Happy Birthday Colin Firth

 City Connect celebrates the birthday of Academy Award winner Colin Firth who was born this day in 1960 and turns 51 today. Read all about Firth’s acting career in the biography that follows.

Biography

Colin Andrew Firth, CBE (born 10 September 1960) is an English film, television, and stage actor. Firth gained wide public attention in the 1990s for his portrayal of Mr. Darcy in the 1995 television adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

In 2011, Firth received the Academy Award for his portrayal of King George VI in The King’s Speech, a performance that also earned him the Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor. The previous year, he received his first Academy Award nomination, for his leading role in A Single Man, a performance that won him a BAFTA Award.

He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011. In April 2011, Time magazine included Firth in its list of the world’s 100 Most Influential People.

Firth is married to Italian film producer/director Livia Giuggioli and lives in both London and Italy. They have two sons.  Firth started to learn Italian when he and Giuggioli began to date and he now is fluent in the language.

In a 2006 interview with French magazine Madame Figaro, Firth was asked “Quelles sont les femmes de votre vie?” (Who are the women of your life?). Firth replied: “Ma mère, ma femme et Jane Austen” (My mother, my wife and Jane Austen).

Firth has been a long-standing supporter of Survival International, a non-governmental organisation that defends the rights of tribal peoples.

Firth has been involved in a campaign to stop the deportation of a group of asylum seekers, because he believed that they might be murdered on their return to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Firth argued that “To me it’s just basic civilisation to help people. I find this incredibly painful to see how we dismiss the most desperate people in our society. It’s easily done. It plays to the tabloids, to the Middle-England xenophobes. It just makes me furious. And all from a government we once had such high hopes for”. As a result of the campaign, a Congolese nurse was given a last-minute reprieve from deportation.

Firth has also been involved in the Oxfam global campaign Make Trade Fair, in which several other celebrities participated as well in order to bring more attention to the issues involved. The campaign has focused on several trade practices seen as unfair to third world producers especially, including dumping, high import tariffs, and labour rights such as fair wages. Firth remains deeply committed to this cause, making efforts such as supporting fair trade coffee in his daily life.

In 2011, Firth collaborated with colleagues at the University College London to conduct a study probing differences in the volume of various brain regions in conservatives and liberals, with the results suggesting that conservatives have greater amygdala volume and liberals have greater volume in their anterior cingulate cortex.

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Happy Birthday Stephen Fry

City Connect celebrates the birthday of actor and writer Stephen Fry. Fry is known for his erudite personality which is evident in his writing and TV appearances on such programmes as BBC’s QI.

He is notable as a person with Bipolar Disorder (sometimes called manic depression) and Fry presented a two-part BBC documentary on the condition. Other celebrities such as Frank Bruno and Catherine Zeta Jones have since talked about their experiences having been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Click here to read our previous coverage of Catherine Zeta Jones’ announcement that she was a person with Bipolar Disorder.

Biography

Stephen Fry was born on 24 August 1957. He is an English actor, screenwriter, author, playwright, journalist, poet, comedian, television presenter and film director, and a director of Norwich City Football Club. He first came to attention in the 1981 Cambridge Footlights Revue presentation “The Cellar Tapes”, which also included Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson and Tony Slattery. With Hugh Laurie, as the comedy double act Fry and Laurie, he co-wrote and co-starred in A Bit of Fry & Laurie, and the duo also played the title roles in Jeeves and Wooster.

As a solo actor, Fry played the lead in the film Wilde, was Melchett in the BBC television series Blackadder, starred as the title character Peter Kingdom in the ITV series Kingdom, and is the host of the quiz show QI. He also presented a 2008 television series Stephen Fry in America, which saw him travelling across all 50 U.S. states in six episodes. Fry has a recurring guest role as Dr. Gordon Wyatt on the Fox crime series Bones.

Apart from his work in television, Fry has contributed columns and articles for newspapers and magazines, and has written four novels and two volumes of autobiography, Moab Is My Washpot and The Fry Chronicles. He also appears frequently on BBC Radio 4, starring in the comedy series Absolute Power, being a frequent guest on panel games such as Just a Minute, and acting as chairman for I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, where he was one of a trio of hosts who succeeded the late Humphrey Lyttelton. Fry is also known in the UK for his audiobook recordings, particularly as reader for all seven Harry Potter novels.

Fry’s career in television began with the 1982 broadcasting of The Cellar Tapes, the 1981 Cambridge Footlights Revue which was written by Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson and Tony Slattery. The revue caught the attention of Granada Television, who, keen to replicate the success of the BBC’s Not the Nine O’Clock News, hired Fry, Laurie and Thompson to star alongside Ben Elton in There’s Nothing to Worry About!. A second series, re-titled Alfresco, was broadcast in 1983 and a third in 1984; it established Fry and Laurie’s reputation as a comedy double act. In 1983, the BBC offered them their own show, which became The Crystal Cube, a mixture of science fiction and mockumentary that was axed after the first episode. Undeterred, Fry and Laurie appeared in an episode of The Young Ones in 1984, and Fry in Ben Elton’s 1985 series, Happy Families. In 1986 and 1987 Fry and Laurie also performed sketches on the LWT/Channel 4 show Saturday Live.

Forgiving Fry and Laurie for The Crystal Cube, the BBC commissioned a sketch show in 1986 that was to become A Bit of Fry & Laurie. The programme ran for 26 episodes spanning four series between 1986 and 1995, and was very successful. During this time Fry starred in Blackadder II as Lord Melchett, made a guest appearance in Blackadder the Third as the Duke of Wellington, then returned to a starring role in Blackadder Goes Forth as General Melchett. In 1988, he became a regular contestant on the popular improvisational comedy radio show Whose Line Is It Anyway?. However, when it moved to television, he only appeared three times: twice in the first series and once in the ninth.

Between 1990 and 1993, Fry starred as Jeeves (alongside Hugh Laurie’s Bertie Wooster) in Jeeves and Wooster, 23 hour-long adaptations of P.G. Wodehouse’s novels and short stories.

In 2003, Fry began hosting the TV game show QI (Quite Interesting), a British comedy panel game television quiz show. QI was created and co-produced by John Lloyd, and features permanent panellist Alan Davies. QI has the highest viewing figures for any show on BBC Four. In 2006, Fry won the Rose d’Or award for “Best Game Show Host” for his work on the series.

A foray into documentary-making has seen Fry fronting the Emmy Award-winning The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive in 2006, and in 2007 a documentary on the subject of HIV and AIDS, HIV and Me. Also in 2006, he appeared in the genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are?, tracing his family tree to discover his Jewish ancestry. His six-part travel series Stephen Fry in America began on BBC One on 12 October 2008. In May 2008, it was announced that a five-part companion series, More Fry in America, had been commissioned for BBC Four; it was to feature in-depth essays excluded from the first series due to time constraints.[21] No further information about the project has since been released.

Fry has also been involved in nature documentaries, having narrated Spectacled Bears: Shadow of the Forest for the BBC Natural World series in 2008. In the television series Last Chance to See, Fry together with zoologist Mark Carwardine sought out endangered species, some of which were featured in Douglas Adams and Carwardine’s 1990 book/radio series of the of the same name. The resulting programmes were broadcast in 2009.

From 2007 to 2009, Fry appeared in and was executive producer for the legal drama Kingdom, which ran for three series on ITV. He has also taken up a recurring guest role as psychiatrist Dr. Gordon Wyatt in the popular American drama Bones.

Fry narrates the English language version of the Spanish children’s animated series Pocoyo. Fry has lent himself and his voice to many advertisements, starting with an appearance as “Count Ivan Skavinsky Skavar” in a 1982 advert for Whitbread Best Bitter. Fry has said in his memoirs that after receiving his payment for this work – £25,000 – he has never subsequently experienced “what one could call serious money troubles”. He has since appeared in adverts for products such as Marks and Spencer, Twinings, Kenco, Vauxhall, Direct Line, Calpol, Heineken, Alliance & Leicester, After Eights, Trebor, Panama cigars and Orange Mobile.

Since the publication of his first novel, The Liar (1991), Fry has written three additional novels, several non-fiction works and two volumes of autobiography. Making History (1997) is partly set in an alternative universe where Adolf Hitler’s father is made infertile and his replacement proves a rather more effective Führer. The book won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. The Hippopotamus (1994) is about Edward (Ted/Tedward) Wallace and his stay at his old friend Lord Logan’s country manor in Norfolk. The Stars’ Tennis Balls (2000) is a modern retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo. Fry’s book, The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within, is a guide to writing poetry.

Once a columnist in The Listener and The Daily Telegraph, he now writes a weekly technology column in the Saturday edition of The Guardian. His blog attracted more than 300,000 visitors in its first two weeks of existence.

Fry wields a considerable amount of influence through his use of the social networking site Twitter. He is frequently asked to promote various charities and causes, often inadvertently causing their websites to crash because of the sheer volume of traffic generated by his large number of followers, as Fry notes on his website: “Four thousand hits a second all diving down the pipeline at the same time for minutes on end.” Fry uses his influence to recommend underexposed musicians and authors (which often see large increases in web hits and sales) and to spread contemporary issues in the world of media and politics, notably the dropping of an injunction against The Guardian and the lambasting of Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir over her article on deceased Boyzone member Stephen Gately.

In October 2009 Fry sparked debate amongst users again when he announced an intention to leave the social networking site after criticism from another user on Twitter. He retracted the intention the next day. In October 2010, Fry left Twitter for a few days following press criticism of a quote taken from an interview he had given, with a farewell message of “Bye bye”. After returning, Fry explained that he had left Twitter to “avoid being sympathised with or told about an article I would otherwise never have got wind of”.

In November 2009 Fry’s Twitter account reached 1,000,000 followers. He commemorated the million followers milestone with a humorous video blog in which a ‘Step Hen Fry’ clone speaks from the year 2034 where MySpace, Facebook and Twitter have combined to form ‘Twit on MyFace’.

In November 2010 Fry achieved 2,000,000 followers on Twitter.

On 2 January 2010 it was announced that Fry was “switching off his connections with the outside world” in order to complete a second volume of his autobiography.

Fry’s use of the word “luvvie” in The Guardian on 2 April 1988 is given by the Oxford English Dictionary as the earliest recorded use of the word.

Fry has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, specifically stating he suffers from Cyclothymia, referring to it as “bipolar lite”.He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1995 while appearing in a West End play called Cell Mates and subsequently walked out of the production, prompting its early closure and incurring the displeasure of co-star Rik Mayall and playwright Simon Gray. Mayall’s comedy partner, Adrian Edmondson, made light of the subject in his and Mayall’s second Bottom live show. After walking out of the production, Fry went missing for several days while contemplating suicide. He abandoned the idea and left the United Kingdom by ferry, eventually resurfacing in Belgium.

Fry has spoken publicly about his experience with bipolar disorder, which was also depicted in the documentary Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic-Depressive. In the programme, he interviewed other sufferers of the illness including Carrie Fisher, Richard Dreyfuss and Tony Slattery. Also featured were chef Rick Stein, whose father committed suicide, Robbie Williams, who talks of his experience with major depression, and comedienne/former mental health nurse Jo Brand. He is also involved with the mental health charity Stand to Reason.

Fry is one of the tallest British celebrities in modern times. He is said to be between 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m) to 6 feet 5 inches (1.96 m), in height.

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Happy Birthday Catherine Deneuve

City Connect celebrates the birthday of the actress Catherine Deneuve who was born on this day in 1943. She is considered one of France’s most successful actresses and has starred in seven English-language films, most notably the 1983 cult classic The Hunger.

Biography

Catherine Deneuve has gained recognition for her portrayal of aloof and mysterious beauties in films such as Repulsion (1965) and Belle de jour (1967). Deneuve was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1993 for her performance in Indochine; she also won César Awards for that film and The Last Metro (1980).

As Catherine Dorléac, she made her film debut at age eleven in Les Collégiennes (1957), filmed in 1955 but not released until two years later. Deneuve subsequently began using her mother’s surname professionally so she wouldn’t be confused with her elder sister, Françoise Dorléac, who was using their father’s name.

Deneuve then starred in films such as Vice and Virtue (1962), directed by Roger Vadim. The film that brought her stardom was Jacques Demy’s 1963 musical Les Parapluies de Cherbourg. She made two more films with Demy , most notably another musical, Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967), with Dorléac – who was killed in a car accident the following year – as her twin sister. Further prominent films from this early time in her career included Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965), Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s La Vie de château (1966), which employed her ‘underused comic skills’, and Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour (1967), – as the ‘ haut-bourgeois housewife who achieves sexual satisfaction working in a Parisian brothel.’ In the Polanski film, Deneuve first portrayed the character archetype for which she would be nicknamed the “ice maiden”, playing a beautiful Belgian girl, an emotionally distant and mysterious woman ‘going homicidally insane in Kensington.’ Her work for Buñuel would be her most famous, and her screen persona as “a cold, remote erotic object which dreams are made on” reached a peak, according to the critic Philip French, in her second Buñuel film Tristana, (1970). Deneuve remained active in European films throughout the 1960s and 70s, but limited her appearances in American films of the period to The April Fools (1969) and Hustle (1975).

Shortly before his death in 1980, Alfred Hitchcock had planned to direct Deneuve in an adaptation of the spy novel The Short Night. Her most notable films during the decade were François Truffaut’s Le Dernier métro (1980), which garnered her the César Award for Best Actress, and Tony Scott’s cult classic The Hunger (1983), her third American film in which she starred as a bisexual vampire, featuring David Bowie and Susan Sarandon. Deneuve’s sex scene with Sarandon in The Hunger brought her a significant lesbian following.

Deneuve won a second Cesar Award and received an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress for her performance in Indochine (1992), which also won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Deneuve is one of the distinct few to receive an Oscar nomination for a non-English speaking role. Her other significant films were André Téchiné’s Ma saison préférée (1993) and Les Voleurs (1995). In 1997, Deneuve was the protagonist in the music video for the song N’Oubliez Jamais sung by Joe Cocker. In 1998 she won acclaim and the Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival for her performance in Place Vendôme. In 1999 Deneuve appeared in five films, including: Est-Ouest, Le temps retrouvé, and Pola X. Her part in Lars von Trier’s musical drama Dancer in the Dark (2000) alongside Icelandic singer Björk was subject to considerable critical scrutiny. The film was selected for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Deneuve’s fourth and most recent American film to date was The Musketeer (2001). She shared the Silver Bear Award for Best Ensemble Cast at the Berlin International Film Festival for her performance in 8 Women (2002). In 2005, Deneuve published her diary A l’ombre de moi-meme (“In My Own Shadow”, published in English as Close Up and Personal: The Private Diaries of Catherine Deneuve); in it she writes about her experiences shooting the films Indochine and Dancer in the Dark; and working with leading men such as Burt Reynolds, Jack Lemmon, Vincent Perez, William Hurt, John Malkovich, Alain Delon, Gerard Depardieu, and Marcello Mastroianni. In 2006, she headed the jury at the Venice Film Festival. She made another brief return to Hollywood with a guest-starring role on the FX TV series Nip/Tuck during its fourth season in November 2006. She also lent her voice to the Oscar-nominated animated feature Persepolis (2007). In 2008, she appeared in her 100th film, Un conte de Noël. That same year she was honored at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival for her contributions to European cinema.

In 2010 Deneuve starred in the period comedy Potiche (2010). Her latest film is the musical Les Bien-aimés (2011) co-starring her real-life daughter Chiara Mastroianni. Although they share four previous acting credits, this is the first time Deneuve and Mastroianni have shared a scene together.

During an interview at the Cannes Film Festival with Ali Naderzad, Deneuve was asked which was her own favorite film. “I still say it was The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. To do a film completely with music like an opera was an incredible experience. But to work with music all the time, it’s such a lift, you know? It’s an opera, it’s very different.”

One of the world’s great beauties, her image was used to represent Marianne, the national symbol of France, from 1985 to 1989. She was the face of Chanel No. 5 in the late 1970s and she caused sales of the perfume to soar in the United States – so much so that the American press, captivated by her charm, nominated her as the world’s most elegant woman.

In 1983, American Home Products retained her to represent their cosmetics line. The company hired world-renowned photographer Richard Avedon and Catherine Deneuve to promote its line of Youth Garde cosmetics in which she famously proclaimed “Look closely. Next year I will be 40.”

She is considered the muse of designer Yves Saint Laurent; he dressed her in the films Belle de Jour, La Chamade, La sirène du Mississipi, Liza, and The Hunger. In 1992, she became a model for his skincare line.

In 2001, she was chosen as the new face of L’Oréal Paris.

Deneuve is involved with the charities: Children Action, Children of Africa, Orphelins Roumains and Reporters Without Borders. Deneuve has also been involved with various charities in the fight against AIDS and cancer.

Deneuve speaks fluent French, Italian, English and is semi-fluent in German. In 1965, the 21-year old Deneuve married British photographer David Bailey. They divorced in 1972 but remain friends.

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Happy Birthday Winona Ryder

City Connect celebrates the birthday of American actress Winona Ryder who was born on this day in 1971.

Biography

Winona Ryder made her film debut in the 1986 film Lucas. Ryder’s first significant role came in Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice (1988) as a goth teenager, which won her critical and commercial recognition. After making various appearances in film and television, Ryder continued her career with the cult film Heathers (1989), a controversial satire of teenage suicide and high school life, which drew Ryder further critical and commercial attention.

Having played diverse roles in many well-received films, Ryder won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and an Academy Award nomination in the same category for her role in The Age of Innocence in 1993, as well as another Academy Award nomination for Little Women the following year for Best Actress. In 2000, Ryder received a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California.

Ryder’s personal life has been widely reported by the media. Her relationship with actor Johnny Depp in the early 1990s was highly publicized and received much scrutiny by the media and tabloid press. A much talked about 2001 shoplifting incident led to a four-year hiatus from acting. She has also revealed her personal struggle with anxiety and depression, briefly checking into a clinic. In 2006, Ryder returned to the screen, and some media outlets called her performance “a remarkable comeback” to acting, having appeared in high-profile films such as Star Trek. In 2010, she was nominated for two Screen Actors Guild Awards, as the lead actress of When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story, and as part of the cast of Black Swan.

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Happy Birthday Lord Attenborough

City Connect celebrates the 88th birthday of The Rt Hon Lord Attenborough, CBE – better known as actor, producer and director Richard Attenborough. He became a life peer in 1993 and his title is Baron of Richmond upon Thames in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. He is an acclaimed actor, director and producer and has won countless awards over the years including BAFTAs, Oscars and Hollywood Golden Globes.

Lord Attenborough is probably best known as the director and producer of the film Gandhi which depicted the life and assassination of India’s great political and ideological leader Mahatma Gandhi. The film won 8 Oscars, 5 BAFTA Awards, 5 Hollywood Golden Globes and the Directors’ Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement.

Biography

Lord Attenborough was born in Cambridge, England on 29 August 1923. He is the elder brother of naturalist and wildlife filmmaker Sir David Attenborough. His father was a don at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. During the Second World War Attenborough served in the Royal Air Force.

Lord Attenborough’s film career began in 1942 as a deserting sailor in In Which We Serve, a role which would help to type-cast him for many years as spivs or cowards in films like London Belongs to Me (1948), Morning Departure (1950), and his breakthrough role as a psychopathic young gangster in the film of Graham Greene’s novel Brighton Rock (1947). Lord Attenborough worked prolifically in British films for the next thirty years, and in the 1950s appeared in several successful comedies for John and Roy Boulting, including Private’s Progress (1956) and I’m All Right Jack (1959). Early in his stage career, Lord Attenborough starred in the London West End production of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, which went on to become the world’s longest-running stage production. Both he and his wife were among the original cast members of the production, which opened in 1952 and as of 2010 is still running.

In the 1960s, he expanded his range of character roles in films such as Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964) and Guns at Batasi (1964), for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM). In 1963 he appeared in the ensemble cast of The Great Escape as Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett (“Big X”), the head of the escape committee. It was his first appearance in a major Hollywood film blockbuster and his most successful film up to that time.

In 1967 and 1968, he won back-to-back Golden Globe Awards in the category of Best Supporting Actor, the first time for The Sand Pebbles starring Steve McQueen and the second time for Doctor Dolittle starring Rex Harrison. He won another Golden Globe, for Best Director, for Gandhi in 1983. Six years prior to Gandhi he played the ruthless General Outram, in Indian director Satyajit Ray’s period piece The Chess Players. He has never been nominated for an Academy Award in an acting category.

He took no acting roles following his appearance in Otto Preminger’s version of The Human Factor in 1979 until his appearance as the eccentric developer John Hammond in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park in 1993 and the popular film’s 1997 sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park. The following year, he starred in the remake of Miracle on 34th Street as Kris Kringle. Since then he has made occasional appearances in supporting roles, including as Sir William Cecil in the 1998 historical drama Elizabeth.

In the late 1950s, Lord Attenborough formed a production company, Beaver Films, with Bryan Forbes and began to build a profile as a producer on projects including The League of Gentlemen (1959), The Angry Silence (1960) and Whistle Down the Wind (1961), also appearing in the first two of these as an actor.

His feature film directorial debut was the all-star screen version of the hit musical Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), and his acting appearances became more sporadic—the most notable being his portrayal of serial killer John Christie in 10 Rillington Place (1971). He later directed two epic period films: Young Winston (1972), based on the early life of Winston Churchill, and A Bridge Too Far (1977), an all-star account of Operation Market Garden in World War II. He won the 1982 Academy Award for Best Director for his historical epic, Gandhi, a project he had been attempting to get made for many years. As the film’s producer, he also won the Academy Award for Best Picture. His most recent films as director and producer include Chaplin (1992) starring Robert Downey, Jr. as Charlie Chaplin and Shadowlands (1993), based on the relationship between C. S. Lewis and Joy Gresham. The star of the latter was Anthony Hopkins, who also appeared in three other films for Lord Attenborough: Young Winston, A Bridge Too Far and the thriller Magic (1978).

Lord Attenborough also directed the screen version of the musical A Chorus Line (1985); and the apartheid drama Cry Freedom based on the life and death in police custody of prominent anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko and the experiences of Donald Woods. He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Director for both films.

Lord Attenborough is the patron of the UWC movement (United World Colleges) whereby he continually contributes greatly to the colleges that are part of the organisation. He has frequented the United World College of Southern Africa (UWCSA) Waterford Kamhlaba. With his wife, he founded the Richard and Sheila Attenborough Visual Arts Centre. He also founded the Jane Holland Creative Centre for Learning at Waterford Kamhlaba in Swaziland in memory of his daughter who died in the tsunami on 26 December 2004. He passionately believes in education, primarily education that does not judge upon colour, race, creed or religion. His attachment to Waterford is his passion for non-racial education, which were the grounds on which Waterford Kamhlaba was founded. Waterford was one of his inspirations for directing the Cry Freedom motion picture based on the life of Steve Biko.

A lifelong supporter of Chelsea Football Club, Lord Attenborough served as a director of the club from 1969–1982 and between 1993 and 2008 held the honorary position of Life Vice President. On the 30 November 2008 he was honoured with the title of Life President at the club’s stadium, Stamford Bridge.

In December 2008 Lord Attenborough suffered a fall at his home and was briefly in a coma. His health deteriorated after the fall and in May 2011, David Attenborough revealed in the Telegraph newspaper that his brother was now in a wheelchair but is still capable of holding a conversation and talking about old times. David Attenborough also said that his brother has been “watching his beloved Chelsea in the Premiership”. Lord Attenborough’s spokesman has confirmed that the actor/director probably won’t be making any more films.

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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 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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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 Jason Bateman

Jason Bateman – the American television and film actor – was born on this day 14 January in 1969 and City Connect celebrates his birthday in our weekly Born This Day series of famous people birthday tributes by looking at Bateman’s life and work on the small and silver screens.

After appearing in several 1980s and 1990s sitcoms including It’s Your Move, and The Hogan Family, Jason Bateman came to prominence in the early 2000s for playing Michael Bluth on Arrested Development, for which he won a TV Land, a Golden Globe, and two Satellite Awards. Jason Bateman has since established himself in Hollywood by appearing in several films including The Kingdom, Juno, Hancock, Up in the Air, Horrible Bosses, The Change-Up and Identity Thief.

Jason Bateman

Biography

Bateman was born in Rye, New York, the son of Victoria Elizabeth, a former flight attendant for Pan Am, and Kent Bruce Bateman, an actor, film and television writer/director, and founder of a repertory stage in Hollywood. His mother was from the United Kingdom, born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. His older sister is actress Justine Bateman, of Family Ties fame. Bateman also has three half-brothers. His family moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, when he was four, and later to California.

Television

Bateman began his television career on Little House On The Prairie. He appeared in the Knight Rider third-season episode “Lost Knight” in 1984. In 1987, he appeared with Burt Reynolds on the men’s team in the inaugural week of game show Win, Lose or Draw. He earned the status of teen idol in the mid-1980s in shows such as Silver Spoons, It’s Your Move, and most notably Valerie (later renamed Valerie’s Family, and then The Hogans, and then The Hogan Family after Valerie Harper left the series), and became the Directors Guild of America’s youngest-ever director when he helmed three episodes of The Hogan Family at the age of eighteen.

After the series ended its run, he gained international recognition in the motion picture Teen Wolf Too, which, despite his casting in the title role, was a box office failure. In 1994, he played opposite legendary actors Katharine Hepburn and Anthony Quinn in the television film This Can’t Be Love. During this period, he had major roles on four series—Simon, Chicago Sons, George & Leo, and Some of My Best Friends—none of which lasted longer than one season. He also directed an episode of Two of a Kind in 1998. In 2002, he played the frisky sibling of Thomas Jane’s character in the feature film The Sweetest Thing.

In 2003, Bateman was cast as Michael Bluth in the comedy series Arrested Development. Although critically acclaimed, the series never achieved high ratings and ended on February 10, 2006. Bateman won several awards for his work on the series, including a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series Musical or Comedy. He was also nominated in 2005 for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series.

Bateman performed commentary on the 2004 Democratic National Convention for The Majority Report with Arrested Development co-star David Cross, and hosted NBC’s Saturday Night Live on February 12, 2005. In 2006, he appeared as a guest star on the Scrubs episode “My Big Bird” as Mr. Sutton, a garbage man with a flock of vicious ostriches as pets.

In 2009, Bateman became a regular voice actor for the short-lived Fox comedy series Sit Down, Shut Up. He voiced Larry Littlejunk, the gym teacher and only staff member that can teach. In 2010, Bateman and former Arrested Development co-star Will Arnett created “DumbDumb Productions,” a production company focusing on digital content. Their first video was “Prom Date,” the first in a series of “Dirty Shorts” for Orbit.

Film

In 2004, Bateman appeared in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story as ESPN 8 (“The Ocho”) commentator Pepper Brooks, and in Starsky & Hutch as Kevin, Vince Vaughn’s business partner.

Bateman reunited with Vaughn in 2006’s The Break-Up. In 2007, he played former lawyer Rupert “Rip” Reed alongside Ben Affleck in Smokin’ Aces, and also starred in The Kingdom, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, and Juno. In 2008, he co-starred with Will Smith and Charlize Theron in the superhero film Hancock.

Bateman’s 2009 films included Extract, written and directed by Mike Judge, and Couples Retreat, reuniting with Vince Vaughn in a comedy chronicling four couples who partake in therapy sessions at a tropical island resort (Kristen Bell played his wife).

In 2010, he starred in The Switch, a romantic comedy, with Jennifer Aniston. In 2011, he played the role of Special Agent Zoil in the comedy Paul, and starred in Horrible Bosses. 2011 also saw Bateman star in the hilarious comedy The Change-Up opposite Ryan Reynolds.

It was announced in January 2012 that a sequel to Horrible Bosses is in the works. In March 2012, Mansome, Jason Bateman’s first executive producer credit with Will Arnett, was announced as a Spotlight selection for the Tribeca Film Festival. The documentary, directed by Morgan Spurlock, is a comedic look at male identity as it is defined through men’s grooming habits, featuring celebrity and expert commentary. He made a dramatic turn in 2012 with the thriller film Disconnect, and starred in the 2013 comedy film Identity Thief.

In 2013, Bateman made his directorial debut with Bad Words. He is also set to direct and star in an adaptation of The Family Fang.

Personal Life

Bateman told Best Life magazine that he and sister Justine Bateman supported their parents with the paychecks they earned on their television shows, and that his father was his manager until Jason fired him at the age of 20. Throughout the nineties, Bateman struggled with drug use; he stated in an interview in 2009 that “It was like Risky Business for 10 years”.

Bateman with wife Amanda Anka in August 2011

Since July 2001, Bateman has been married to Amanda Anka, daughter of singer Paul Anka. Their child, Francesca Nora Bateman, was born October 28, 2006. Their second child,  Maple Sylvie, was born February 10, 2012.

In late 2005, he had surgery to remove a benign polyp from his throat. The surgery and required recovery time halted production on Arrested Development, though enough episodes had been completed to get the show through the November sweeps period.

Bateman is a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers and wore Dodgers clothing in the 2008 film Hancock.

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Happy Birthday Kenneth Branagh

Today, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Kenneth Branagh who was born on 10 December 1960. Kenneth Branagh is an actor and film director from Northern Ireland. He is best known for directing and starring in several film adaptations of William Shakespeare’s plays. Kenneth Branagh has also starred in numerous other films and television series including Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Wallander. He directed such notable films as Swan Song (Academy Award nominated for Best Live Action Short Film), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (also starring) and the 2011 blockbuster action film Thor.

Branagh at the 2011 press conference for Thor

Biography

Kenneth Branagh was born and brought up in Belfast, Northern Ireland. At the age of nine, he relocated with his family to Reading, Berkshire to escape the Troubles. At school, he acquired an English accent to avoid bullying. On his identity today he has said, “I feel Irish. I don’t think you can take Belfast out of the boy,” and he attributes his “love of words” to his Irish heritage.

Kenneth Branagh is known for his film adaptations of William Shakespeare, beginning with Henry V (1989) for which was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Director, followed by Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Hamlet (1996) for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, Love’s Labour’s Lost (2000) and As You Like It (2006). As You Like It premiered in theatres in Europe, but was sent directly to television in the U.S., where it aired on HBO in August 2007. Branagh was also in Oliver Parker’s Othello playing Iago.

Notable non-Shakespeare films in which Branagh has appeared include Dead Again (1991) and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994), both of which he also directed, Wild Wild West (1999), Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) and Valkyrie (2008). He starred as Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). He also played the Minister, Dormandy, (a parody of PMG Tony Benn) in the film The Boat That Rocked (2009).

From 1989 to 1996 Branagh mostly directed his own films, but the commercial and critical failure of Love’s Labour’s Lost ended his directorial career for a time. In 2006, the same year that Branagh’s film version of As You Like It was released, he also directed a film version of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. Branagh has also directed the thriller Sleuth (2007), a remake of the 1972 film.

At a film promotion for Valkyrie in 2008, Branagh confirmed that he would be directing Thor, a film based on the Marvel superhero. Thor, Branagh’s return to big-budget directing, was released on 6 May 2011 and stars Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins.

Branagh is the star of the Wallander television series, adaptations of Henning Mankell’s best-selling Wallander crime novels. Branagh plays the eponymous Inspector Kurt Wallander and also serves as the executive producer of the series. The first three episodes were broadcast on BBC One in November and December 2008. Branagh won the award for best actor at the 35th Broadcasting Press Guild Television and Radio Awards (2009). It was his first major television award win in the UK. He received his first BAFTA TV on 26 April 2009 for the British Academy Television Award for Best Drama Series. For his performance in the episode One Step Behind, he was nominated in the Outstanding Actor, Miniseries or Movie category of the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards. The role also gained him a nomination for Best Actor at the 2009 Crime Thriller Awards. The second season of three episodes were filmed in 2009 and aired in January 2010 on the BBC and October/November 2010 on PBS in the US. Plans have been announced for a third season of six episodes—the last three Mankell novels, as well as three original Wallander stories.

Branagh was married to actress Emma Thompson from 20 August 1989 until 1995. After their divorce, he was in a well-publicised relationship for several years with actress Helena Bonham Carter, whom he directed and starred with in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In 2003, he married film art director Lindsay Brunnock, to whom he was introduced by Bonham Carter in 1997. He speaks Italian and is a lifelong supporter of Belfast football team Linfield, as well as Tottenham Hotspur.

Branagh was the youngest actor to receive the Golden Quill (also known as the Gielgud Award) in 2000. Alongside Roberto Benigni, he is one of only two non-American actors to be nominated for Oscars for acting, writing, and directing, and one of nine actors to have achieved this honour. The other seven are Orson Welles, Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, Clint Eastwood, George Clooney, John Huston and John Cassavetes.

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