoo in America. Here’s one of the TV commercials where Alyson Hannigan gives her friend some good advice on averting catastrophe with Head & Shoulders Itchy Scalp Care.

This year, Alyson Hannigan is reprising her role of Michelle in American Reunion – the fourth movie from the popular American Pie films. The movie will be released on April 2012. See the trailer below for a sneak preview of what to expect from the American Pie cast members this time round.

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Happy Birthday Alexander McQueen

On 17 March, City Connect pays tribute to the birth date of the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen, CBE who sadly committed suicide on 11 February 2010. Alexander McQueen was a British fashion designer and couturier best known for his in-depth knowledge of bespoke British tailoring, his tendency to juxtapose strength with fragility in his collections, as well as the emotional power and raw energy of his provocative fashion shows.

Alexander McQueen in 2009

Biography

Alexander McQueen left school at 16 with one O-level in art, going on to serve an apprenticeship with Savile Row tailors Anderson & Sheppard, before joining Gieves & Hawkes and, later, the theatrical costumiers Angels and Bermans. The skills he learned as an apprentice on Savile Row helped earn him a reputation in the fashion world as an expert in creating an impeccably tailored look.

McQueen graduated with a Masters in fashion design from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. His entire graduation collection was bought by influential fashion stylist Isabella Blow, who was said to have persuaded McQueen to become known as Alexander (his middle name) when he subsequently launched his fashion career.

Icelandic singer Björk sought McQueen’s work for the cover of her album Homogenic in 1997 and she also persuaded McQueen to direct the music video for her song “Alarm Call” from the same album.

Bjork wears a McQueen design on her Homogenic album cover

Alexander McQueen’s early catwalk collections developed his reputation for controversy and shock tactics (earning the title “l’enfant terrible” and “the hooligan of English fashion”), with trousers aptly named “bumsters” and a collection titled “Highland Rape”. McQueen was also known for his lavish, unconventional catwalk shows which included a recreation of a shipwreck and a human chess game.

McQueen’s “bumsters” spawned a trend in low rise jeans and was what some said defined McQueen. The designer also became known for using skulls in his designs. A scarf bearing the motif became a celebrity must-have and was copied around the world.

McQueen's Skull Scarf

Alexander McQueen has been credited with bringing drama and extravagance to the catwalk. He used new technology and innovation to add a different twist to his shows and often shocked and surprised audiences. The silhouettes that he created have been credited for adding a sense of fantasy and rebellion to fashion. McQueen became one of the first designers to use Indian models in London.

The president of LVMH, Bernard Arnault, caused a stir when he appointed McQueen head designer at Givenchy in 1996, succeeding John Galliano. Upon arrival at Givenchy, McQueen insulted the founder by calling him “irrelevant”. His first couture collection with Givenchy was unsuccessful. Alexander McQueen toned down his designs at Givenchy, but continued to indulge his rebellious streak, causing controversy in autumn 1998 with a show which included spraying paint over white cotton dresses and double amputee model Aimee Mullins striding down the catwalk on intricately carved wooden legs. McQueen stayed with Givenchy until March 2001, when the contract he said was “constraining his creativity” ended.

Some of Alexander McQueen’s accomplishments included being one of the youngest designers to achieve the title “British Designer of the Year”, which he won four times (1996, 1997, 2001 and 2003); he was also awarded the CBE and named International Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers in 2003.

December 2000 saw a new partnership for McQueen, with the Gucci Group’s acquiring 51% of his company and McQueen’s serving as Creative Director. Plans for expansion included the opening of stores in London, Milan and New York, and the launch of two perfumes. In 2005, McQueen collaborated with Puma to create a special line of trainers for them. In 2006 he launched McQ, a younger, more renegade lower priced line for men and women.

McQueen became the first designer to participate in MAC’s promotion of cosmetic releases created by fashion designers. The collection, McQueen, was released on 11 October 2007 and was inspired by the 1963 Elizabeth Taylor movie Cleopatra. Models had intense blue, green, and teal eye make-up with strong black liner extended Egyptian-style.

McQueen's MAC Fall 2007 make-up

By the end of 2007, Alexander McQueen had boutiques in London, New York, Los Angeles, Milan and Las Vegas. Celebrity patrons, including Nicole Kidman, Penélope Cruz, Sarah Jessica Parker and Rihanna, Björk and Lady Gaga have often incorporated Alexander McQueen pieces in their music videos. By wearing his designs, celebrities such as these have further increased the notability of the McQueen brand.

McQueen’s death was announced on the afternoon of 11 February 2010. In the morning, his housekeeper found him hanging at his home in London. Paramedics were called and they pronounced him dead at the scene.

McQueen’s funeral took place on 25 February 2010 at St. Paul’s Church in Knightsbridge, London. His ashes were later scattered on the Isle of Skye.

His memorial was held at Saint Paul’s Cathedral on 20 September 2010. It was attended by Björk, Kate Moss, Sarah Jessica Parker, Naomi Campbell, Stella McCartney and Anna Wintour amongst 2,500 other invited guests. On 18 February 2010, Robert Polet, the president and chief executive of the Gucci Group, announced that the Alexander McQueen business would carry on without its founder and creative director.

McQueen had reserved £50,000 of his wealth for his pet dogs so they could live in the lap of luxury for the rest of their lives. He also bequeathed £100,000 to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in South London in addition to leaving similar sums for three other charities.

After his death, many tributes were paid by the likes of Lady Gaga, Björk, Kanye West, Courtney Love, and Katy Perry. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City hosted a posthumous exhibition of McQueen’s work in 2011 titled Savage Beauty. Despite being open for only three months, it was one of the most popular exhibitions in the museum’s history.

The Alexander McQueen brand continues under Gucci ownership with his long-term assistant Sarah Burton as the creative director.

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Happy Birthday Ronan Keating

On 3rd March, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Ronan Keating, the Irish singer/songwriter who came to prominence in 1994 as the lead singer of Boyzone. His solo career started in 1999, and so far has resulted in 9 albums. Keating gained worldwide attention when his single “When You Say Nothing at All” was featured in the film Notting Hill and peaked at number one in several countries. As a solo artist, Keating has sold over 22 million records worldwide. Also a philanthropist, Keating has worked as a charity campaigner most notably for the Marie Keating Foundation, a foundation that raises awareness for breast cancer. It is named after his mother, who died of the disease in 1998. The biography below details the life and work of this international music celebrity who in 2010 was said to have a fortune of around £25 million.

Keating at the State Theatre Sydney in 2012

Biography

Ronan Keating was born on 3 March 1977 and grew up in Dublin. He joined the band Boyzone in 1993 alongside Keith Duffy, Shane Lynch, Stephen Gately and Mikey Graham. The group performed in various clubs and pubs before being signed by PolyGram in 1994 and released a cover version of “Love Me for a Reason” which peaked on several charts. In 1998, his mother died at the age of 54 from breast cancer, resulting in the establishment of the Marie Keating Foundation. Keating married Yvonne Connolly in April 1998 and together, the couple have three children: Jack, Marie and Ali.

From 1994-1999, Boyzone released 3 studio albums and 1 compilation album before disbanding in 2000.

In 1999, while still a member of Boyzone, Keating recorded a version of “When You Say Nothing At All” for the motion picture Notting Hill. The single peaked at number one in the UK charts, leading to a successful solo career. Keating released his debut solo album entitled Ronan in 2000, peaking at number one in the UK Albums Chart. The album produced four UK and Irish top-ten singles: “When You Say Nothing at All” (originally recorded for the soundtrack of the 1999 film Notting Hill), “Life Is a Rollercoaster“, “The Way You Make Me Feel“, and “Lovin’ Each Day“. Ronan was given several negative reviews, however, it sold over 750,000 copies and became one of the top selling albums of the year in the United Kingdom.

After the successful debut album Ronan, Keating continued on with his solo career and since has released four more studio albums: Destination (2002), Turn It On (2003), 10 Years of Hits (2004) and Bring You Home (2006). Keating collaborated with several major stars, including Elton John, Lulu, LeAnn Rimes and the Bee Gees, for these albums.

In 2003, Keating was named Rear of the Year – an award given to celebrities with a notable posterior. In October 2007, Keating was listed in the Guinness Book of Records for being the only artist ever to have 30 consecutive top 10 singles in the UK chart, beating the likes of Elvis Presley. Keating also embarked on two world tours, won the Ivor Novello and BMI songwriting awards, released an autobiography, had a role as ambassador for Christian Aid and earnt sales in excess of 22 million albums worldwide. In 2007 he released 2 fragrances,the range consists of a female fragrance, Hope By Ronan, which is based upon musk and amber scents and a male EDT, Believe by Ronan, based on Sicilian Lemon, Lavender and Clary Sage scents. All proceeds go to the Marie Keating Foundation.

Keating performed at the 2006 FIFA World Cup opening party at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, in front of an audience of nearly 250,000 people, and posed nude for Cosmopolitan magazine’s 10 Years of Naked Centrefolds.

Ronan posing for Cosmopolitan Magazine

Boyzone reunited in 2007 for a special appearance on the BBC’s Children in Need and soon went on a 29-date tour. On 10 October 2009, Stephen Gately – close friend and bandmate of Keating – died at his home in Spain of a pulmonary oedema which left Keating devastated. However, the band continued on and released the album “”Brother” in March 2010 which went to number one in UK and Ireland. Ronan Keating also continues with his solo career and a new studio album and tour have been scheduled in 2012. Ronan has also hinted that he will be reuniting with his Boyzone bandmates Keith Duffy, Mikey Graham and Shane Lynch in 2013 to celebrate their 20th anniversary as a group.

In terms of charity work, Keating ran in the London Marathon on 13 April 2008 to raise money for Cancer Research, with a personal best time of 3hr 59min. He has also walked the length of Ireland twice, each time raising money for the Marie Keating Foundation, now linked to Cancer Research UK. In 2009, Keating was part of a group of celebrities who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for Comic Relief. In June 2009, Keating received a Special Achievement Award from Cancer Research UK – he was singled out for his work with them since 2006. He, along with the Marie Keating Foundation, has helped to raise over £1.7 million for the UK charity. In September 2011, he swam the Irish sea 90 km stretch from Dublin to Holyhead with a team of celebrities to raise money for cancer charities and set a new Guinness World Record for open water swimming with a 11-member celebrity team. They raised £1 million for Cancer Research Britain and the Marie Keating Foundation.

Ronan Keating has been quoted as saying he’d like to break into acting but does not intend to stop working as a recording artist. He unsuccessfully auditioned for a role in the The Hobbit. In 2013, Ronan Keating will make his screen debut in the Australian romantic musical comedy Goddess starring alongside Australian comedy actress Magda Szubanski and British actress Laura MIchelle Kelly. The multi-million dollar film will be directed by Mark Lamprell (Babe: Pig In The City) and is due for release in March 2013.

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Happy Birthday Pierre-Auguste Renoir

On 25 February, City Connect celebrates the anniversary of the birth of French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style. As a celebrator of beauty, and especially feminine sensuality, Renoir has been described by art critic Herbert Read as “the final representative of a tradition which runs directly from Rubens to Watteau.” Read Renoir’s biography below to discover more about the life and work of this great artist.

Self Portrait of Renoir, 1875

Biography

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born on 25 February 1841 in Limoges, France, the child of a working class family. As a boy, he worked in a porcelain factory where his drawing talents led to him being chosen to paint designs on fine china. He also painted hangings for overseas missionaries and decorations on fans before he enrolled in art school. During those early years, he often visited the Louvre to study the French master painters.

In 1862, he began studying art under Charles Gleyre in Paris. There he met Alfred Sisley, Frédéric Bazille, and Claude Monet. At times during the 1860s, he did not have enough money to buy paint. Although Renoir first started exhibiting paintings at the Paris Salon in 1864, recognition did not come for another ten years, due, in part, to the turmoil of the Franco-Prussian War.

Renoir experienced his initial acclaim when six of his paintings were hung in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. In the same year, two of his works were shown with Durand-Ruel in London. On 15 January 1882 Renoir met the composer Richard Wagner at his home in Palermo, Sicily. Renoir painted Wagner’s portrait in just thirty-five minutes.

Renoir’s paintings are notable for their vibrant light and saturated colour, most often focusing on people in intimate and candid compositions. The female nude was one of his primary subjects. In characteristic Impressionist style, Renoir suggested the details of a scene through freely brushed touches of color, so that his figures softly fuse with one another and their surroundings.

His initial paintings show the influence of the colorism of Eugène Delacroix and the luminosity of Camille Corot. He also admired the realism of Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet, and his early work resembles theirs in his use of black as a color. As well, Renoir admired Edgar Degas’ sense of movement. Another painter Renoir greatly admired was the 18th century master François Boucher.

A fine example of Renoir’s early work, and evidence of the influence of Courbet’s realism, is Diana, 1867. Ostensibly a mythological subject, the painting is a naturalistic studio work, the figure carefully observed, solidly modeled, and superimposed upon a contrived landscape. If the work is still a ‘student’ piece, already Renoir’s heightened personal response to female sensuality is present. The model was Lise Tréhot, then the artist’s mistress and inspiration for a number of paintings.

In the late 1860s, through the practice of painting light and water en plein air (in the open air), he and his friend Claude Monet discovered that the colour of shadows is not brown or black, but the reflected colour of the objects surrounding them, an effect today known as diffuse reflection. Several pairs of paintings exist in which Renoir and Monet, working side-by-side, depicted the same scenes (La Grenouillère, 1869).

One of the best known Impressionist works is Renoir’s 1876 Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (Bal du moulin de la Galette). The painting depicts an open-air scene, crowded with people, at a popular dance garden on the Butte Montmartre, close to where he lived.

Bal du moulin de la Galette, 1876

The works of his early maturity were typically Impressionist snapshots of real life, full of sparkling colour and light. By the mid 1880s, however, he had broken with the movement to apply a more disciplined, formal technique to portraits and figure paintings, particularly of women, such as The Bathers, which was created during 1884–87. It was a trip to Italy in 1881, when he saw works by Raphael and other Renaissance masters, that convinced him that he was on the wrong path, and for the next several years he painted in a more severe style, in an attempt to return to classicism. This is sometimes called his “Ingres period”, as he concentrated on his drawing and emphasized the outlines of figures.

After 1890, however, he changed direction again, returning to thinly brushed colour to dissolve outlines as in his earlier work. From this period onward he concentrated especially on monumental nudes and domestic scenes, fine examples of which are Girls at the Piano, 1892, and Grandes Baigneuses, 1887. The latter painting is the most typical and successful of Renoir’s late, abundantly fleshed nudes.

Girls at the Piano, 1892

A prolific artist, he made several thousand paintings. The warm sensuality of Renoir’s style made his paintings some of the most well-known and frequently-reproduced works in the history of art. The single largest collection of his works – 181 paintings in all – is at the Barnes Foundation, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Renoir’s work has been very popular with the American market, as is demonstrated by the large number of his paintings in American collections. In 1990, Bal au moulin de la Galette sold for $78.1 million.

Renoir died in the French village of Cagnes-sur-Mer on 3 December 1919.

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Happy Birthday James Blunt

Today City Connect celebrates the birthday of singer-songwriter James Blunt born 22 February 1974.

James_Blunt_Moon_LandingJames Hillier Blount better known by his stage name James Blunt, is an English singer-songwriter, musician and former army captain. He had signed with EMI music label before signing a recording contract with Atlantic Records and Custard Records.

Blunt rose to prominence in 2005 with the release of his debut studio album Back to Bedlam, before achieving worldwide fame with the singles You’re Beautiful and Goodbye My Lover. The album sold over 11 million copies worldwide, topping the charts in the United Kingdom and peaked at number 2 in the United States. His second album All the Lost Souls, which was released in 2007, topped the charts in over 20 countries, and produced the hit single 1973. His third album, Some Kind of Trouble, was released in 2010, after its lead single Stay the Night. A deluxe edition was released the following year, titled Some Kind of Trouble: Revisited. His latest album, Moon Landing, was preceded by the lead single Bonfire Heart, which peaked at number 4 in the UK Singles Chart, following promotion on the BBC One radio show The One Show and The Graham Norton Show, as well as receiving extensive radio airplay.

Blunt has sold over 20 million albums worldwide, with his debut album, Back to Bedlam, being listed as the best selling album of the 2000’s in the United Kingdom. He is the recipient of several awards and nominations, having won two Brit Awards, two MTV Video Music Awards, two Ivor Novello Awards and receiving five Grammy Award nominations.

Blunt was an officer in the British Army Life Guards, a cavalry regiment of the British Army, and served under NATO in Kosovo during the conflict in 1999. While posted to Kosovo, Blunt was introduced to the work of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF or “Doctors Without Borders”). Since then, Blunt has been an active supporter of MSF by holding meet-and-greet auctions at many of his concerts, and filming the documentary Return to Kosovo, in which he visited the people and places he had encountered while stationed there.

Blunt has raised funds for the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières through benefit concerts and by auctioning opportunities to meet him at his own shows. He first encountered MSF medical care workers during his tour of duty in Kosovo, and was impressed with the work they did under conditions of minimal support and limited security.

Blunt also supports environmental causes. He screened the trailer for An Inconvenient Truth at his concerts, and for each advance sales concert ticket purchased through his designated website a tree is planted. On 7 July 2007, Blunt performed at the Live Earth concert at Wembley Stadium, London, and is the owner of one of two prototype electric cars made by Hybrid Technologies under a Space Act partnership with NASA.

Blunt is a patron of Help for Heroes, a charity aiming to raise money to provide better facilities for wounded British servicemen, and has also held benefit concerts for this charity. Blunt has also contributed with his vocals for the charity single, “Everybody Hurts” in aid of the 2010 Haiti Earthquake Appeal.

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Happy Birthday Jane Seymour

Today City Connect celebrates the birthday of actress Jane Seymour born 15 February 1951.

Jane Seymour at 2010 Academy Awards

Jane Seymour at 2010 Academy Awards

Jane Seymour, OBE (born Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg) is an English actress best known for her performances in the James Bond film Live and Let Die (1973), Somewhere In Time (1980), East of Eden (1981), Onassis: The Richest Man in the World (1988), War and Remembrance (1988), the 1989 political thriller La Révolution française as the ill-fated queen Marie Antoinette, Wedding Crashers (2005), and the American television series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993–1998). She has earned an Emmy Award, two Golden Globe Awards, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2000.

In 1973, Seymour achieved international fame in her role as Bond girl Solitaire in the James Bond film Live and Let Die. IGN ranked her as 10th in a Top 10 Bond Babes list. In 1975, Seymour was cast as Princess Farah in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, the third part of Ray Harryhausen’s Sinbad trilogy. The film was not released until its stop motion animation sequences had been completed in 1977. In 1978, she appeared as Serina in the Battlestar Galactica film, and then later in the first five episodes of the television series that followed.

In the 1990s, Seymour earned popular and critical praise for her role as Dr. Michaela “Mike” Quinn in the television series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and its television sequels (1993–2001). Her work on the series earned her a second Golden Globe Award. While working on the series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, she met her fourth husband, actor-director James Keach.

In the 2000s, Seymour continued to work primarily in television. In 2004, she made several guest appearances in the WB Network series, Smallville, playing Genevieve Teague, the wealthy, scheming mother of Jason Teague (Jensen Ackles). In 2005, Seymour returned to the big screen in the comedy Wedding Crashers, playing Kathleen Cleary, wife of fictional United States Secretary of the Treasury William Cleary, played by Christopher Walken. In spring 2006, she appeared in the short-lived WB series Modern Men. Later that year, Seymour guest-starred as a law-school-professor on an episode of the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother, and as a wealthy client on the Fox legal drama, Justice. In 2007, she guest-starred in the ABC sitcom, In Case of Emergency, which starred Lori Loughlin and Jonathan Silverman. She also appeared in ITV’s Marple: Ordeal By Innocence, based on the Agatha Christie novel. She was a contestant on season five of the US reality show, Dancing with the Stars; she finished in sixth place, along with her partner, Tony Dovolani. In “One Life to Lose” Jane Seymour guest starred in a soap opera-themed storyline of the ABC sitcom Castle.

Seymour appeared in the Hallmark Channel film Perfectly Prudence (2008) with Jamey Sheridan and Ryan Cartwright, the romantic comedy Love, Wedding, Marriage (2011) with Mandy Moore, and the Hallmark Movie Channel film Lake Effects (2012) with Scottie Thompson and Madeline Zima.

Jane Seymour has been married four times. Her first marriage to Michael Attenborough, the son of film actor and director Richard Attenborough, lasted from 1971 to 1973. Her second marriage to Geoffrey Planer lasted from 1977 to 1978.

In 1981, Seymour married David Flynn. The marriage produced two children, actress Katherine Flynn, born 7 January 1982 and Sean Flynn, born 1985. The couple were divorced in 1992.

In 1993, Seymour married actor James Keach. Together they had twins, Johnny Stacy and Kristopher Steven, born 30 November 1995, and named after family friends Johnny Cash and Christopher Reeve, and James’ brother, actor Stacy Keach. On 12 April 2013 it was announced that the couple was divorcing.

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Happy Birthday James Dean

James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause

James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause

Today City Connect celebrates the anniversary of the birth of actor James Dean born 6 February 1931. He is a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment, as expressed in the title of his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), in which he starred as troubled Los Angeles teenager Jim Stark. The other two roles that defined his stardom were as loner Cal Trask in East of Eden (1955), and as the surly ranch hand, Jett Rink, in Giant (1956). Dean’s enduring fame and popularity rest on his performances in only these three films, all leading roles. His premature death in a car crash cemented his legendary status.

Dean was the first actor to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and remains the only actor to have had two posthumous acting nominations. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him the 18th best male movie star on their AFI’s 100 Years…100 Stars list.

American teenagers of the mid-1950s, when James Dean’s major films were made, identified with Dean and the roles he played, especially that of Jim Stark in Rebel Without A Cause. This film depicts the dilemma of a typical teenager of the time, who feels that no one, not even his peers, can understand him. Joe Hyams says that Dean was “one of the rare stars, like Rock Hudson and Montgomery Clift, whom both men and women find sexy”. According to Marjorie Garber, this quality is “the undefinable extra something that makes a star.” Dean’s iconic appeal has been attributed to the public’s need for someone to stand up for the disenfranchised young of the era, and to the air of androgyny that he projected onscreen. Dean’s “loving tenderness towards the besotted Sal Mineo in Rebel Without a Cause continues to touch and excite gay audiences by its honesty. The Gay Times Readers’ Awards cited him as the male gay icon of all time.”

James_Dean_1955

James Dean in 1955

Today, Dean is often considered an icon because of his “experimental” take on life, which included his ambivalent sexuality. There have been several claims and assertions that Dean has had sexual relationships with both men and women. When questioned about his orientation, he is reported to have said, “No, I am not a homosexual. But, I’m also not going to go through life with one hand tied behind my back.”

William Bast, one of Dean’s closest friends, was Dean’s first biographer (1956). He published a revealing update of his first book, in which, after years of successfully dodging the question as to whether he and Dean were sexually involved, he finally stated that they experimented. In this second book, Bast describes the difficult circumstances of their involvement and also deals frankly with some of Dean’s other reported gay relationships, notably the actor’s friendship with Rogers Brackett, the influential producer of radio dramas who encouraged Dean in his career and provided him with useful professional contacts.

Journalist Joe Hyams suggests that any gay activity Dean might have been involved in appears to have been strictly “for trade”, as a means of advancing his career. Val Holley notes that, according to Hollywood biographer Lawrence J. Quirk, gay Hollywood columnist Mike Connolly “would put the make on the most prominent young actors, including Robert Francis, Guy Madison, Anthony Perkins, Nick Adams and James Dean.” However, the “trade only” notion is debated by Bast and other Dean biographers. Aside from Bast’s account of his own relationship with Dean, Dean’s fellow biker and “Night Watch” member John Gilmore claims he and Dean “experimented” with gay acts on one occasion in New York, and it is difficult to see how Dean, then already in his twenties, would have viewed this as a “trade” means of advancing his career.

Screenwriter Gavin Lambert, himself gay and part of the Hollywood gay circles of the 1950s and 1960s, described Dean as being gay. Rebel director Nicholas Ray is on record as saying that Dean was gay. Author John Howlett believes that Dean was “certainly bisexual”. George Perry’s biography reduces these aspects of Dean’s sexuality to “experimentation”. Bast also shows that Dean had knowledge of gay bars and customs. Consequently, Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon’s book Who’s Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History: From World War II to the Present Day (2001) includes an entry on James Dean. However Bast concludes: “Jimmy was a dabbler, he was learning through experiment… But to say he was gay? That’s ridiculous.”

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Happy Birthday Gavin Henson

Today City Connect celebrates the birthday of Gavin Henson, the Welsh rugby union player, born 1 February 1982.

gavin_henson_orangeBiography

Gavin Lloyd Henson currently plays for Aviva Premiership Team Bath Rugby, He has Previously played for the Ospreys in The Pro12 and London Welsh He attracted much media attention as part of a Wales national team which achieved Grand Slams in the Six Nations Championship in 2005 and 2008. He has also played for the British and Irish Lions, touring in 2005 to New Zealand but has never appeared at a World Cup.

gavin-henson-lasurfpunkguysHenson has played in a variety of positions including fly-half, fullback and inside centre. After an extended spell out of the national side, including missing the 2007 Rugby World Cup, he was recalled by caretaker coach Nigel Davies, being included in the squad to play against South Africa.

Since September 2010, Henson has participated in three reality television series, 71 Degrees North, Strictly Come Dancing and The Bachelor.

Henson has two children from his relationship with his former partner, singer Charlotte Church.

gavin_henson_thesunIn September 2010 he featured in the ITV1 outdoor series 71 Degrees North, a challenge show set in Norway in which he finished in 2nd place, losing out to Marcus Patric. He then featured as a contestant on BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing ‘s eighth series, partnered by Katya Virshilas. In August 2011 a series, The Bachelor, in which 25 young women battle it out on the French Riviera to win the heart of Henson “the Bachelor”, began on Channel 5. Henson chose Carianne Barrow to be his girlfriend on The Bachelor. The couple split in March 2012. He has been criticised for these reality TV appearances in the press and by many rugby fans.

Picture shows Gavin Henson photographed by John WrightOn 13 June 2013, it was announced that Gavin was to leave London Welsh, who had been relegated that year, to join Bath for the next season. He said “I am thrilled to be joining Bath this summer, and I look forward to becoming part of what looks a very exciting squad. I still very much want to be playing at the highest level, and Bath is a big Club with big plans. I know what is expected of me and I can’t wait to get started.”  On 10 July 2013, Henson was knocked out by Bath teammate Carl Fearns on a night out in the city.

gavin henson

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Happy Birthday Rosamund Pike

In this week’s Born This Day series, City Connect celebrates the birthday of actress Rosamund Pike who was born on 27 January 1979. She has starred in such films as Die Another Day, Pride and Prejudice, An Education, Made in Dagenham, Barney’s Version, Johnny English Reborn, Wrath of the Titans and Jack Reacher.

Rosamund Pike

Biography

After graduating from Oxford with a 2:1 in English Literature, Rosamund Pike considered working at Waterstone’s bookshop, due to a lack of acting opportunities, but was offered a role as a Bond girl and MI6 agent assigned to aid James Bond in Die Another Day. She also appeared in the special show Bond Girls Are Forever and, shortly afterwards, the BAFTA tribute to the James Bond series. Rosamund Pike played Elizabeth Malet in The Libertine (2004) co-starring Johnny Depp, which won her the Best Supporting Actress award at the British Independent Film Awards. In the same year, Rosamund Pike portrayed Rose in The Promised Land (a film about Palestine), and starred as scientist Samantha Grimm in the cinematic adaptation of the computer game Doom. In 2005, Rosamund Pike appeared as Jane, the elder sister of Elizabeth (played by Keira Knightley), in Pride & Prejudice.

Rosamund Pike had a role in the film adaptation of Anne Michaels’s novel Fugitive Pieces. She starred as a successful attorney in the film Fracture, opposite Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling.

Rosamund Pike’s stage credits include Hitchcock Blonde by Terry Johnson (in a role requiring her to appear completely nude on stage with only a pair of high heels) and Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke, both in London’s West End, and Gaslight at London’s Old Vic Theatre. Rosamund Pike has said that she would be happy to do at least one play every year. In 2009, she played the title character in Madame De Sade during the Donmar’s West End season.

Rosamund Pike appeared in the British film Made in Dagenham and in the Canadian film Barney’s Version where she plays Miriam. In 2010, she starred in a production of Hedda Gabler on UK tour. Rosamund Pike plays the part of Kate Sumner in the 2011 Bond-spoof film Johnny English Reborn, playing a psychologist and English’s love interest. In 2012 Rosamund Pike starred in the thriller Jack Reacher as Helen Rodin opposite Tom Cruise as the title character.

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