Freelance Writer Melanie Cork

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Billie Eilish Profile and Music

By Melanie Cork

 

“I’ve always done whatever I want and always been exactly who I am”

 

Billie Eilish is an American musical phenomenon – an 18-year-old Grammy Award winning singer songwriter with whispery, angelic vocals,  platinum selling records and millions of followers on social media. Fans relate to her honest, moody song lyrics, dark videos, and edgy look. Eilish has had number one singles in both the UK and the USA and she is the first artist born in the 21st Century to have a number 1 album.

 

Background

Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell was born December 18th, 2001 in Los Angeles, California. Her middle name Eilish is the Irish form of Elizabeth, Pirate was her brother’s choice, Baird is her mother’s maiden name and O’Connell is her paternal surname. Her parents Patrick and Maggie are of Scottish and Irish descent and are also in the entertainment industry. She has a brother Finneas who she is very close to,  they were both home schooled when they were growing up. Their parents taught them about music and the basics of song writing but encouraged them to follow their own style.  Eilish worked in a stable for a time before going in to music to pay for her horse-riding hobby.

 

Career

In 2016 14-year-old Eilish uploaded her first song Ocean Eyes to the streaming platform SoundCloud late one evening, it was intended for only her dance teacher to listen to – but when she woke up the next day the song had gone viral and soon started getting the attention of radio stations and music influencers. Suddenly her career took off and she signed up with Darkroom and Interscope records.

 

Eilish still co-writes her music with her brother Finneas  who is a singer songwriter, producer and actor.

 

In 2017 her song Bored was featured in a Netflix series and she released her EP Don’t Smile at Me.

 

In 2019 her first album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? broke numerous records and single Bad Guy went to Number 1 in the Billboard Hot 100.

 

In 2020 Eilish was asked to record the theme song for the latest James Bond Movie, she was the youngest person ever to do so. The song No Time To Die became her first UK number one.

In October this year Eilish performed a virtual concert livestreamed from Los Angeles with tracks from her debut album and new singles. Most recently the singer has released Therefore I Am, her third single of 2020, following No Time To Die and My Future. Eilish is due to perform Therefore I Am live at the American Music Awards.  

 

Inspirations

The Beatles, Green Day, Lana Del Ray, Avril Lavigne, Amy Winehouse, the Spice Girls and Ariana Grande have all been noted as influences on her music, plus Rihanna for her style.  Eilish has always been a ‘Belieber’ – a big fan of Justin Bieber, her parents revealed that they even considered taking her to therapy over her childhood obsession with him.  After rising to fame, she met her idol and collaborated with him on a remix of Bad Guy. Bieber has spoken about the need to protect Eilish as he understands the problems of growing to fame at a young age.

 

 

Awards

Eilish has received many awards: Grammy’s, American Music Awards, Guinness World Records, MTV Video Music Awards, and a  Brit.  She was the youngest person to win the four main Grammy  categories.

 

Personal Life

As of 2020 Eilish still lives with her parents in their modest LA home, she  has kept her personal and romantic life private, but has openly spoken about her anxiety and life growing up in the  public eye as well as having Tourette’s Syndrome and depression. 

 

Eilish was raised as a vegetarian and became vegan in 2014.

 

At just 17 years old she was able to treat herself to her dream car – a matte black Dodge Challenger.

 

Fashion

Eilish’s signature edgy fashion style gets a lot of media attention with her baggy clothes and changing hair colours, she has said that the baggy clothes are to prevent people from body-shaming, an experience she has had in the past.

 

Activism

Eilish loves animals and is a regular advocate on social media for animal rights and veganism.  In 2019 she won a PETA Best Voice for Animals award.

 

Recently Eilish has supported USA voting rights and performed at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, endorsing Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

 

Latest news

Eilish has an upcoming documentary at cinemas and Apple TV in February 2021 entitled: The World’s A little Blurry. The documentary follows her release of her first album as well as footage of her as a child and co-writing with her brother. It looks at her fast rise to fame from humble beginnings.

 

The singer’s 2020  world tour has been postponed due to the pandemic; she is rescheduling next year.

 

William Shatner Profile

By Melanie Cork

 

You have to create your life. You have to carve it, like a sculpture.”

 

William Shatner is a Canadian actor, singer, voiceover, screenwriter, author and producer whose career has spanned well over 60 years and is most recognisable around the world for his iconic role as Captain James T Kirk in the sci fi Star Trek Franchise. 

 

Early life

Shatner was born in Quebec Canada on the 22nd of March 1931 to parents Ann and Joseph. He has two sisters, Joy and Farla.  

 

The family name was originally Schattner, Shatner’s grandparents were Jewish immigrants who came from Austria-Hungary and the Russian Empire.

 

Shatner went to school and University in Montreal where he graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree. There he also got involved in student plays.

 

Career

After University Shatner joined the Canadian Repertory Company in Ottowa and  Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario. He appeared on Broadway, and had TV work in the 1950s in Howdy Doody and guest appearances on shows such as The Twilight Zone.

His first film was the 1951 Canadian film The Butler’s Night Off, but his first role in a big movie was  a supporting role in The Brothers Karamazov 1in 1958 with Yul Brynner. 

Shatner met actor and soon to be friend Leonard Nimoy in 1964, they co-starred on an episode of The Man From UNCLE and were both signed up for new sci-fi series Star Trek in 1966. Star Trek only had moderate success and ended in 1969 and Shatner went through an unsuccessful period until a starring role in TV series Barbary Coast in 1975.

 

In 1979 he was asked to go back to his role as Captain Kirk for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Thanks to a worldwide cult fan base of ‘Trekkies’, a series of Star Trek movies followed and brought success. Between movies he returned to TV to star as a police officer in the popular T J Hooker series from 1982 to 1986.

 

Despite fame from Star Trek, it was later TV roles which gained him awards – an Emmy in 2004 for legal drama The Practice and a Golden Globe in 2005 for Boston Legal.

 

Over the years he has been in popular comedy movies such as Airplane and Miss Congeniality.  Recent films have included 2020’s fantasy movie Creators: The Past and 2019’s horror Devil’s Revenge.

Shatner has recently hosted History documentary series The UnXplained, which looks at unusual phenomena like aliens.

 

Music Career

Shatner also has a music career – although his first album The Transformed Man had mixed reviews with spoken word versions of songs such as Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and Mr. Tambourine Man, his later releases including Country music album Why Not Me? have received praise and critical acclaim.

 

 

Writing

Shatner has written science fiction novels, Star Trek books, as well as an autobiography and a book about his friendship with Leonard Nimoy. 

 

Awards  

He has won several awards including a Golden Globe, Emmys, Saturn Awards and has a star on the Hollywood and Canadian Walk of Fame.  

 

Personal Life

The actor has a house in California and also successfully breeds award-winning horses at his farm in Kentucky.

 

He has been married four times, first to Canadian actress Gloria Rand in 1956. They had three daughters but divorced in 1969.  Secondly to Marcy Lafferty from 1973 to 1996.  His third marriage was to Nerine Kidd, from 1997 until her death in 1999 – Shatner returned home to discover Nerine’s body at the bottom of their swimming pool, she had alcohol and Valium in her blood and the coroner ruled the cause of death was accidental drowning.  He married Elizabeth Martin, a former professional horse trainer in 2001 but divorced in January 2020.

 

Shatner has two dogs, named Macchiato and Double Espresso.

 

COVID-19  

Known for his sense of humour Shatner has been cheering up his Star Trek fans through the COVID-19 pandemic with daily comedy Captain’s Log updates on Twitter – to an audience of more than 2.5 million followers.

 

Live Shows

His one-man live shows have been popular including Shatner’s World, which was a hit  on Broadway and had tours around North America, Australia and New Zealand.  His latest live tour planned for early 2021 has been cancelled due to the pandemic. He was due to  follow on stage a screening of the classic film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan to  share behind-the-scenes stories from Star Trek as well as his long career and an audience led Q&A. 

 

Latest

Shatner continues to work well into his eighties with  no plans to retire – in film, TV, live shows, commercials (he has been the famous face of the Priceline commercials from 1997 to now), voiceovers, horse breeding and keeping his millions of fans entertained on social media.

 

 

“I don’t understand the concept of retirement, I’ll lie down and die. That will be my break”.

William Shatner TV & Movies

By Melanie Cork

 

Of course, Star Trek features highly in William Shatner’s back catalogue. Not only did he lead the cult first series as Captain Kirk, he then starred in seven of the blockbuster movies, but Shatner has  played hundreds of varied TV and movie characters in his long career, including an award-winning role in drama Boston Legal. Here are a few top picks.

 

Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-1969)

Star Trek is a science fiction TV Series that follows the adventures of the Starship USS Enterprise, and its crew set around the 2260s. The crew are led by Captain James T Kirk played by Shatner in his most iconic role. It was cancelled after 3 seasons but became a cult classic and continues to be re-run and followed by numerous movies.

 

Barbary Coast (1975 – 1976)

TV series Barbary Coast mixed western and secret agent drama with the adventures of 19th century government agent Jeff Cable (Shatner), and his friend – conman and gambler Cash Conover (Doug McClure) who is the owner of the Golden Gate Casino on San Francisco’s notorious Barbary Coast.  

 

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

A must for Star Trek fans the first movie was based on the TV series with the original cast. Set around the 2260s, a mysterious alien cloud approaches Earth, destroying everything in its way. Admiral Kirk (Shatner) takes command of the recently updated starship USS Enterprise, to lead on a mission to save the planet.

 

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Often thought of as the best of the Star Trek movies the second film has Kirk and his crew fighting tyrant Khan (Ricardo Montalbán). So popular still Shatner is taking a screening of this film on a live tour in 2021 followed by a Q&A session for fans. The film is the start of a three-film series that continues with Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) and ending with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986).

 

TJ Hooker (1982 – 1985)

A police drama television program with  Shatner as TJ Hooker – a 15-year veteran police sergeant. Hooker used to be a plainclothes Detective Sergeant whose partner was killed in the line of duty while trying to stop a bank robbery. An angry Hooker decides to clear the streets of criminals and the only way is to return to being a uniformed patrolman.

 

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

Shatner directed and starred in the fifth movie following the crew of the  Enterprise challenging a Vulcan who is searching for God at the centre of the galaxy. The film received mixed reviews and was followed by Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991).

 

Rescue 911 (1989 – 1996)

Shatner hosted a CBS reality style TV show featuring re-enactments of real emergencies that led to people calling the emergency 911 telephone line, the programme ended up saving lives.

 

National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 (1993)

This parody film stars Emilio Estevez, Samuel L. Jackson with Shatner and is a spoof of the Lethal Weapon films, and other 80’s hits including Basic Instinct, Die Hard,  and Wayne’s World.

 

Star Trek Generations (1994)

Kirk works with  Captain Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) in this movie to help stop a villain form destroying a planetary system. Shatner’s role as Kirk concluded in this film.

 

Miss Congeniality (2000) & Miss Congeniality 2 (2005)

A box office hit comedy movie with a cast including Sandra Bullock, Michael Caine and Candice Bergen. FBI Agent Gracie Hart goes undercover in a Beauty Pageant, Shatner plays veteran host MC Stan Fields, one of the suspects in the investigation. A sequel, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, followed in 2005.

 

The Practice and Boston Legal (2004 – 2008)

Shatner won Emmy Awards for his role as eccentric lawyer Denny Crane in this drama TV series. First in several episodes of long running show The Practice and then in its spin-off Boston Legal. Shatner was brilliant as the self-absorbed attorney with early signs of dementia.

 

Shatner’s Raw Nerve (2008-2011)

A television program on the Biography Channel, Shatner interviews celebrities including Tim Allen, Kelsey Grammer, Judge Judy and Leonard Nimoy with direct questioning and humour.

 

Devil’s Revenge (2019)

This horror film stars Shatner as Hayes, the father of an archaeologist who is trying to locate an ancient family relic in the caves of rural Kentucky but who finds a portal to Hell – the whole family have to go there to prevent disaster.

 

The UnXplained (2019-2020)

This popular non-fiction TV series on the History channel is hosted and executive produced by  Shatner. An exploration of the world’s fascinating, strange and unexplained mysteries with input from scientists, historians, and witnesses.

 

 

“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no one has gone before.”  Star Trek

 

Carlos Santana

By Melanie Cork

“The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace.” Carlos Santana

 

Profile

Rock Legend Carlos Santana is a Mexican American award-winning guitarist and songwriter who first became famous with his band Santana.  Santana’s music blends Latin rock, jazz, blues, salsa and African rhythms, they have made 25 studio albums, seven live albums, 61 singles and 23 compilation albums over their long career.  Santana’s guitar playing is legendary and instantly recognisable.

 

Background

Carlos Augusto Alves Santana was born on July 20th, 1974 in Mexico.  He is one of six children born to mother Josefina and father Jorge.  Jorge taught him to play the violin and guitar at a very early age. The family moved to San Francisco in the early sixties.

 

Early Career

After several years spent working as a dishwasher in a diner and busking, Santana decided to become a full-time musician.  In 1966 he was chosen with other musicians to form an ad hoc band to play a Sunday matinee at Bill Graham’s Auditorium. Santana’s guitar playing got everyone’s attention.

 

During the same year he started the Santana Blues Band. With their original blend of Latin-infused rock, jazz, blues, salsa and African rhythms, the band, which soon became known as Santana, gained many fans on the San Francisco club scene. The band’s early success, through a performance at Woodstock festival in 1969, led to a recording contract.

 

Music

Their first album, Santana (1969), and a Top 10 single, “Evil Ways,” went triple platinum, selling more than four million copies and remaining on the Billboard charts for more than two years. 

 

Second album Abraxas, released in 1970, went platinum, with two Top 20 hit singles, “Oye Como Va” and “Black Magic Woman.”

 

The band’s next two albums, Santana III (1971) and Caravanserai (1972), were also successes. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, they released more successful albums. These included Amigos (1976) and Zebop! (1981).

 

During the 80s, Santana continued to tour and record both solo and with the band, but his popularity began to decrease with audiences in less interested in jazz/rock blends.

 

Santana still got critical acclaim, for the 1987 solo album Blues for Salvador, which gave him his first Grammy Award. He toured a lot playing in sold out auditoriums and Live Aid (1985) and Amnesty International (1986).

 

Santana released Milagro (1992) and Sacred Fire: Live in South America (1993).

 

In 1994, Santana played at the commemorative concert at Woodstock, 25 years after his band’s performance at the original festival. Under his own label he released a collaborative album, Brothers (1994), with his brother Jorge and nephew Carlos, that was nominated for a Grammy.

 

Santana’s comeback began in 1997, re-signing the band and working with famous musicians including Eric Clapton, Lauryn Hill, and Wyclef Jean on his 35th album, Supernatural, released in 1999 and often considered his best work. By early 2000, the album had sold 10 million copies worldwide and had a number 1 hit single, “Smooth.”  

 

His next album was Shaman (2002). He won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for the top 5 song “The Game of Love.” A list of collaborators appeared on Santana’s next album All That I Am (2005), including Mary J. Blige and Steven Tyler.

 

Santana released 2012’s instrumental Shape Shifter, then Corazón two years later.  Santana IV ease leased in 2016, back to a more psychedelic sound.

 

Africa Speaks is their most recent full-length album, released in 2019.

 

Awards

The band has won several awards, including ten Grammys and three Latin Grammys, the band went into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, and Santana’s work is in the Grammy Hall of Fame and Latin Grammy Hall of Fame.

 

Inspirations

Santana was influenced by popular artists of the 1950s such as B.B. King, T-Bone Walker, and John Lee Hooker.  Santana was a big fan of the famous Hungarian jazz guitarist Gábor Szabó.  

 

Personal Life

Carlos Santana lived in California, with his wife, Deborah, who he married in 1973, and their three children. In 2007 they divorced.  He married his touring drummer Cindy Blackman in 2010.

 

Santana owns a restaurant chain named Maria Maria, named after his song. The first restaurant opened in 2008 and there are now 5 locations of the chain across San Francisco, offering Mexican cuisine. 

 

He also has his own footwear company. Some of the proceeds from sales are donated to The Milagro Foundation, founded by Santana and his family. The foundation benefits vulnerable children around the world. 

 

 In 2014, Santana published his memoir The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light. “

 

Miraculous 2020 Tour

Over 50 years after the release of their first album Santana was due to tour this year, including a visit to Budapest, Hungary in March which is sadly postponed due to the COVID 19 pandemic.  The band has promised to make every effort to return.

Jennifer Lopez Movies

By Melanie Cork

 

I was always a singer and a dancer, and I always wanted to be an actress. For me, it’s all just one thing.” Jennifer Lopez

 

Movie Career

Maybe best known for her music, Jennifer Lopez has been working hard for years building a successful movie career through mainly romantic comedies and thrillers.   Most recently the film drama Hustlers in 2019 gained her a Golden Globe nomination. Here are a just a few of the movies that have been important to her career.

 

My Little Girl (1986)

In her very first role, Lopez had a small, non-speaking role as Myra in this film about a teenage girl who agrees to work in a centre for other girls who can’t live with their parents

 

My Family (1995)

Lopez was a key character as Young Maria in this film about three generations of an immigrant family. Maria, and her husband, were the family’s first generation to come to America but faced deportation in the 1930s.

 

Money Train (1995)

In this action comedy, Lopez was Grace Santiago, a New York City transit officer. The movie is about another transit officer’s plan to steal the train carrying the subway system’s money.

 

Jack (1996)

Lopez played teacher Miss Marquez, in this film (starring Robin Williams) about a boy, Jack, who has an unusual aging disorder that makes him age four times faster than normal.  

 

Selena (1997)

The movie Selena is considered as Lopez’s breakout leading role and she received a Golden Globe nomination, she played Selena Quintanilla brilliantly in this biopic of the Mexican singer. 

 

Anaconda (1997)

In her second leading role, she starred alongside rapper Ice Cube and Owen Wilson as Terri, the director of a documentary crew. After her team is taken hostage by a hunter, he forces them to help capture the world’s deadliest snake, the anaconda.

 

Out of Sight (1998)

Lopez is great as US Marshall Karen Sisco in this film with George Clooney. He plays a career bank robber who breaks out of jail and kidnaps her character, she then falls in love with him (of course!).

 

The Wedding Planner (2001)

Lopez starts her famous romantic comedy roles here, alongside Matthew McConaughey, she plays Mary, a wedding planner who’s great at helping everyone to find love, except for herself.

 

Enough (2002)

In this crime thriller she plays a woman who tries to run away from her abusive husband. Wanting to protect her daughter, she realises there’s only one way out of her terrible marriage…

 

Maid in Manhattan (2002)

Lopez is hotel maid Marisa in this romantic comedy, she accidentally makes a rich man (Ralph Fiennes) think she’s a socialite when he sees her trying on a hotel guest’s dress, and he falls in love with her.

 

Shall We Dance (2004)

Lopez is dancer Paulina, who turns John Clark’s (Richard Gere) world upside down in this romantic comedy about ballroom dancing. 

 

Monster in Law (2005)

In this crazy comedy Jennifer Lopez plays Charlie who thinks she has met the perfect man, until she meets his mother (Jane Fonda).

 

An Unfinished Life (2005)

Lopez stars opposite Robert Redford in this spiritual drama. It received mixed reviews from critics, but Lopez said she was so pleased to star alongside Redford who was always her mother’s favourite.

 

The Backup Plan (2010)
In this romantic comedy her character, Zoe, wants to have a baby. She is single and can’t wait so decides to be artificially inseminated. She gets pregnant with twins, and then immediately meets the man of her dreams.

 

What to Expect When you’re Expecting (2012)
Alongside a star cast including Cameron Diaz this movie shows how five couples’ lives change when they become expecting parents. Lopez plays Holly, who desperately wants to adopt a child, but her husband isn’t keen.

 

The Boy Next Door (2015

Lopez is Claire in this stalker thriller about a woman who leaves her unfaithful husband and falls for the younger man next door, but their steamy affair soon becomes very dangerous.


Hustlers (2019
Playing Ramona, she became the leader of a group of strippers who took on Wall Street after the 2008 financial crisis—one client at a time. Lopez famously does an amazing pole dance routine. This role earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and a Spotlight Award, Actress at the Palm Springs Film Festival.

 

Coming up – 2020

Marry Me

Lopez’s latest romantic comedy is coming out this year. She plays pop superstar Kat Valdez whose fiancé ends their relationship moments before their Madison Square Garden wedding. Rather than being left at the-altar, Kat picks a random guy from the crowd to marry instead.

 

“A romantic comedy has to be funny and make you think about life; but the obstacle that has to be overcome is key.” Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez

By Melanie Cork

“Confidence – It all has to do with how you feel about yourself – it’s about projecting the attitude, I’m happy with who I am.” Jennifer Lopez

  

Profile

Jennifer Lopez, nickname J-Lo, is a successful actress, singer, dancer, fashion designer, and businesswoman. Lopez is regarded as the most influential Latin performer in America and is one of Hollywood’s leading ladies. Turning 50 last year Lopez performed the role of a lifetime in the Golden Globe nominated movie Hustlers. Lopez puts her success down to hard work and determination.

 

Background

Jennifer Lynn Lopez was born on July 24th, 1960 in the Bronx, New York. Her Puerto Rican parents Guadalupe and David were poor and had a small apartment, where Jennifer and her two sisters lived, her parents later saved up and moved to a small house.  

 

At her Catholic schools she did best at athletics, competing in national track championships. Lopez started singing and dancing lessons when she was five. At 18 Lopez moved out of home and worked at a law firm while doing dancing jobs at night.

 

Dancing

From 1991 Lopez was a Fly Girl dancer on the show In Living Colour, until she went in to acting in 1993. Since 2017, Lopez has produced and been a judge on World of Dance.  

 

Films

In 1997 Lopez got a Golden Globe nomination for the film Selena and became the first Latin actress to earn over a million dollars for a film.  She went on to star in Anaconda and Out of Sight, The Wedding Planner, and Maid in Manhattan.  After starring in Gigli in 2003 she was in more successful romantic comedies such as Shall We Dance? And Monster In Law.  In 2019, she received Golden Globe nominations for her role as a stripper in the crime drama Hustlers.

 

TV

In 2010, she became a judge on the 10th, 11th and 13th seasons of American Idol.  

 

From 2016 to 2018, she was in the crime drama series Shades of Blue playing a corrupt police officer who turns against her fellow officers.

 

 

Music

Lopez released her first music album On the 6 in 1999 with her next album J-Lo in 2001. Her 2002 remix album, J to tha L–O! The Remixes, became the first in history to debut at number one on the U.S. chart. Later that year, she released her third album This Is Me… Then. The album Rebirth followed in 2005 and her fifth and sixth albums, Como Ama una Mujer and Brave in 2007. There was a break until 2011 with seventh studio album Love?.

 

The album A.K.A. was released in 2014. Since then no more albums yet, but she has been busy on other projects and says that she has been working around her children’s school schedules.

 

Her most successful singles include: “If You Had My Love”, “I’m Real”, “Ain’t It Funny”, “All I Have”, and “On the Floor”.

 

From 2016-2018 Lopez had a residency in Las Vegas – Jennifer Lopez: All I Have.

 

Lopez and Shakira joined for the Super Bowl 2020 halftime show in Miami, Florida, delivering a high-energy set.

 

 The businesswoman

Other ventures include clothing lines, 29 fragrances, a production company, and a charitable foundation.  

 

Awards

Awards include the World Music Awards Legend Award, the Billboard Icon Award, the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her single “On the Floor “is among the best-selling singles of all time, and its video the “Highest Viewed Female Music Video of All Time” by Guinness World Records.

 

Personal

Lopez has had several high-profile relationships. Briefly married in 1997, to Ojani Noa, a model and actor she then had a long relationship with rapper Sean “Puffy” Combs, separating in 1999. Lopez married dancer Cris Judd in 2001 but separated 9 months later. In 2002, Lopez got engaged to Ben Afflek, but they broke up in early 2004.  Lopez married singer Marc Anthony in 2004 and they had twins in 2008, separating in 2011. Lopez dated dancer Casper Smart from 2011 to 2016. Since 2017 she has been with her fiancé, former baseball star Alex Rodriguez.

 

Inspirations

Lopez says that growing up her inspirations included Barbara Streisand, Tina Turner, Diana Ross, James Brown and Janet Jackson.

 

Latest – One World – Together At Home

On the 18th of April 2020 Lady Gaga, Elton John, Jennifer Lopez and others performed at the One World: Together At Home benefit event. The virtual concert, organized by WHO and Global Citizen, supported the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

One of the most awaited performances was Lopez, who sang Barbra Streisand’s “People.” In the back garden of her Miami mansion with fairy lights around, wearing a sweatshirt with Streisand’s face on it she told fans: “I miss you.” Lopez has been isolating with fiancé Alex Rodriguez.

 

Gary Barlow Profile

By Melanie Cork

“I don’t think you’ll ever be happy about anything unless you’ve done it.” Gary Barlow

 

49-year-old Gary Barlow OBE is an award-winning singer, songwriter, and record producer. He is best known as the lead singer of the British pop group Take That. He is a hugely successful songwriter with many number one albums and singles. He is currently entertaining us during COVID-19 lockdown with his “Crooner Sessions” on Twitter from his home studio.

 

Background

Barlow was born on 20 January 1971 in Frodsham, Cheshire, England and is the second son of Colin and Marjorie Barlow. Barlow says that his love of music began at an early age.

 

Early Career

Barlow won a TV competition when he was 15 and went on to tour and gig in the North of England. It was agent Nigel Martin Smith who decided to use Barlow as the front man for a new boy band – Take That.

 

Take That

The award-winning group started in 1989, with Barlow writing and lead singing most of their famous songs. They have had sell out tours, top 40 albums, singles and number ones including Back for Good, Never Forget, and Greatest Day.

 

Robbie Williams left the band in 1995 while the four remaining members completed their world tour before splitting in 1996. After filming a 2005 documentary and releasing a new greatest hits album, a four-piece Take That (without Williams) went on a 2006 reunion tour around the UK.

 

Their fourth album, Beautiful World, was released in 2006 and followed up with The Circus, in 2008. The group achieved new success as a four-piece, and Williams re-joined them in 2010 for the band’s sixth album Progress.

 

In 2014, the band with Barlow recorded a seventh number one album III, this time as a three piece.

 

Solo Career

Barlow’s first two solo singles released in 1996, Forever Love and Love Won’t Wait, went to number one in the UK. His first album Open Road reached number one in the UK and sold 2 million copies worldwide.  

 

His second album was released in 1999 – Twelve Months, Eleven Days, with the main single “Stronger” but the UK media and former bandmate Robbie Williams had turned against Barlow and it did not do well.

 

Later in 1999, Barlow left his career as a singer and wrote for other artists such as Shirley Bassey.

 

Barlow made up with Robbie Williams and they released a duet together in 2010 called “Shame”. Barlow has recorded several duets over the following years including Michael Bublé.

 

Barlow was a judge on X-Factor for two series from 2011.

 

The Queen asked Barlow to organise her birthday party and Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012. The concert took place outside Buckingham Palace with superstar artists. Barlow appeared alongside Andrew Lloyd Webber and his own Commonwealth Band to perform their official jubilee single “Sing” Barlow then went on a solo tour.

 

His platinum solo album Since I saw You Last was released in 2013, followed by a tour.  

 

Musical theatre

Most recently Barlow has written and produced music for theatre shows including Finding Neverland, The Girls, and the Take That musical The Band.

 

Acting

Barlow had small acting roles such as in ITV drama Heartbeat, cameos in the film Keith Lemon: The Film, the hit BBC1 show Miranda, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

 

Charity work

Barlow does lots of Charity work, he has organised events, including a sponsored climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and ‘Children in Need Rocks’. In 2016, Barlow became a Patron for Child Bereavement.

 

Personal

Barlow married Dawn Andrews in 2000, who was a dancer on Take That’s 1995 Tour. They have three children, sadly their fourth child was stillborn.

 

Barlow is a football fan supporting Liverpool FC.

 

In June 2012 Barlow, along with several celebrities, was accused of tax avoidance and asked to repay monies.

 

Inspirations

Barlow said his early inspirations were British band Depeche Mode and Elton John. Later Barlow said about “Don’t Give Up”, the 1986 song by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush – “I don’t think you can listen to this song without feeling inspired, it could save anybody.”

 

Awards

He was honoured in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours and appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by the Queen on 16 June 2012, for “services to the Entertainment Industry and to Charity”. He has many music awards including Brit Awards and Ivor Novello Awards.

 

2020

Barlow will release an anniversary album of his debut solo album Open Road this year.

 

The Crooner Sessions: Barlow is keeping everyone entertained during the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown with daily live duets with his friends such as Ronan Keating, Jason Donovan, Howard Donald and Katherine Jenkins. A new clip is released across Barlow’s social media accounts and on YouTube at 5pm each day.

Steve Buscemi Movies

By Melanie Cork

 

“It doesn’t matter what part I play, I try and commit myself 100 percent.” Steve Buscemi

 

Movie Career

As well as famous TV roles in the Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire, Buscemi is one of the most recognisable character actors in movies. He has made many films and whether he is the lead or in a cameo role a highly enjoyable, watchable performance is guaranteed. Here are a few movies not to miss.

 

Miller’s Crossing (1990)

Buscemi worked with the Coen brothers for the first time in this violent gangster film. It stars Gabriel Byrne as a hard-drinking right-hand man of an Irish gangster caught up in a war with a rival gang that makes him question loyalties. Buscemi is a fast-talking character mixed up in the story. 

 

King of New York (1990)

Abel Ferrara’s cult crime movie features Buscemi in a serious role as Test Tube, a member of Frank White’s (Christopher Walken) criminal organisation.

 

Reservoir Dogs (1991)

Buscemi’s breakthrough role. As Mr Pink, the non-tipping, non-conformist member of a group of diamond robbers, he made a big impression as part of the killer team in Quentin Tarantino’s debut film, with Michael Madsen and Harvey Keitel. Tarantino originally wrote the part for himself and his dialogue is perfect to show off Buscemi’s cool delivery.

 

Pulp Fiction (1995)

In a short memorable cameo, Buscemi plays Buddy Holly, the waiter at 1950s rock’n’roll themed diner Jack Rabbit Slims.  

 

Fargo (1996)

As criminal Carl Showalter, Buscemi gets shot in the face when a ransom goes wrong. This story of murder, deceit and dark comedy is seen as one of the Coens’ best films. Fargo gives Buscemi a bigger role than usual. Everything that can go wrong does, as Buscemi and his crime partner visit bars, brothels and motels.

 

Trees Lounge (1996)

A darkly funny drama, Trees Lounge was Buscemi’s directorial debut. It’s a well-acted film, featuring Buscemi alongside Chloë Sevigny. Buscemi’s character Tommy Basilio is a regular at the Trees Lounge bar, where he’s stuck in a cycle of self-destruction, alcohol and drugs.  

 

Fargo (1996)

This is a dark, comedy thriller film written and produced by the Coens. Frances McDormand is a pregnant police chief investigating murders that start after a desperate car salesman (William H. Macy) hires two criminals (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife to get a ransom from his wealthy father in law. Fargo received seven Academy Award nominations.  

 

Con Air (1997)

This action thriller film also stars Nicolas Cage, John Cusack and John Malkovich, the film got mixed reviews, but praised the cast performances as well as its action and stunts. Buscemi is a serial killer who “makes the Manson family look like the Partridge family”. He is strapped to a chair, with a Hannibal Lecter style mask on. Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg wrote the part with Buscemi in mind.

 

Armageddon (1998)

This science fiction disaster film follows a group of deep-core drillers sent by NASA to stop a gigantic asteroid on a collision course with Earth. It stars Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Owen Wilson with Steve Buscemi. Though the film was released to negative reviews, it was an international box-office success, becoming the highest-grossing film of 1998.

 

The Big Lebowski (1998)

In this comedy classic from the Coen brothers, Buscemi plays nice guy Donny, a quiet, confused 10-pin bowler. Always unclear as to what’s happening around him, Donny annoys his friend Walter played by John Goodman.

 

Ghost World (2001)

Buscemi is awkward Seymour in this comic book adaptation. It’s a teen drama where Thora Birch is a sarcastic and cynical high school student. After playing a cruel joke on Buscemi’s character, Birch finds herself drawn to him. This is an interesting story of how she tries so hard to prove she doesn’t care while secretly having the same anxieties as everyone else.

 

MONSTERS, INC. (2001)

This animated film is based on two monsters, Sulley and his one-eyed best friend Mike Wazowski, employed at the factory Monsters, Inc, which generates power by scaring human children. The monster world believes that children are toxic, and when a small child enters the factory, Sulley and Mike must return her home before it is too late. This box office hit is exciting and funny, with a fantastic voice cast that included Billy Crystal and John Goodman, and Buscemi as the nasty monster Randall Boggs.

 

Coming up – 2020

The King of Staten Island is due for release soon. Judd Apatow co-wrote and produced this comedy, it stars Pete Davison, Marisa Tomei and Buscemi.

 

Hubie Halloween is an American comedy film starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, as well as Buscemi. Good-natured but eccentric community volunteer Hubie Dubois (Sandler) finds himself at the centre of a real murder case on Halloween night.  

 

 

“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Con Air

Steve Buscemi

By Melanie Cork

 

I can’t relate to 99% of humanity”  Steve Buscemi 

Profile

62-year-old Steve Buscemi is a highly respected American actor, director, writer, producer, voice actor and former firefighter.  With his unusual look, skinny body, crooked teeth and bulging eyes he is known for playing a bad guy and has been in several successful movies including Reservoir Dogs, Armageddon, and Pulp Fiction as well as a critically acclaimed role in the series Boardwalk Empire.

 

Background

Steven Vincent Buscemi was born on December 13th, 1957 in Brooklyn, New York to a catholic family.  His father John was a sanitation (garbage) worker and had fought in the Korean War, and his mother Dorothy was a restaurant hostess. His father was of Italian descent; and his mother’s background was Irish, English, and Dutch. Buscemi has three brothers—Jon, Ken, and Michael. Michael is also an actor. 

 

Buscemi grew up pronouncing his name as boo-SEM-ee. In Sicily, it is pronounced as boo-SHEM-ee. He once said, “I had to go to Sicily to find out I pronounce my name wrong.”

 

The family moved from New York to Valley Stream in Nassau County and Buscemi graduated in 1975. In high school Buscemi was in the wrestling team and the drama group.  He went to Nassau Community College for a short time before moving to Manhattan and joining the Lee Strasberg Institute.

 

Early jobs included stand-up comedy and bar work; he also drove an ice cream truck. What he is perhaps most proud of is his job as a firefighter in New York City from 1980 where he worked on Engine Co. 55 in Manhattan for four years.

 

 

Hollywood Career

 

Acting

Buscemi has made many movies, his first in 1985 – The Way It Is. Other early films include Parting Glances, Slaves of New York, In The Soup, and the first of the six Coen Brothers’ movies he worked on – Miller’s Crossing. 

 

His role as criminal Mr. Pink in Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 Reservoir Dogs was his breakthrough and Buscemi became a favourite choice for many directors often playing bad guy or odd characters.  

He is versatile and in 2001, he was the romantic lead in the dramatic comedy Ghost World. In The Grey Zone, he was one of the Jewish prisoners in a concentration camp. He has made comedy films often working with Adam Sandler, including I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, and Grown Ups.

 

Directing

Buscemi has received praise as a director, most notably for Trees Lounge, Animal Factory and several episodes of The Sopranos.

 

Voice work

Buscemi has provided his voice for several children’s films, including Monsters, Inc., Charlotte’s Web, G-Force and Monsters University.

 

Television

Buscemi joined the The Sopranos in the fifth season as Tony Blundetto, cousin of Tony Soprano. Other TV roles include The Simpsons, ER, and 30 Rock but his biggest was the lead role in Boardwalk Empire as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson.

 

Most recently he has been working on the comedy series Miracle Worker. The story follows an angel in heaven played by Daniel Radcliffe tasked by God to deal with all the prayers from Earth.

 

Awards

Buscemi won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actor for Reservoir Dogs; the Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor for ‘Ghost World’ and he was nominated for Screen Actors Guild Awards, Golden Globe Awards and a Primetime Emmy Award for his work on Boardwalk Empire.

 

Personal

Buscemi married Jo Andres in 1987; and together until her death in January 2019. They had one son, Lucian.

 

Buscemi has said he will not alter his crooked teeth, “I’ve had dentists who have wanted to help me out, but I say, ‘You know, I won’t work again if you fix my teeth. Buscemi is known for his bulging eyes and the wrinkles around his eyes, giving him an older appearance.

 

In 2001, Buscemi was in North Carolina, making the film Domestic Disturbance. He was stabbed many times after trying to break up a bar fight between actors Vince Vaughn, Scott Rosenberg, and two local men, and was released from hospital after treatment. He still has a scar on his face from this.

 

After the tragic 9/11 terror attacks, Buscemi returned to the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) with his old team Engine 55 and worked 12-hour shifts alongside other firefighters to sift through the rubble of the World Trade Centre.  In 2014, Buscemi starred in and voiced the HBO documentary A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY, in which he revisited his work with fellow firefighters. He stands up for Firefighters rights and in 2014 he was made Honorary Battalion Chief of the FDNY.

 

“I’ve never had a grand plan. I’ve only just tried to keep open to many different possibilities, have fun and work with people who are passionate about what they do.” Steve Buscemi

Lewis Capaldi

By Melanie Cork

 

“I think if you don’t expect anything from the world, you’ll have a lovely time.”

 

Profile

This 23 year old Scottish singer songwriter achieved global success in 2018 when his soulful single Someone You Loved went to number 1 in the UK for several weeks, followed by his first album in May 2019, Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent, which became the biggest selling artist album of 2019.   With heartfelt song writing about love and loss, his music appeal crosses many age groups. 

 

Background

Lewis Marc Capaldi was born on October 7th, 1996 in Glasgow, Scotland. Of Scottish and Italian background, his father is a fishmonger, his mother a nurse and Capaldi is the youngest of their four children. Capaldi went to school in West Lothian and enjoyed entertaining classmates with pranks, he went on to college where he graduated with an HND in Music.  Early on he was interested in music, learning to play guitar and drums when he was two and singing in pubs aged nine.

 

Music Career

Capaldi started his success writing and playing original songs from his bedroom, uploading them to YouTube, and soon had a loyal fan base. He was discovered by manager Ryan Walter through an online iPhone recording.

 

The Bloom EP was released in October 2017, following the track Bruises in March 2017 which had millions of plays on Spotify – considering he was still unsigned by a record label. He later signed with Universal Music, Virgin EMI.

 

The success of the EP got interest from other artists, Capaldi supported Rag’n’Bone Man on tour in 2017 and went on to support other artists such as Niall Horan and Ed Sheeran.  

 

His career continued with a headline tour in the UK and Europe, where he played in front of huge crowds. Throughout the summer of 2018 he played many festivals.

 

Capaldi’s second EP recording Breach was released November 2018 and included new song Someone You Loved. This breakthrough single seemed to understand the feelings of anyone suffering heartbreak and charted in over 29 countries around the world in 2019, spending seven weeks at number one in the UK, and going to number one in the USA.

 

His debut album of May 2019 Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent became the bestselling album in the UK, spending five weeks at number one. 

 

In January 2020, the single Before You Go  became his second UK number one.

 

Awards and recognition

Capaldi won Scottish music awards in 2017 and 2018, won the MTV Brand New for 2019 award, and was nominated for the Brit Critic’s Choice Award. In 2020 Someone You Loved was nominated for Song of the Year at the Grammys and Capaldi received three nominations at the Brit Awards, winning two. He became the first-ever artist in global history to announce and sell out an arena tour before the release of an album. 

 

Influences

Capaldi has said that Paolo Nutini was one of the first solo artists that he felt a connection with. 

 

Personal

Capaldi dated reality TV star Paige Turley before he was famous. It’s rumoured that she inspired some of his earlier break up songs.

 

He is related to the Doctor Who actor Peter Capaldi, who appeared in his music video for Someone You Loved and he is also a distant relative of nuclear physicist Joseph Capaldi.

 

Capaldi still lives with his parents in West Lothian. He said he might buy a home in Los Angeles if his second album matches the success of his first.

 

He is a football fan and supports hometown club Celtic.

 

Social media

Known for being active on social media he is loved for his humorous, relatable posts, on Instagram and Twitter posting cheeky responses to fans, videos, and funny images. See Twitter – @lewiscapaldi or Instagram – @lewiscapaldi

 

Live Tour 2020/2021

A tour of 9 countries with 44 concerts in 2020 / 2021 includes his first arena concerts which will be his biggest headline shows. Some earlier shows have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis, he was due to visit Hungary in August for the Sziget Festival Budapest, but this has sadly been cancelled because of the ban on large events.  

 

Having had panic attacks Capaldi is taking special care of fans who suffer anxiety at concerts with the LIVELIVE campaign, offering support to fans dealing with mental health issues, and an escape space.

 

Self-isolation

Capaldi says he is using exercise to help him through the current UK lockdown period and has bought a spinning bike.

 

On May 16th celebrating the first anniversary of his debut album he did an online ticketed acoustic performance from his parents’ house, all proceeds to Charity.

 

Out Now!

Capaldi has released a new 6 track live EP – To Tell You The Truth I Can’t Believe We Got This Far which is out now.

 

 

Ricky Gervais TV & Movies
By Melanie Cork

TV Shows & Movies
Comedian Ricky Gervais may be best known and loved for his outrageous character David Brent from TV series The Office, but he has continued his success writing, directing, and starring in popular, award winning, critically acclaimed series and films.

Movies
As well as smaller roles such as the voice of a pigeon in Valiant, a studio executive in For Your Consideration, a museum director in Night at the Museum, and “Ferdy the Fence” in Stardust his leading film roles include:

Ghost Town 2008
A fantasy comedy co-written and co-directed by Gervais, his first starring role in a film. He plays dentist Bertrum Pincus who finds out he can see and communicate with the dead. His cold character warms to other people as a result of this new ability.

The Invention of Lying 2009
Written by Gervais, this funny film follows screenwriter Mark who is about to be fired from his job in a world where everyone tells the truth. At a bank he tells a lie with amazing results. Then, when his mother is on her deathbed Mark makes up a story about death for her which hospital staff hear and soon Mark is famous, his becomes rich and is really a good guy – but will that be enough to get the girl he wants?

Cemetery Junction 2010
A comedy-drama written and directed by Gervais and Stephen Merchant. The film is set in the UK in the 1970s and follows three young working-class boys coming of age in love and life.

Special Correspondents 2016
Gervais wrote, directed, and starred in this Netflix movie where Eric Bana is a journalist and Gervais his assistant. They pretend to report news from a war-torn country when actually they are safe in New York.

David Brent: Life on the Road 2016
Gervais directs and stars again as David Brent, this time in a mockumentary music film about his band Foregone Conclusion. It sees Brent still trying to become famous, again with little success and giving more of an insight into his personal life.

Television

The Office 2001-2003
This award-winning show is a modern comedy classic. Co-written with and also starring Steven Merchant, Gervais is cringe-making office boss David Brent who thinks he is much more important than he is. The series was a mockumentary (spoof documentary) that followed employees in a fictional UK office. The Office had colourful characters, big personalities, and silly Brent dance routines. The series has been remade many times for other countries including America where Steve Carrell plays Brent.

 

TV continued

Extras 2005-2007
Another popular comedy from Gervais and Merchant, this follows Gervais as Andy Millman, a background TV extra with dreams of a starring role. Andy manages to get famous by writing and starring in his own successful sitcom, but it does not bring him the happiness he expected. Across two seasons and a Christmas special, the BBC show had a series of special guests, including David Bowie, Samuel L Jackson, George Michael, and Daniel Radcliffe. Each week Andy would meet one of these celebrities on set leading to hilarious results. The series was well received, won several awards, and is recognised as one of the great British sitcoms.

The Simpsons. Homer Simpson: This is Your Wife 2006
The Simpsons creator Matt Groenig was a huge fan of The Office and invited Gervais to guest write and star in an episode. The episode saw the Simpsons on a reality show where Marge and the kids move in with another man Charles, voiced by Gervais.

Derek 2013-2014
This comedy drama was written and directed by Gervais and follows documentary style, lovable, kind, 49-year-old nursing home worker Derek (Gervais). Derek becomes a loyal friend to the home residents, supported by manager Hannah, and old friend Karl Pilkington as the home’s caretaker.

Life’s Too Short 2011 -2013
A sitcom created and written by Gervais and Merchant, from an idea by Warwick Davis, about “the life of a showbiz dwarf”. Davis plays a fictional version of himself; Gervais and Merchant have supporting roles. Similar to Extras it sees Davis trying to revive his career alongside hilarious cameo roles including Johnny Depp.
Afterlife 2019-2020
The latest Netflix series from Gervais is a darker comedy with a thoughtful, emotional story. Afterlife sees him as sarcastic journalist, Tony, who in series 1 struggled to cope after his wife died and plans to give up on life but for his pet dog and his friends. Series 2 continues as Tony faces new hardship and battles through his grief by trying to help others. The series is so successful and popular that Gervais has reportedly already been offered a great deal of money to make a third series.
Afterlife Series 2 is available on Netflix now, clever, funny and a real tear-jerker.

“We’re Not Just Here For Us, We’re Here For Others.” Afterlife

Ricky Gervais

By Melanie Cork

 

Don’t view success as anything other than happiness. If you’re happy then nothing else matters.”

Profile

Ricky Gervais is an award-winning English comedian, actor, writer, and director. Often said as the most influential comedian since Charlie Chaplin, major fame came from the award-winning mockumentary (joke/spoof documentary) The Office which is the most successful British comedy of all time, shown in more than 90 countries. This was followed up by the  hugely successful TV show Extras. His  stand-up comedy tours sell out in seconds and most recently Gervais has made the critically acclaimed Netflix show Afterlife.

 

Background

Ricky Dene Gervais was born on 25th June 1961 in Berkshire. He grew up on a Council estate in Whitley, the youngest of four children. His father Jerry was a French-Canadian from  Ontario, who emigrated to the UK when on foreign duty during the Second World War and worked as a labourer. He met Gervais’ English mother, Eva Sophia during a blackout.  

 

A quiet child, Gervais had a keen interest in science. He went to  school in Whitley, then after working as a gardener he moved on to University College London (UCL) in 1980 graduating with a degree in philosophy.

 

Musical Career

In 1983, Gervais and friend Bill Macrae formed the pop band Seona Dancing. They signed to London Records and released two singles, both failed to chart well, and the band’s career was short.

 

Radio

Gervais got a job at radio station Xfm London, where he met and employed Stephen Merchant as his assistant. They went on to work together on a number of shows, including one with Karl Pilkington. 2005 podcasts by Gervais, Merchant and Pilkington become the most popular downloaded podcast in the world, getting a Guinness World Record.

 

TV

Early TV shows included The 11 O’clock Show and Spaced but success came late, it was 2001 when he and Merchant worked together on spoof mockumentary The Office. Gervais not only co-wrote the script but directed it and played the main character – nightmare boss David Brent.  It was so successful that it has been re-made in many countries.  After this offers of work came pouring in. Gervais was careful about the offers he accepted but one that he took straight away was to write and appear in an episode of The Simpsons. Gervais continued TV success with Extras, Derek, The Ricky Gervais Show, An Idiot Abroad and Afterlife.

 

Stand-up Comedy

Gervais has great success with his controversial style of stand-up comedy, including sell out UK tours AnimalsPolitics, Science, Fame, and Humanity. His current tour is SuperNature.  

 

Author

Gervais published a children’s book in 2004 entitled Flanimals, about fictional animal characters. This was followed up by More Flanimals, Flanimals of the Deep and Day of the Bletching.

 

 

 

Films

Gervais has been in films including The Night at the Museum, Ghost Town, The Invention of Lying, Cemetery Junction and  David Brent: Life on the Road.

 

Awards

This comedy genius has won many awards including seven BAFTA Awards, five British Comedy Awards, two Emmy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, and the Rose d’Or twice, as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination. 

 

Personal

Saying he gave up fashion when he was 28 and just wants to be comfortable Gervais is mainly seen in a black t-shirt and jeans. He is known for his high-pitched voice and infectious giggles. He  lives in Hampstead, London and also has an apartment in New York. He met his current partner – producer and author Jane Fallon at UCL and they have been in a relationship since 1982 but have no plans to get married.

 

When Gervais was eight one of his brothers asked him why he believed in God. This made him question it and within an hour he became an atheist, a conviction he still has now.

 

An animal lover Gervais often donates money and proceeds to animal welfare.

 

Gervais is vocal on social media (Twitter – @rickygervais) about what he believes in and is a  supporter of equal rights.  He has over 14 million followers on Twitter and uses it to promote his work to his fans, share his views and to raise awareness of animal welfare.  He has recently been openly annoyed by celebrities complaining about self-isolating in their mansions – whilst hard working doctors and nurses do 14-hour plus shifts.

 

His outspoken views and sharp wit were demonstrated as presenter at the Golden Globes this year when he made some fun of Hollywood, leading to a few very uncomfortable famous faces.

 

Influences

Laurel & Hardy, Groucho Marx, and Peter Cook were significant influences in comedy and in music his hero was David Bowie

 

Coming Up

Afterlife Series 2 is out now on Netflix. Gervais is returning to the stand-up stage with SuperNature in 2020, following the global success of his recent Netflix stand-up special Humanity, which was his first in 7 years.

Jovanotti

By Melanie Cork

 

Profile

Jovanotti is an Italian singer songwriter, famous as Italy’s first rap star he has gone on to become one of Italian pop music’s most significant and influential figures. Mainly singing in Italian and with a career spanning 30 years his music progressed from rap, hip hop to funk,  introducing ska and other world music to Italian audiences where he has superstar status.

 

Background

Born Lorenzo Cherubini on the 27th of September 1966 in Rome, Italy he spent part of his childhood in Cortana in Tuscany where his parents Maria and Viola were originally from.  

 

After leaving school, he worked as a DJ in Rome until 1985 when he moved to Milan. It was there in 1987 that he met record producer and talent scout Claudio Cecchetto and they began working together.  

 

Changing his name

The name Jovanotti comes from the Italian word “giovanotti” or “young man”. He first chose “Joe Vanotti” as his stage name, but a poster for a night club incorrectly called him “Jovanotti” on their poster ad and the name stayed, often shortened to Jova.

 

Music Career

After working as a successful DJ, his first album, Jovanotti for President ,was released in 1988. It was popular with the 80’s youth and became a commercial success reaching number 3 in the Italian chart. There were five singles from the album including number ones. Music on this album had influence from American rap and he is thought of as a pioneer bringing rap to the Italian music scene.

 

This album was followed in 1989 by La Mia Moto, bringing him stardom. He was not really considered a serious hip-hop artist, but hosted his own television show, with rap legends like Public Enemy and Run-D.M.C.

 

His  third album was unsuccessful, but he re-established himself as a serious artist with the next album releases, moving away from dance, becoming more political in his lyrics with pop rap tunes. Una Tribu Che Balla in 1991 took him back to the charts and he began to release more hit music and albums, such as Serenate Rap in 1994 which became one of the year’s most played songs on MTV Latin America and MTV Europe.

 

Tours built him an even bigger fan base and  Jovanotti was invited by Pavarotti to perform at a charity concert in 1996.

 

His album Lorenzo 1997: L’Albero had music influences from Cuba, South America, Africa, and India, he was one of the first artists to bring these sounds to Italy. The song, “Bella” was a huge singalong hit.

 

Jovanotti became focussed on family, involved with humanitarian work, and writing and painting so his musical output reduced around 2002.

 

In 2005 he released Buon Sangue, a forward thinking, rock, hip-hop style CD. The music video for the single Mi Fido Di Te features several locations in Budapest, such as the Boulevard, the Metro, the Academic Church and K Bridge.

 

In 2008 he released Safari, one of his biggest selling albums with collaborations with artists including Sly & Robbie and Sergio Mendes. 

 

In December 2010 he had a number one hit in Italy with Tutto l’amore che ho.

 

Jovanotti attempted an international comeback in 2011, with the US-only live album, Oyeah and the electronica-influenced album Ora. In the same year he performed at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee, US, and has toured gaining new international fans particularly in Latin America. Jovanotti never had a UK chart hit but was briefly known there  as the presenter of the programme Gimme 5 showcasing youth television programmes from around the world.

 

His most recent album was 2019’s  Lorenzo Sulla Luna.

Awards

Jovanotti has been nominated for or won awards such as the World Music Awards Best Selling Italian Artist, Venice Film Festival Soundtrack Stars Award, Medimex and MTV Europe Awards.

 

Personal life

In 2008, Jovanotti married Francesca Valiani, they have a daughter Teresa and live in an 800-year-old villa in the small town of Cortona in Tuscany by a lake where only 1,000 people live – his own parents home town.

 

Ethics

Jovanotti’s social and political commitment have increased and this is shown in his lyrics. He often works with organisations such as Make Poverty History, Amnesty International, and events dedicated to debt relief. Jovanotti has a friendship with U2’s Bono due to their shared interest in  cancellation of foreign debt in poor African countries.  

 

Social media

Recently the nurses of the Covid ward of the Chivasso hospital in Turin made a video while dancing in one of their rare moments of pause – as background music they used the song The greatest show after the Big Bang by Jovanotti and posted it online, Jovanotti thanked them for everything they are doing.

 

Jovanotti is often on Facebook, Twitter and  has his own web TV – https://www.jova.tv/ where he has been entertaining his fans with Jova House Party through the current pandemic.

Nicolas Cage Movies

By Melanie Cork

 

“To be a good actor you have to be something like a criminal, to be willing to break the rules to strive for something new.” — Nicolas Cage

 

Hollywood actor Nicolas Cage has made over 100 movies. He is one of the hardest working actors in Hollywood. Not all of his movies have been well received and some less successful than others, but many are brilliant, and Cage always gives it his all in his acting. Too many to mention but here are a few of the roles not to miss.

 

RAISING ARIZONA 

Raising Arizona may be Cage’s best comedy movie. In this Coen brothers’ film with Holly Gunter Cage gives one of his best performances as the career crook H.I. McDunnough, making us both pity and love his criminal character.

 

MOONSTRUCK 

This Italian romantic comedy puts Cage together with Cher. Cage plays Ronny, a man with a wooden hand, who romances Cher’s character Loretta even though she is engaged to be married. It was nominated for six Oscars and won three, giving Cage a Golden Globe nomination.

 

CON AIR 

Must watch! Former war hero Cameron Poe (Cage) is sentenced to eight years in prison when he accidentally kills a man in a barroom brawl while defending his pregnant wife. When his release comes through, he is eager to see the daughter he’s never met. Poe’s original flight is delayed, so he is put onboard a flight transporting ten of the most dangerous men in the prison system to a new high-security facility. In a hijack situation Poe finds himself stuck in the middle; he has to find a way to get home and try to help the cops including agent Vince Larkin (John Cusack). 

 

FACE/OFF 

Cage and John Travolta take their faces off and switch them, Cage acting like Travolta is brilliant to see and it is a huge cinema success.

 

THE ROCK 

The Rock provides another great pair of huge actors to Cage’s list – alongside Sean Connery.  The Rock has explosions, drama and intensity.

 

LEAVING LAS VEGAS 

Leaving Las Vegas is a romantic drama film. Cage stars as a suicidal alcoholic in Los Angeles who, divorced and recently fired, has decided to move to Las Vegas and drink himself to death. He puts a supply of alcohol and beer into his car and gets drunk as he drives from Los Angeles to Nevada. Once there, he has a romantic relationship with a pretty, but hardened prostitute (Elisabeth Shue). It received strong praise from critics and audiences. Cage got the Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Actor.

 

GONE IN 60 SECONDS  

In this action thriller, master car thief Randall “Memphis” Raines (Cage) can steal any car but he wants to get out of the business. His retirement plans are interrupted when his younger brother gets in trouble with a dangerous crime boss. To save his brother, Randall agrees to one last scheme to steal 50 luxury cars in one night, with the help of several other car thieves, including Sara (Angelina Jolie).  

 

THE WICKER MAN

This remake of the original movie is a comedy horror movie. A young child has gone missing and it is up to a haunted but determined policeman played by Cage to travel to the remote island community where she was last seen.

 

GHOST RIDER

Cage plays the flaming antihero. When a motorcycle-riding stuntman offers his soul in order to save the life of the one he loves most, he is forced to play host to a powerful supernatural entity whose flaming skull strikes fear into the heart of his enemies. By day, Johnny Blaze is one of the world’s best-known stuntmen, but when the sun goes down, he  bursts into flames to become the indestructible, motorcycle-riding Ghost Rider.

 

SEASON OF THE WITCH

A supernatural horror adventure film.  Cage and Ron Perlman star as Knights who return from the Crusades to find their homeland ruined by the Black Death. Two church elders accuse a girl of being a witch responsible for the destruction; they command the two knights to transport the girl to a monastery so the monks can lift her curse from the land. Filming took place in Austria, Hungary, and Croatia. 

 

JOE

Cage is brilliant in the title role as the hard-living, hot-tempered, ex-convict Joe Ransom, who is trying to avoid trouble until he meets a poor kid who awakens in him a tender-hearted protector. 

 

GRAND ISLE

Vietnam veteran Walter Franklin played by Cage lives alone with his wife in a Victorian house on a quiet island in Louisiana. Walter hires a local handyman to fix his fence, but when a hurricane strikes the island the handyman finds himself trapped at the Franklin’s residence. As tensions rise the night takes a creepy and unexpected turn.

 

COMING UP 2020

Cage voices Grug in the Croods 2 and also stars in the horror film Colour Out of Space, both set to come out this year.

Nicolas Cage Profile

By Melanie Cork

 

“Hollywood didn’t know if I was an actor or a nut or if I was this crazy character I was playing. I had developed an image of being a little bit unusual, different and wild.” Nicolas Cage

  

Profile

56-year-old Nicolas Cage is an American actor, producer, and director. A multi-award nominee he has won an Academy Award and is one of the most  famous actors in Hollywood. He has had leading roles in romantic films, dark comedies, thrillers, dramas, sci-fi and action such as National Treasure.  Cage is known for his deadpan and manic performances and making a huge number of movies.

 

Background

He was born Nicolas Kim Coppola on January 7, 1964, in California, to parents August Floyd Coppola, a literature professor and Joy, a dancer and choreographer. His father was Italian and his mother of German and Polish descent. His grandparents were composer Carmine Coppola and actress Italia Pennino, his great-grandparents were immigrants from Italy.

 

Cage comes from a famous family – nephew of director Francis Ford Coppola and actress Talia Shire, and the cousin of directors Roman and Sofia Coppola, film producer Gian-Carlo Coppola, and actors Robert Carmine and Jason Schwartzman. Cage’s brothers are New York radio personality Marc Coppola and director Christopher Coppola.

 

Cage went to Beverly Hills High School, he then went on  to  UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television.

 

Career

In the early years Cage was in many critically acclaimed films such as Valley Girl, Raising Arizona and Moonstruck.  In 1995 he won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Award for his performance as a writer in Leaving Las Vegas, before going into mainstream films such as The Rock, Con Air, and National Treasure.

 

A big comic book fan, Cage was due to play Superman in 1998 but the film was cancelled.

 

In 2002 he got his second Academy Award nomination for his role as twins Charlie and Donald Kaufman in Adaptation. Films such as Ghost Rider and Knowing were box office successes, but Cage has often been criticised for his choice of roles.

 

He has now made over 100 movies – making movies nearly every year since 1980, he says if he is not busy, he can become self-destructive.

 

Acting Style

Cage once said he had developed his own acting style. He often takes method acting preparation to extremes and says he tries to do as many of his own stunts as the filmmaker will allow.   

 

Producing and Directing

Cage owns a production company Saturn Films and produced films such as Shadow of the Vampire and The Life of David Gale.  Cage made his directorial debut with Sonny, a low-budget drama.

 

 

 

 

Influences

Cage says James Dean inspired him to become an actor because of Dean’s performance in East of Eden.  He is also a big fan of Elvis Presley.

 

Personal and interesting facts

Cage grew up in a family of Catholic background but does not talk about religion.

 

Cage regularly donates large sums to Charities and has been honoured with a Humanitarian award from the United Nations.

 

Once one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors,  in the 2000s it is known that he fell into debt. He had bought a number of hugely expensive properties including castles, cars,  jewellery, artwork, and exotic items. He had tax issues and spent a large amount of money on lawsuits.

 

Cage is a massive car fan and an even bigger comic book fan. He collects comic books, although had to auction many off. He changed his name from Coppola to Cage based on his love for the comic book hero Luke Cage and called his son Kal-El  – the real name of Superman.

 

There are lots of fun rumours and ‘facts’ about Cage and it is difficult to know if they are real or fake. Things like he once kept an Octopus as a pet, has bought a pyramid to be buried in and he once owned the most haunted house in America, located in New Orleans.

 

Not a fan of social media himself Cage is a hero of the internet world; his trademark performances have been made into many a meme.

 

Family

Early on Cage had a son with actress Christina Fulton and now has two grandsons.  Cage has since been married four times. His first wife was actress Patricia Arquette, his second Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis. Cage’s third wife was Alice Kim and they had a son Kal-El. In March 2019, Cage married Erika Koike in Las Vegas, only to annul shortly afterwards. Cage is now said to be dating 26-year-old Riko Shibata.

 

Coming Up

As well as new movies already in production hard working Cage is set to play the notorious zoo owner Joe Exotic –  Tiger King.  Later Cage will be playing a fictionalised version of himself in the movie The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.

Ellie Goulding Profile and Music

By Melanie Cork

 

“I feel like I write songs for the future or something. Not in an arrogant way, but I feel like maybe my songs were, like, before their time or something.” Ellie Goulding

 

Ellie Goulding is an award-winning British pop singer, songwriter and musician, who has been making top ten hits for the last decade including number one singles Burn and Love Me Like You Do. Goulding ‘s fourth studio album Brightest Blue is out now.

 

Background

Elena Jane Goulding was born on December 30th1986 in Lyonshall, a small town in Hereford, England. She was the second of four children born to Arthur and Tracey Goulding who separated when Goulding was five years old.

 

Ellie began writing music and playing guitar at the age of 14. She studied drama, politics and English at the University of Kent. It was after discovering electronic guitar and two years at University before she was encouraged to pursue her music career instead and moved to London.

 

Career

Goulding’s career began when she met record producers Starsmith and Frankmusik. After signing to Polydor Records in 2009, Goulding released debut EP – An Introduction to Ellie Goulding, and first single – Under the Sheets.

 

By 2010 Ellie was recognised by music critics as promising new talent. She won the Critics’ Choice Award at the 2010 BRIT Awards which helped first album Lights to  number one in the UK. Goulding toured in support of the album, and performed at festivals such as Glastonbury, and supported major acts including U2.

 

The Lights album was followed up by EP Run Into The Light, then Lights was re-released as Bright Lights with six new tracks including a cover of Elton John’s Your Song. Goulding performed Your Song at the wedding reception of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011.

 

In 2011 she was also back at the Brit Awards, nominated for Best British Female and Best British Breakthrough Act.  Trying to break into America she made her American television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Saturday Night Live.  

 

Goulding released second album Halcyon in October 2012. She has said that the album was inspired from her relationship break up with BBC Radio 1 DJ Greg James. Anything Could Happen was the lead single and Halcyon went to Number 1 in the UK and into the USA top ten. An updated version – Halcyon Days was released in August 2013 with new single Burn which became her first number one single.

 

Goulding’s third studio album, Delirium, was released in November 2015 and peaked at number three in the UK and USA The album had three singles including Army.

 

Goulding’s fourth and latest album is Brightest Blue, released in July 2020 but preceded by seven singles. She was due to be out promoting this before lockdown so has been doing some live singing on TV shows via video link.  One single from the album Close to Me was filmed in Budapest – it shows many sites and iconic locations of the Hungarian capital city, including the Fisherman’s Bastion, the Varkert Bazaar, Buda castle and the Gellert baths.

 

Movies

Goulding contributed to the soundtrack of the movie Fifty Shades of Grey with the song Love Me Like You Do. It spent weeks at the top of the UK and US charts, and she was nominated for a Grammy. Goulding has made songs for other  movie soundtracks including Twilight, Hunger Games, Divergent and Bridget Jones’s Baby.

 

Style

Goulding’s music is described as electropop, pop, indie and folk. She is a soprano with a high piercing vibrato and breathy tone.

 

Inspirations

Goulding has listed Joni Mitchell, Björk, Amy Winehouse, Katy Perry, Beyoncé,  Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, and Rihanna as influences.  

 

Personal Life

Goulding was in a relationship with Radio One’s Greg James in 2010-2011 and Dougie Poynter of McFly between 2014 and 2016. There are rumours of a relationship with Prince Harry among others, but this has never been confirmed. Goulding is close friends with Princess Beatrice of York.

 

Looking beautiful in a Stella McCartney dress, Goulding married businessman boyfriend, Caspar Jopling on 31 August 2019. The couple live in Oxford and have spent their lockdown in their cottage there.  

 

Goulding has spoken openly about her experiences with panic attacks and severe anxiety and says that a fitness regime and boxing at the gym has helped her overcome this.

 

Showcasing her beautiful long blonde hair Goulding advertises Pantene Pro-V shampoo on TV.

 

Charities

Goulding supports charities such as British Heart Foundation, in 2013 her song How Long Will I Love you was the official Children in Need single. In 2014 she was part of the charity group Band Aid 30 to raise money for the Ebola Crisis.

 

In 2017 she was recognised with a Global Leadership Award by the United Nations Foundation for her environmental and social justice activism.

 

Ellie’s new album Brightest Blue is out now.

 

Keanu Reeves Movies

By Melanie Cork

 

“You ever have that feeling where you’re not sure if you’re awake or still dreaming?” – Neo, The Matrix

 

With Reeves revisiting three of his most famous roles soon in Bill & Ted 3, John Wick 4, and the Matrix 4 here we take a look at the originals – and a few others not to miss.  

 

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – 1989

Teenagers Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are going to fail their history report when a solution arrives with Rufus in a magic time travelling phone booth. Rufus gives them the time machine to travel through history to help them pass their class, meeting Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln, Beethoven and more. The movie is silly but a well-loved classic from the ’80s.

 

Dangerous Liaisons – 1989

This period drama film is set in pre-Revolution Paris around the intrigue and seduction between two scheming characters played by Glenn Close and John Malkovich. Reeves is a  commoner who is brought into their web of lies and deceit. The film is a thrilling romantic drama.

 

Point Break – 1991

Reeves plays new FBI agent Johnny Utah in this legendary surfer high action film. Utah is told to investigate the “Ex-Presidents,” a gang of bank robbers who in southern California. Johnny goes undercover and befriends a group of surfers led by Patrick Swayze, and soon discovers that they are the gang that he is looking for.

 

Much Ado About Nothing – 1993

Kenneth Branagh directed this  light-hearted period comedy with great performances from a star-filled cast including Denzel Washington. Reeves is entertaining as villain Don John.

 

Bram Stoker’s Dracula – 1993

Based on the classic horror novel Reeves plays young Jonathan Harker who first meets the vampire Dracula, played by Gary Oldman, which leads to Dracula falling in love with Harker’s fiancé Mina.

 

Speed – 1994

This action-thriller follows police officer Jack Traven (Reeves) as he tries to save a bus full of people from being blown up by a bomb on board which will detonate if the bus drops below 50 mph. Passenger Sandra Bullock drives the bus through Los Angeles trying to keep the speed.

 

The Devil’s Advocate – 1998

A legal thriller with a twist, Reeves is a young lawyer who wins a huge case and is recruited by a big city firm. As he gets used to a life of wealth and success, he begins to think that his employer (Al Pacino) is more than he seems. He is right as Pacino is actually the Devil. Reeves is great as the conflicted young man with temptation all around.

 

The Matrix – 1999

The Matrix remains one of the most ground-breaking, influential action films of all time. A  science-fiction epic following Reeves’ office worker, Neo, and his discovery that the world he was living in was a simulation. The action sections are still amazing. The two sequels were not as well received but are loved by fans.

 

Constantine – 2005

Keanu Reeves is Constantine, a tired detective with an unfortunate gift that means he can see half-angels and half-demons and he ends up fighting the Devil. The film was based on DC Comic Hellblazer.

 

The Day the Earth Stood Still – 2008

Reeves is the lead role in this remake of a 1950s sci-fi classic. An alien visits Earth to tell people not to destroy the planet but when he is attacked, he decides to end humankind.

 

47 Ronin – 2013

This movie was partly filmed in beautiful Hungary. Reeves is Kai, a disreputable mixed-race killing machine who rides to the aid of a band of exiled ronin in a mystical war-torn Japan.

 

John Wick – 2014 – 2017 – 2019

Reeves has had other iconic roles, but the enigmatic character of few words John Wick recharged his career.

 

Chapter 1: The first film introducing us to the assassin. After his car is stolen and his dog is killed by some bad men, John goes on a killing spree to punish those responsible. Reeves is brilliant in the role and fight scenes.

 

Chapter 2: The second movie went deeper into the mythology of this world in John’s latest search  for vengeance. It took everything that made the original film great to another level with new fun characters and even bigger action.

 

Chapter 3- Parabellum: Already one of Reeves’ highest-rated films this movie sees John on the run with an increasing price on his head. The movie has an incredible fight scene involving Reeves, Halle Berry, and two well-trained dogs.

 

Toy Story 4 – 2019

Woody helps a new toy discover his identity, which leads him to reunite with a long-lost friend. Reeves is brilliant as new character Duke Caboom, a broken Canadian stuntman action figure.

 

Coming up:
Reeves has a few films planned, the three most anticipated are:

  • Bill & Ted Face The Music August 2020
  • John Wick 4 May 2021
  • The Matrix 4 is in production.

Keanu Reeves Profile

By Melanie Cork

 

“When the people you love are gone, you’re alone.” – Keanu Reeves

 

Keanu Reeves is a successful Hollywood A list actor with a career over three decades and a real fan favourite. He first became famous with the comedy movie Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure but has since made a wide range of films that include action movie Speed and the sci-fi franchise The Matrix. Now in his fifties Reeves is even more loved by fans for his lead role as well dressed action hero assassin John Wick. With a private life full of tragedy, Reeves is known as one of the nicest, hardworking actors in Hollywood.

 

Background

Keanu Charles Reeves was born on September 2, 1964, in Beirut, Lebanon. From Chinese-Hawaiian heritage on his geologist father’s side, Reeves’ Hawaiian first name translates as “cool breeze over the mountains.” His English mother made sure that she passed on English manners to her children, she worked in entertainment as a performer and later a costume designer to stars including Alice Cooper. His father left the family when Reeves was three and he moved with his mother and sister to Australia, New York and finally Toronto. Reeves loved hockey and almost went into a professional ice hockey career but dropped out of school at 17 to become an actor. Reeves’ mother married a further three times, including to actor Aaron Paul.  

 

Career

Reeves was in a number of films in the late 80s including teen crime drama River’s Edge and Dangerous Liaisons. His big break was in 1989, with box office hit Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and he went on to act in a range of film types, from surf crime thriller Point Break to indie drama My Own Private Idaho, and period dramas including Bram Stoker’s Dracula. 1994 saw his first major blockbuster – action thriller Speed. Tall, with dark hair and pale skin he quickly became a heartthrob. Sandra Bullock co-starred in Speed; they grew close on the set with the actor even leaving gifts for her during filming. Later Bullock admitted she had a crush on him, and he confirmed it was mutual.

 

Reeves then played Neo in the Matrix franchise. After this he kept a lower profile for a while, in romantic comedies like Something’s Gotta Give and thrillers like Constantine. In the last few years Reeves has seen a return to critical and commercial success with his role as John Wick.

 

Producing and Writing

Reeves produced a 2012 documentary Side by Side and has written a number of poetry books. He is now writing a comic book.

 

Music Career

Reeves joined alternative rock band Dogstar as a bass player in the early 1990s and went on to play with the band for several years although the band did not achieve great success.

 

Private Life and tragedy

Reeves’ father was known to be neglectful and was addicted to drugs and alcohol. He left the family when Reeves was young.  Reeves also struggled with dyslexia when he was a child.

 

Reeves and Private Idaho co-star River Phoenix grew to be good friends after they finished filming. Phoenix’s sudden death in 1993 really affected him. 

 

Reeves’ was very close to sister Kim, also an actor, she was diagnosed with leukaemia in the nineties and it was Reeves who cared for her and donated millions of dollars to various charity organizations, hoping for a miracle to save his sister’s life. After 10 years of battling cancer, Kim finally came through it and is often seen spending time with her brother.

 

Five years after the death of his best friend River, Reeves met girlfriend Jennifer Syme. In 1999  tragically, their daughter was stillborn.  Syme had  depression, and the grief the couple had led to their breakup. However, they remained friends up until Syme’s death in a car accident in April 2001.   

 

Reeves’ life story is sad, but it is also inspiring as he seems to have only gained more compassion and empathy; becoming as well known by his fans for his random acts of kindness as he is for his movies.

 

Reeves lives in LA and has found happiness with 46-year-old artist Alexandra, who has illustrated a number of his poetry books. They met in 2009 and went public in 2019.

 

Hobbies

Reeves is a keen motorcyclist and co-founded Arch Motorcycle company. He famously gave the stuntmen on the Matrix films Harley Davidsons after the movie finished.

 

Reeves the meme

An image of Reeves became an internet meme after photographs of him were published, sitting on a park bench looking sad. The images were distributed leading to a “Sad Keanu” meme.

 

Charity

Reeves supports charities such as PETA, children’s hospitals, and cancer support.

 

Hollywood Star

In 2005, Reeves received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

 

Coming Soon

Upcoming projects for this hardworking actor include Bill and Ted Face the Music, John Wick 4 and The Matrix 4.

  

Kenneth Branagh Movies

By Melanie Cork

 

“To be or not to be, that is the question.” – Hamlet

 

Branagh has been nominated for Awards in acting, directing, and writing. Here we look at some of his best movies.

 

Henry V (1989)

Branagh’s directing debut came with this interpretation of Shakespeare’s play and it was his first time as actor, director and writer together. The historical epic shows the passion for Shakespeare which would continue throughout his career. Also starring Emma Thompson, it received three Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor and Best Director for Branagh.

 

Peter’s Friends (1992)

Branagh directed and acted in this sad, sweet comedy about a group of friends at their ten-year reunion. It is a great British cast that includes Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry.

 

Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

One of the best Branagh Shakespeare films, clever and charming it makes Shakespeare accessible and has a wonderful cast. It captures the chemistry between then-real-life couple Branagh, and Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton, and Keanu Reeves also shine in this movie.  

 

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994)

A horror film directed by and starring Branagh as Frankenstein with Robert De Niro as the monster. This movie was where he met and began an affair with Helena Bonham Carter, whilst married to Emma Thompson. The film was produced on a budget of 45 million dollars and is considered the most faithful film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel.

 

Hamlet (1996)

Despite its epic 4-hour length the film went on to be nominated for four Oscars and was the first time the epic play had been faithfully adapted into a single film. It is a big-budget old style Hollywood spectacle with a cast that includes Kate Winslet in a wonderful performance as Ophelia, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, and many more. Branagh’s stunning movie received four Oscar nominations.

 

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Branagh is great as flamboyant professor Gilderoy Lockhart in the second of eight, Harry Potter films. Lockhart is one of many Professors of defence against the dark arts.

 

My Week with Marilyn (2011)

Branagh has often been compared to Laurence Olivier in his career and in this film, he plays him in a film set during the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl – the film that famously starred Olivier with Marilyn Monroe. Branagh was nominated for an Oscar for his performance.

Thor (2011)

An American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character. Directed by Branagh, it stars Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman and Idris Elba. Thor is banished from Asgard to Earth and as his brother Loki plots to take the throne, Thor must prove himself worthy. The film was a financial success, and positively reviewed.

Cinderella (2015)

Branagh directs this live action version of the fairy tale with Lily James as the princess and an all-star cast including Cate Blanchett as the evil stepmother. It was one of the biggest successes of Branagh’s career going on to gross more than 500 million dollars worldwide and received an Oscar nomination for best costume design.

 

Dunkirk (2017)

Christopher Nolan’s astonishing war epic is pure cinematic tension framed by ocean, sky and shores. Also starring Tom Hardy, Branagh excels as the naval commander standing on the pier overseeing the British forces’ escape.  

 

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Branagh directs and stars as detective Poirot in this update of Agatha Christie’s Poirot mystery. It sees the detective board the train on a journey around Europe. He meets a number of strange characters including Samuel Rachett, who asks the detective to be his bodyguard.

Poirot declines and the next day Rachett is found stabbed to death and the detective has his biggest case yet. The supporting cast includes Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer and Johnny Depp.

 

All Is True (2019)

Written by Ben Elton and Directed by Branagh – the film is set in the year 1613, Shakespeare – played by Branagh – is known as the greatest writer of the age. But disaster strikes when his Theatre burns to the ground, and Shakespeare returns to Stratford, where he must face a troubled past and neglected family. Haunted by the death of his only son Hamnet, he struggles to mend the broken relationships with his wife and daughters.

 

Coming Soon

Tenet is a spy film written, produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan. Among others it stars Robert Pattinson, Michael Caine, and Branagh. Delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tenet is scheduled to be released this month.

 

Death on the Nile is a follow-up to Murder on the Orient Express and stars Branagh again as Poirot, Gal Gadot,  Armie Hammer, and Russell Brand. The plot follows Poirot, who becomes involved in a love triangle gone murderously bad while on vacation in Egypt. Death on the Nile is scheduled for release in October 2020.

Kenneth Branagh Profile

By Melanie Cork

 

“My definition of success is control.” – Kenneth Branagh

 

Now 60, Sir Kenneth Branagh is a successful Northern Irish actor, writer, director and film maker. He is best known for his film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, directing popular movies like Thor, TV roles such as Wallander, and both directing and starring in big budget star studded movies including Murder on the Orient Express.

 

Background

Branagh was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on December 10th, 1960 to working class protestant parents William (a carpenter and plumber), and Frances. He is the middle of three children, with an older brother William and younger sister Joyce.

 

Branagh went to primary school in Belfast but at the age of 9 he moved with his family to Reading, Berkshire, England and later went to a local comprehensive where he appeared in school productions.

 

After disappointing exam results Branagh went on to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

 

Career

Although his first film appearance was a small role in 1981’s Chariots of Fire, Shakespeare is what Branagh was first well known for across Britain and this is how his career started, often being compared to Laurence Olivier. Branagh was credited with making Shakespeare more accessible to the general population.

 

When he was 23 Branagh joined the Royal Shakespeare Company but found the company too big and impersonal and started his own called The Renaissance Theatre Company, Prince Charles is now one of its royal patrons.

 

Branagh has directed and acted in several theatre performances and film adaptations of William Shakespeare’s plays, including Henry V, which he was nominated for the Academy Awards for both Best Actor and Best Director, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, Hamlet, which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, Love’s Labour’s Lost, and As You Like It.

 

Despite this Shakespearian background Branagh has had a varied career including TV roles, narration, big budget movies, comic and Disney movies. Branagh often both directs and stars in his movies – Murder on the Orient Express being just one example.

 

His TV shows include Fortunes of War, Shackleton, and Wallander which he won an International Emmy Award for.

 

He has voiced many documentary series, such as  Walking with Dinosaurs.

 

Branagh’s other major acting films range from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,  The Boat That Rocked, My Week with Marilyn, Dunkirk, to Tenet.

 

Branagh directed such films as Swan Song, which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Live Action Short Film, The Magic Flute, Sleuth,  Thor, and a live-action version of Disney’s Cinderella. His trademark as a director is to use very long uninterrupted takes at certain points during his films. Thor may have seemed an unusual movie to some for Branagh to direct, but he has been a fan of Thor since childhood. When Marvel chose him to direct the film, they sent him the complete collection of the Marvel Thor comics.

 

Writing

Branagh has written several books about the making of his films, and his autobiography, Beginning, was published in 1989.

 

Awards

Branagh has been nominated for five Academy Awards and five Golden Globe Awards; he has won three BAFTAs and two Emmy Awards. He was appointed a Knight Bachelor in the 2012 Birthday Honours. 

 

Private Life  

From 1989 to 1995, Branagh was married to actress Emma Thompson and they appeared together in a number of movies. During their marriage, and while working with Helena Bonham Carter in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, he began an affair with her.  After Thompson divorced him, he and Bonham Carter were in a well-publicised relationship until 1999.  In 2003, he married film art director Lindsay Brunnock, who he met during the filming of TV series Shackleton. The couple do not have children and live a quiet life in Berkshire with their dogs.

 

Branagh is a Christian and says that he became much more religious after listening to Sir Laurence Olivier’s dramatic reading of the Bible every morning in preparation for his role as Olivier in My Week With Marilyn.

 

Hobbies

Branagh is a fan of English football club Tottenham Hotspur, the Northern Irish football club Linfield, and Scottish football club Rangers.  He plays piano and guitar.

 

Charity

He is Honorary President of NICVA (the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action). He received an honorary Doctorate in Literature from Queen’s University of Belfast in 1990. He is a patron for the charity Over The Wall.

 

Hollywood Star

In 2017, Branagh placed his feet and hands in cement and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

 

What’s next for Branagh

As well as forthcoming movies Death on the Nile and Tenent in 2020 Branagh has announced a new film which he has written and will be directing this year – Belfast is all about his home city and the people who live there. 

Ringo Starr Profile  

By Melanie Cork

 

“I’d like to end up sort of unforgettable”  Ringo Starr

 

Recently turned 80, Ringo Starr is an English musician, singer, songwriter and actor who shot to fame in the 60s with The Beatles. He has since had a successful solo career and is thought to be the richest drummer in the world.

 

Background

Starr was born Richard Starkey on the 7th of July 1940, in Liverpool. He was the only child of confectioners Richard Starkey and Elsie Gleave. Around 1944 his parents divorced, and Starr did not see much of his father again.  

 

Starr was unwell as a child. At age six went to a local children’s hospital for 12 months. He was later diagnosed with tuberculosis and spent two years in a sanatorium.  In 1953 his mother remarried, and his new stepfather encouraged his music, giving him his first drum kit for Christmas in 1957. 

 

Starr briefly worked for British Rail before starting an apprenticeship with an equipment manufacturer.

 

Early Career

Starr started his first band in 1957 the Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group which did well until American Rock and Roll became popular. The Beatles started in 1960 and at that time Starr was in another group – Rory Storm and The Hurricanes who achieved moderate success.

 

The Beatles

In August 1962 he was asked to join the Beatles. The group became a pop sensation worldwide and the screaming fan frenzy around them became known as Beatlemania. Throughout the sixties to 1970 they released a succession of hugely successful pop hits and albums.

 

The Beatles took their music to the cinema with comedy documentary film A Hard Day’s Night and the film Help! Both allowed Starr’s comedic and acting talents to shine.

 

Starr was known for his strong drumming talents, and he helped in the group’s creative process and was important to the group’s emotional stability and humour. His unique style was an integral part of what made the Beatles iconic.

 

Solo Career

After the Beatles ended in 1970 Starr released several successful singles including the US top-ten hit “It Don’t Come Easy”, and number ones “Photograph” and “You’re Sixteen”. His most successful UK single was “Back Off Boogaloo”. He achieved commercial and critical success with his 1973 album Ringo, which was a top-ten release in both the UK and the US.

 

In 1976 he released Ringo’s Rotogravure (re-released 2019), which included songs written by each of the other Beatles.

 

Starr started a band in the late 1980s, touring with his All Starr Band, which included stars such as Joe Walsh from the Eagles. Since 1989, he has toured with thirteen variations of Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band.

 

Starr has released over 18 solo or collaboration albums including Liverpool 8 in 2008, Y Not (2010) Ringo 2012, Postcards from Paradise (2015), What’s My Name (2019). 

 

Acting and TV

Starr has been in films such as The Magic Christian (1969) with Peter Sellers, 200 Motels (1971), That’ll Be the Day (1973) and Son of Dracula (1974). He directed a 1972 documentary about the band T. Rex. In 1980, he co-starred in the comedy Caveman with Barbara Bach, who he later married.

 

In  the eighties Starr became the narrator of the kids’ TV series Thomas and Friends.

 

Personal Life

Starr has been married twice, first to Maureen Cox from 1965 to 1975, they had three children, Zak, Jason and Lee. Zak is a drummer playing with such bands as Oasis. Starr has seven grandchildren.

 

Starr married Barbara Bach in 1981. Together, they struggled with alcoholism and went to rehab with successful results and are still together. They now split their time between homes in Los Angeles, Monte Carlo and London.

 

Starr is a vegetarian and meditates daily. His catchphrase and motto for life is “peace and love”.

 

Charity

In December 2015, Starr and Bach auctioned some of their personal and professional items raising over $9 million, a portion of which was set aside for their charity the Lotus Foundation.

 

Inspirations

Starr was influenced by skiffle, rock and roll, jazz and country music and his own drumming style has influenced other drummers for decades.

 

Awards

Starr was inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and appointed a Knight Bachelor in the 2018 New Year Honours for services to music. In 2018, he was cited as the wealthiest drummer in the world, with a net worth of $350 million.

 

80th Birthday

Starr took to the web with a 65-minute show for his 80th birthday that included old and new performances by himself and famous friends.

 

2021 Tour

Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band have postponed their 2020 North American tour to spring 2021 due to the coronavirus outbreak.

 

Visit the Beatles Museum in Hungary

There  is a Beatles Museum in the city of Eger with films and contemporary newsreels documenting the life and career of the band; memorabilia; and life-size models of the Fab Four.

 

Judi Dench Movies

By Melanie Cork

 

As well as theatre work, TV and many Shakespearean parts Dench has had a variety of roles in successful movies, here we look at some of her best movie performances.

 

James Bond (1995-2012)

Throughout the seven films in which Dench appears, her version of M was a straight-talking, strong feminist influence on Bond. Alongside Daniel Craig in  Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008) and Skyfall (2012), the role developed, and M became an emotional mentor for the spy. By the time of Skyfall’s dramatic  end, the two characters had a strong link and friendship. Skyfall has a key story for M as it follows Bond while he investigates an attack on MI6 that threatens to discredit and kill her as part of a revenge plot.

 

Mrs Brown (1997)

Dench’s first leading movie role was as British Queen Victoria. In mourning after the death of her beloved husband Albert, Victoria is slowly brought back to life by her caring servant John Brown. The story follows this relationship and emotional impact.  

 

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Dench was in the fictional story of a young William Shakespeare’s life for only around eight minutes of screen time but her scene-stealing performance as  Queen Elizabeth won her an Oscar.   

 

Chocolat (2000)

This romantic drama is about a woman and her daughter who open a chocolate shop in a small French village which shakes up the community. Dench had a supporting role in the movie as the landlady of the chocolatier who greedily eats the chocolate – despite being a diabetic and uses the chocolate shop to reunite with her estranged grandson.

 

Iris (2001)

Dench stars as author Iris Murdoch (played in younger life by Kate Winslet), whose fight with Alzheimer’s puts a strain on her life-long relationship with her husband.   Winslet and Dench were both nominated for an Oscar and it remains one of Dench’s finest performances.

 

Pride & Prejudice (2005)

This adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth stayed true to the book and received good reviews.  Judi Dench took on the role of Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

 

Notes on a Scandal (2006)

In this psychological thriller, cynical history teacher Barbara played by Dench discovers an illicit affair between her new colleague (Cate Blanchett) and a 15-year-old student. What follows is a game of blackmail and revenge with devasting effects on both characters.  

 

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)

Dench plays Evelyn, a widowed British pensioner who joins a group  of retirees who travel to a retirement hotel in India that is being run by an enthusiastic young man who is learning the trade. The hotel is less luxurious than advertised but begins to charm them in unexpected ways. The film was a box office success and a sequel followed.

 

 

 

 

Philomena (2013)

Winning her a seventh Oscar nomination, Dench had the central performance alongside Steve Coogan in the true story of an Irish woman determined over 5 decades to track down the son she had as a teenager in the 1950s.

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that stretches across time, he finds Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children. Danger comes after he gets to know the residents and their special powers. Dench is the headmistress with the ability to manipulate time and shapeshift into a bird.

 

Victoria and Abdul (2017)

Dench again plays England’s longest reigning monarch Queen Victoria. When she is introduced to Abdul – a young man from India, she is charmed when he kisses her foot and an unlikely cross-cultural friendship begins. The Queen’s treatment of servant Abdul as family upsets the royal household.   

 

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Based on the Agatha Christie novel, the film is directed by Kenneth Branagh who also stars as detective Poirot. On a train ride through Europe as one passenger is murdered, the rest are suspects. One of the suspects, Princess Natalia Dragomiroff, played brilliantly by Dench, is Russian royalty who feels the train is beneath her standards. 

 

Red Joan (2018)

This British spy drama follows young Joan Smith studying physics at Cambridge. She became involved with Communists and radical politics through her friends. Her story, which goes back to 1938, is recalled in flashbacks when Joan in old age played by Dench is questioned as a spy by the police.  

 

Coming soon

 

Six Minutes to Midnight is a war thriller based on true events. It follows a schoolteacher who is sent to a school in England and discovers that some pupils are daughters of the Nazi High Command. When he alerts the authorities, they end up thinking that he is the problem. Dench is the headmistress of the school.

 

Blithe Spirit is a comedy movie about a writer who contacts a spiritual medium played by Dench to help his writer’s block. However, when the medium ends up summoning the spirit of his first wife, it leads to a complicated love triangle.

 

Judi Dench Profile

By Melanie Cork

 

“I think you should take your job seriously, but not yourself – that is the best combination.” Judi Dench

 

Profile

85-year-old Dame Judi Dench is an Academy Award-winning British actress. Starting out in theatre she is now one of the most significant and talented British actors, she went on to TV and film and won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love and is famous internationally for her role as ‘M’ in the James Bond movies.

 

Background

Judith Olivia Dench was born on the 9th of December 1934 in York, England. Her mother was from Ireland and her father from Dorset, England. Her father was a Doctor and met her mother when he was studying medicine in Dublin.

 

Dench went to a girls Quaker secondary school in York, and became a Quaker herself, which is a form of Christian religion. Dench then had a brief time at the York School of Art before going to London’s Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art. Dench has two brothers and it was her actor brother Jeffrey who encouraged his sister to go into stage work.  

 

Early on Dench had links to the theatre as her father was the GP for the York theatre, and her mother was their wardrobe mistress. Actors often stayed in the family home.

 

Career  

Dench made her professional theatre debut in 1957 with the Old Vic Company in London as Shakespeare’s Ophelia.

 

In 1961, Dench joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, the start of a 30-year run that would see her take on every leading female Shakespeare role.

 

Dench made her Television debut in 1959 in the series Hilda Lessways and later achieved success in the series A Fine Romance from 1981 until 1984. In 1992 she began a continuing role in the television romantic comedy series As Time Goes By.

 

Dench went into film work in the sixties and won a BAFTA Award as Most Promising Newcomer.  

In 1968, she had a musical starring role in Cabaret. Dench received several film awards including as Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown and roles in Chocolat, Philomena, and Iris. Her Oscar was won for her role as Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love 1998. She appeared for a total of about 8 minutes and this became the second shortest performance ever to win an Oscar.

 

There have been many movies since but it was with James Bond that she achieved international success when she was cast as his boss ‘M’ in the movie Goldeneye in 1995, a role she has played in each Bond film since until 2015’s Spectre. Her character was reportedly modelled on a real-life female head of MI5 and Dench became the first woman to play M.

 

Awards

Dench has received many awards and nominations for her acting in theatre, film, and television, including  BAFTAs, Golden Globes, the Academy Award and a Tony.

 

Dench was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1970, Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1988, and Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) in 2005.

 

Charity work

Dench has been involved with many charities related to the theatre or to medical causes.  She is president of Questors Theatre, Ealing, London  where the main auditorium is known as The Judi Dench Playhouse.  

 

Personal life

Dench married actor Michael Williams in 1971 and they remained together until his tragic death from lung cancer in 2001. Their only child, daughter Finty Williams, was born in 1972 and Dench has one grandson Sam.

 

Not expecting to fall in love again Dench surprised herself and has been in a relationship with conservationist David Mills since 2010. They met when he invited her to open a squirrel enclosure at the wildlife centre which he runs near her home in Surrey.

 

Dench has macular degeneration and is treated by injections into the eye, she needs someone to read scripts to her. She also underwent knee surgery in 2013 but has recovered well.

 

Dench has been outspoken over prejudice in the movie industry against older actresses and continues to work well into her eighties, she became the oldest person to be featured on the cover of British Vogue in 2020.

 

Dench is famous for her naughty sense of fun, encouraging pranks on set and she got her first tattoo at the age of 81. In 2017 a website posted a video of Dench rapping with UK Grime artist Lethal Bizzle. This happened because the slang compliment term “dench” features in Bizzle’s lyrics and on his clothing brand.

 

During COVID 19 lockdown she was regularly featured on the TikTok page of her 23-year-old grandson with them taking part in a number of social distanced and virtual dances together.

 

What’s next

Widely considered as a British National Treasure, although not a term she is fond of, Dench shows no sign of slowing down and has three films coming out soon.

Tina Turner Profile

By Melanie Cork

 

“I didn’t have anybody, really, no foundation in life, so I had to make my own way. Always, from the start. I had to go out in the world and become strong, to discover my mission in life.”
– Tina Turner

 

Profile

Tina Turner is an award-winning American born Swiss singer, songwriter, dancer and actress known for her amazing gravelly singing voice, trademark long legs, big hair and energetic stage performances.  One of the most successful recording artists of all time, her popularity gained her the title “The Queen of Rock & Roll”. Her life has been made into a film and she has her own musical on Broadway and in the West End.

 

Background

Tina Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939 the youngest daughter of Zelma and Flloyd. She lived in Nutbush, Tennessee where her father worked as an overseer of sharecroppers. Turner had two older sisters, Evelyn and Ruby. Evelyn was killed in a car accident along with her cousins when Turner was a teenager.

 

As a young girl, Turner sang in the church choir. When she was 11, her mother left the family and moved to St Louis. Two years afterwards, her father remarried and moved to Detroit. Turner was sent to live with her grandmother in Tennessee.

 

Turner joined the cheerleading squad and the female basketball team at Carver High School. When she was 16, her grandmother died, so she went to live with her mother in St. Louis. She graduated from Sumner High School in 1958. After her graduation, she worked as a nursing assistant.

 

Career  

In her teens, Turner discovered R&B music and spent time at Club Manhattan. It was there in 1956, that she met Ike Turner, with the group  Kings of Rhythm. Soon she was performing with them and became the highlight of their show. They became known as the Ike and Tina Turner Revue and success grew when they recorded the album River Deep, Mountain High. The title track became a top 5 hit in the UK.   In 1969, they toured as the opening act for the Rolling Stones.  In 1973 they had a big hit with Nutbush City Limits, before Tina left and went solo.

 

After a slow start to her solo career the 1983 single Let’s Stay Together was followed by the release of her fifth solo album, Private Dancer, which became a worldwide success. The album had the hit song What’s Love Got to Do with It, which won a Grammy Award, and it became her first Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit in America.

 

Turner’s success continued in the eighties with hit albums and singles such as Better Be Good to Me, Private Dancer, We Don’t Need Another Hero, The Best, and the Bond theme GoldenEye. 

 

Turner also had roles in movies including Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and Last Action Hero.

 

What’s Love Got to Do with It, a biographical film was released in 1993 along with a soundtrack album.

 

In 2008, Turner started her final tour – Tina! 50th Anniversary Tour, which became one of the highest-selling ticketed shows of 2008 and 2009.   

 

Awards

Turner has 12 Grammy Awards and stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the St. Louis Walk of Fame. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

 

Personal life

A follower of Buddhism now happily married and living in Zurich, Turner had a tragic personal life from her childhood and her first marriage.

 

Ike and Tina Turner were married in 1962 and had a son together. They had four sons, one from an earlier relationship of Tina’s, and two from an earlier relationship of Ike’s.  It was later revealed that Ike was physically abusive to her. By the mid-1970s, the couple separated both personally and professionally and divorced in 1978.

 

In July 2013 at the age of 73, Turner married her long-time partner German record executive Erwin Bach  in Zurich, Switzerland, months after Turner had gained her Swiss citizenship. In 2013, three weeks after her wedding, she suffered a stroke and had to learn to walk again.

 

In 2016, she was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. Turner used homeopathic remedies to treat her high blood pressure but caused kidney failure. Her chances of receiving a kidney were low, and she was to start dialysis. Turner considered assisted suicide, but her husband donated his kidney in April 2017.

 

In 2018, Turner’s oldest son, Craig, was found dead at his home in California, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Craig was Turner’s son from a relationship with Raymond Hill in the 1950s.

 

The Tina Turner Musical

Featuring much-loved songs and setting out Turner’s life The Tina Turner Musical is in the West End and Broadway.

 

2020

Turner came out of retirement at age 80 to release a Kygo dance remix of her 1984 hit, What’s Love Got to Do With It, currently in the UK charts.

Jackie Chan Movies

By Melanie Cork

 

“I only want my work to make people happy.” – Jackie Chan

 

With new movies out soon, we look at some of Jackie Chan’s greats and where we can see some of his amazing stunts.  

 

Drunken Master (1978)

This hit film is about a style of kung fu that can only be done while drunk, it showcases the cheeky, cheerful image that Chan would keep for most of his career and began the comedy kung-fu genre.   

 

The Cannonball Run (1981)

An action comedy film with a star cast, including Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, and Chan in his second minor Hollywood role. The film is based on the 1979 cross-country outlaw road race  beginning in Connecticut and ending in California. It was one of 1981’s most successful films and followed by Cannonball Run II (1984). 

 

Project A  (1983)

Project A has acrobatic martial arts, clever stunts, and comedy. Chan plays a marine policeman in 19th century Hong Kong trying to outwit pirates. It includes Chan’s famous jump from a clock tower 16 metres high.  Project A Part 2 (1987) starts with Chan being demoted and sent to run a neighbourhood police unit.

 

Police Story (1985 – 2013)

Chan’s Police Story series has six films over 28 years. Chan plays Hong Kong detective Chan Ka Kui, who in the first film has to clear his name after being framed for murder. Police Story features three of Chan’s most famous stunts including a chase  scene where Chan uses only an umbrella to perform dangerous acts.  The film’s success led to three sequels, a spin-off (Supercop 2) and two reboots (New Police Story and Police Story 2013).

 

Rumble in the Bronx (1995)

This martial art acrobatic stunt-filled action comedy gave Chan his first big international hit. Chan’s character visits New York to attend his uncle’s marriage, where he runs into trouble with a biker gang and diamond smugglers.  

 

Who Am I? (1998)

Chan plays a soldier with amnesia and features one of his best stunts – a free-fall slide down the side of the Willemswerf building in Rotterdam.

 

Rush Hour (1998)

Rush Hour was the huge Hollywood hit for Chan. This buddy cop action/comedy had brilliant chemistry with Chan and comedian Chris Tucker, and was followed by two sequels.  

 

Shanghai Noon (2000)

An action-comedy box office hit with fun, adventure, and stunts. Chan stars as Chon Wang a Chinese imperial guard who is sent to Nevada to rescue a princess. In Nevada he meets Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson), an outlaw who starts out hijacking Wang’s train and ends up helping him. The film was followed by Shanghai nights in 2003.

 

 

Kung Fu Panda (2008)

An animated  action comedy produced by DreamWorks Animation it stars the voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, and Chan. The film is set in an ancient China with talking animals including a panda named Po, a kung fu enthusiast. The film was a success and sequels followed.

 

The Spy Next Door (2010)

Former CIA spy Bob Ho (Chan) takes on his toughest assignment yet, looking after his girlfriend’s three kids – who hate him! Not so well received but a good family movie and the film tributes Chan’s films by showing clips, and references Chan’s real-life childhood

 

The Karate Kid (2010)

A martial arts drama,  part of The Karate Kid series it stars Jaden Smith and Chan in lead roles. 12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) from  Michigan moves to Beijing, China with his mother and meets the neighbourhood bully. He makes an unlikely friend in an aging maintenance man, Mr. Han (Chan), a kung fu master who teaches him self-defence. 

 

The Foreigner (2017)

A revenge style political thriller which gave Chan the chance to play a more dramatic role, with plenty of action. Chan plays a Vietnam veteran whose daughter is killed by a bomb from the Real Irish Republican Army (Real IRA). When the British police seem unable to catch the killers, Chan goes to Ireland to find them himself.  

 

Coming Soon

Iron Mask is a fantasy adventure epic available on Digital and on Demand in November. Set in the 18th century, Iron Mask follows cartographer (a man who draws maps) Jonathan Green on a scientific and supernatural journey from England to China. Chan plays a kung fu master who must escape from James Hook, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, to save his homeland.  

 

Vanguard is a Chinese spy-thriller starring Chan. The film was scheduled to be released in January but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is about a man being targeted by assassins who turns to security agency Vanguard to get protection.  

 

Project X-Traction is an upcoming action-adventure with Chan and John Cena. It follows two ex-special forces soldiers who have to team up to get civilians to safety.  

 

 There is hope from fans Rush Hour 4 may happen, but nothing is confirmed yet!

Jackie Chan Profile

By Melanie Cork

 

“Why did I become Jackie Chan? Mostly because I work very hard. When people were sleeping, I was still training.”

 

Jackie Chan is a much-loved martial arts film actor, stuntman, director, producer, and singer from Hong Kong.  One of the most recognised action stars in the world he is known for his incredible physical ability, comedy acrobatic fighting scenes and stunts. He has been in over 150 films including The Karate Kid, The Spy Next Door and Rush Hour.

 

Early life

Jackie Chan was born Chan Kong-sang on 7th April 1954 in Hong Kong. His parents Charles and Lee-Lee Chan were very poor refugees from the Chinese Civil War who worked for the French Ambassador in Hong Kong. Chan’s grandfather was a native inhabitant of Csengofalva, Hungary.

 

Chan went to the Nah-Hwa Primary School on Hong Kong Island, where he failed his first year and was taken out of school. In 1960, his parents emigrated to Australia and left him behind, sending him to the China Drama Academy, a Peking Opera School. There he studied Chinese opera, singing, stagecraft, martial arts, and acrobatics. It was tough with long days and mistakes were harshly punished. Chan became part of a performance group made up of the school’s best students, he also trained in martial arts and became a black belt.

 

Chan joined his parents in Australia in 1976, where he briefly worked in construction and got the nickname Jackie.

 

Career

Chan has had to work hard for his career, he began as a child actor at five years old. At eight he was in the film Big and Little Wong Tin Bar and had further small roles over the following years.

 

At seventeen, he worked as a stuntman in the Bruce Lee films Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon and got his first starring role later that year in Little Tiger of Canton.

 

His breakthrough came in 1978 with Drunken Master, the film became a hit in Asia and started the comedy kung fu genre.

 

It took longer and more hard work for him to break into the American market. After failed attempts it was the movie Rumble In The Bronx in 1996 that brought initial success and with action movies such as Rush  Hour, Shanghai Noon, The Karate Kid to Kung Fu Panda he has continued to entertain audiences worldwide ever since.

 

Stunts

Once expected to be a successor to Bruce Lee, instead Chan developed his own style of cheeky, slap stick comedy and became known for action movies with crazy stunts. Chan performed the dangerous stunts himself and had many broken bones. Stunts have included jumping a 28-foot gap between tall buildings with no harness; sliding 21 stories down the side of a building; hanging off the side of a speeding bus; crawling through burning coals; swinging from a rope ladder attached to a helicopter; falling from a clocktower;  sliding down a pole through a shopping mall crashing through glass; and recently a jet ski stunt left him underwater trapped under a rock. 

 

 

Singing Career

Chan is a trained opera vocalist and began making records in the 1980s and has gone on to become a successful singer in Hong Kong and Asia releasing over 20 albums. He often sings the theme songs of his films, which play over the closing credits.

 

Charity work

Chan’s charity work includes conservation, animal welfare and disaster relief. In 2006, he said he would donate half of his assets to charity when he dies. He is a UNICEF Ambassador and was named as Singapore’s first anti-drug ambassador.

 

Awards and honours

Chan has stars on the Hong Kong Avenue of Stars and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He holds the Guinness World Record for Most Stunts by a Living Actor.  He has been referenced in pop songs, cartoons, and video games.

 

Personal Life

In 1982, Chan married Taiwanese actress Joan Lin. They have one son, actor, and singer Jaycee. Chan reportedly had a daughter through an affair with Miss Asia – Elaine Ng Yi-Lei.

 

Chan has restaurants in Southeast Asia and in Honolulu, he has put his name to lines of shoes, clothes, golf clubs, skincare, and table tennis balls.  He enjoys his nice guy, cheeky image and is often photographed with two thumbs up.

 

Chan speaks Cantonese, Mandarin, English, German, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, and Thai.

 

Chan supports the Hong Kong football team, the England football team, and Manchester City. 

 

Inspirations

Inspirations include Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Italian duo Bud Spencer and Terence Hill.

 

COVID-19

Rumours began earlier this year that Chan was ill with Coronavirus. This had his fans so concerned, they sent him protective face masks. Chan explained that those masks were donated to organisations who could truly use them, as he is currently happy and healthy.

 

2020

Chan has more movies due for release soon including Vanguard and Iron Mask.

The Struts

By Melanie Cork

 

“We were born to do this, and we’ll die doing it” The Struts

 

The Struts are a British 4-piece glam rock band with a big live sound. The band’s line up is  vocalist Luke Spiller, guitarist Adam Slack, bassist Jed Elliot, and drummer Gethin Davies. People often compare singer Spiller’s sound and flamboyant style to Freddie Mercury from Queen. As well as successful tours and records, the band has supported huge rock artists such as the Rolling Stones, The Who, and the Foo Fighters and have a new single with pop icon Robbie Williams out now – along with a third album about to be released.

 

The early years

The Struts were started in the UK by songwriter and lead vocalist Luke Spiller and guitarist Adam Slack.

 

Spiller came from Bristol, at an early age he discovered Michael Jackson’s music and decided to become a pop dancer, but by the age of 11, he was listening to rock music such as Led Zeppelin, Queen, and AC/DC. He began impersonating Jackson and Freddie Mercury in the mirror at home before singing in bands as a teenager.

 

In 2009 Spiller met Derby based guitarist/songwriter Adam Slack. As each of their bands broke up, they decided to work together, writing, and recording for almost three years. They asked their friends Jamie Binns and Rafe Thomas to play bass and drums. In 2012, Binns and Thomas were replaced with bassist Jed Elliott and drummer Gethin Davies, forming The Struts.

 

The band chose their name based on a comment that someone made at a rehearsal – telling Spiller that he strutted around a lot.

 

Influences

The band’s influences include Queen, the Darkness, the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, the Killers, Oasis, and the Strokes.   

 

The Struts’ Career

The band played frequently in the UK and soon developed a following, releasing their first single, I Just Know, in June 2012 followed by a four-track EP titled Kiss This.

 

They then extensively toured England and France.

 

In 2014 they were the opening act for the Rolling Stones in Paris. That summer, they did a 24-date tour, which included the Isle of Wight Festival where Spiller wore clothes designed for him by Zandra Rhodes, who formerly dressed Freddie Mercury.  

 

The Struts became well known as a live band not least for Spiller’s showmanship, glam-rock outfits,  outrageous performances and talent as a lead singer and their shows were often sold-out.

 

Their debut studio album Everybody Wants was  released in July 2014 in the UK.

 

In August 2015, the EP Have You Heard was their first U.S. release and they began a tour of America with sold out dates. They had more success in the US than in the UK and The Struts moved to Los Angeles in early 2015.

 

The Struts have supported some huge bands – in 2016, they opened for Guns N’ Roses in San Francisco, where they debuted their single Put Your Hands Up.  In July 2017 for the Who in Quebec City, playing for their biggest crowd – over 80 000 people. This was followed in September for The Rolling Stones, opening their Italian tour. October 2017 with the Foo Fighters in Washington DC. Foo Fighter Dave Grohl called them “the best opening band we’ve ever had”.

 

After this The Struts headlined their own Body Talks tour. The band also joined with American singer Kesha for the remix of the single Body Talks which became a huge success.

 

The band released their second album Young & Dangerous in October 2018 and in 2019 went on tour in the US, the UK and Europe. 

 

2020

In August, The Struts made single Another Hit of Showmanship with The Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. 

 

In September  they released a new single with Robbie Williams called Strange Days, the title song of their new album. It is an orchestral-based power duet and came about after the band was under extended lockdown in the UK, but the idea of the song began while The Struts were on a radio show and  Robbie Williams (a big fan) asked for a chat with Spiller. They ended up deciding to work together and recorded the song on Williams’ front porch.

 

The video for the single starts in black-and-white with Spiller walking down an empty desert highway, singing alongside Robbie Williams. By the end, The Struts are performing in colour, with the grand finale against a backdrop of mountains.

 

The album Strange Days is due out in October and was recorded under quarantine in LA at producer Jon Levine’s home. Within just 10 days, the band recorded nine original songs and a cover of a KISS song Do You Love Me. Tom Morello and members of Def Leppard also appear on the album.

 

The band plans to tour in 2021. Details are on their website https://thestruts.com/

 

The album Stranger Days is due out October 16th.

 

Gene Simmons and Kiss

By Melanie Cork

 

KISS is an American rock band and is one of the best-selling bands of all time. Starting in 1973 they have released over 40 albums (many of which are gold or platinum) and sold more than 100 million records worldwide. Their stage shows are known for over the top performances including costumes, full make up, fire breathing, firing rockets, and loud music.  Gene Simmons is its legendary frontman with wild behaviour, dramatic stage make up and his stage personality “The Demon”. Lately famous for his TV show ‘Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels.

 

The band are currently on a farewell tour, where they will also visit Hungary. What people might not know is that Simmons’ parents were from Hungary and he speaks Hungarian fluently.

 

Early life

Gene Simmons was born on August 25, 1949 as Chaim Witz. His parents were Jewish immigrants. His mother, Florence Klein was born in Jánd, Hungary, she and her brother were the only members of her family to survive the Holocaust and she was in Nazi concentration camps. His father, Ferenc “Feri” Yehiel Witz, was a carpenter.

 

The family were poor, and Simmons spent his childhood in Tirat Carmel, in a Jewish household. When he was only 7, he started picking fruit to sell on roadsides.

 

His parents split up and at 8 he went to live in New York City with his mother, he changed his name to Eugene Klein. His father stayed in Israel, where he later had other children.

 

He went to college in New York and took his stage name from the singer Jumpin’ Gene Simmons. He had a few jobs including teaching and typing work including as an assistant at Vogue magazine.

 

He had decided he wanted to be in a band in middle school, after watching The Beatles on television.  Simmons said he thought, “If I go start a band, maybe the girls will scream at me.”

 

KISS

Simmons was in a few bands including Wicked Lester in the early 1970s with Paul Stanley. Not happy with the band they left the band to start the rock band KISS.

 

First to join them was Peter Criss as drummer, then Ave Frehley as lead guitarist. This was the original and best-known line-up. 

 

Stanley took on the role as lead performer alongside bass player Simmons with his “Demon” makeup which came from the design of comic book character Black Bolt. Simmonds also learnt to breathe fire for his performances. The group played their first concert in January 1973 in New York. There were only three people in the audience!

 

In October 1973 KISS got a record contract and they released their self-titled first album in 1974.

 

Throughout the 1970s, the band toured with wild stage performances and built a following of fans called the “KISS Army”. The band didn’t get popular until their live album Alive! in 1975 which included the hit single, “Rock and Roll All Nite.”

 

Their next successful albums were Destroyer and Rock and Roll Over, in 1976 followed by Love Guns and Alive II in 1979.  By the end of that year KISS were the most popular band in America and doing well in the UK, Japan, Canada, Sweden and Germany.

 

However, Criss left the group in 1979, in 1982 Frehley also left and the band went through a few replacements before a new line up of Stanley, Simmons, Eric Carr and Bruce Kulick. This worked well and they began releasing more platinum albums in the eighties. The band had started performing without make up from 1983.  Carr died in 1991 and the band took on a new drummer Eric Singer. They released the album Revenge in 1992.

 

There was a reunion tour of original members in 1996 back with full make up and shows and an album Psycho Circus in 1998, their first album as the original group in almost 20 years. The original group split again, and Tommy Thayer replaced Ace Frehley joined as lead guitar and Eric Singer replaced Peter Criss on drums.

 

There have been farewell tours since! Including with the original band members in 2000.

 

Personal life

Simmons has been linked to Liza Minelli, Cher and Diana Ross but now lives in California, with his wife, Canadian former Playboy Playmate and actress Shannon Lee Tweed. They have two children.

Simmons can speak Hungarian, German, English, Hebrew and some Japanese.

Simmons gets involved in charities and is very vocal about politics.

 

Goodbye Tour

After an epic 45-year career which made them rock n roll legends, KISS started their final ever tour in 2019 with sold out shows across the world. The tour is again with band members Simmons and Stanley with Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer. The tour began in January 2019 in Canada and will finish in July 2021 in New York. 

 

On Thursday 16thJuly 2020 KISS will perform at the Budapest Arena, HUNGARY!

Mark Ruffalo Movies

By Melanie Cork

 

“HULK SMASH!” 


Movie Career

Mark Ruffalo may be best known for his role as The Hulk / Bruce Banner in the huge Avengers movies, but he has made several other successful movies, and has received Academy Award nominations. Ruffalo has taken on a wide range of characters in comedies, romance, thrillers, factual films and action superhero movies.  He has a new film out now called Dark Waters. Here we look at a few of Ruffalo’s main movies.

 

The Avengers Franchise

Ruffalo was Bruce Banner / The Hulk from 2012 onwards – in the Avengers, Iron Man 3, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor: Ragnarök, Avengers: Infinity War, Captain Marvel, and Avengers: Endgame.  

 

Bruce Banner is a scientist who tried a radiation experiment on himself which failed, and which now makes Banner change into a giant green creature, with super-human strength, whenever he gets angry or is placed in danger. The character is central in the Marvel Comic Universe, appeared in eight films of the series and is seen as one of the most powerful members of the Avengers. Ruffalo plays the Banner / Hulk mix well and can show that there is still a sensitive and funny side to Hulk, and he is lots of fun to watch.

 

Spotlight (2015)

A story of how the Boston Globe’s investigation team found cases of sexual abuse and cover-ups within the Catholic church. Ruffalo got an Oscar nomination for his role as newspaper reporter Mike Rezendes and the film won Academy Awards in 2016.

 

Infinitely Polar Bear (2015)

Ruffalo delivers a strong performance as a manic-depressive father trying to prove his parenting abilities in this comedy-drama and getting a Golden Globe nomination for his work. 

 

Foxcatcher (2014)

Ruffalo is Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz in this true story about the relationship between Schultz and multimillionaire heir John du Pont, who hired Schultz and his brother to head a private wrestling team based on his estate. Ruffalo is great in his role as Dave Schultz and stars alongside Steve Carrell. Both were nominated for Oscars for their performances.

 

Now You See Me (2013 / 2016)

Now You See Me is a heist film. It has a cast including Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman. The plot follows an FBI agent played by Ruffalo and an Interpol detective who track a team of magicians who do bank robberies during their performances and reward their audiences with the money. This is the first in a series, Now You See Me 2 followed in 2016.  Now You See Me 3 is rumoured to be in planning.

Shutter Island (2010)

Shutter Island is a psychological thriller film directed by Martin Scorsese. Leonardo DiCaprio is U.S. Marshal Edward “Teddy” Daniels who is investigating a psychiatric facility on Shutter Island after one of the patients goes missing. Mark Ruffalo plays his partner officer; Ben Kingsley is the facility’s lead psychiatrist.  This film has many twists and turns and keeps the viewer watching.

 

 

The Kids Are All Right (2009)

This comedy movie led to Ruffalo’s earlier Academy Award nomination. It is about a same sex couple Nic (Annette Benning) and Jules (Julianne Moore) and events that happen when their son goes to find his biological father Paul – played by Ruffalo.   

 

Zodiac (2007)

Based on the 1986 non-fiction book of the same name Zodiac stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr. Ruffalo plays an inspector on the hunt for the Zodiac Killer, a serial murderer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area during the late 1960s and early 1970s, sending letters to police and newspapers to tease them. The case remains one of America’s most infamous unsolved crimes.  Reviews for Zodiac were very positive.

 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

A science fiction comedy-drama film which follows a couple who have erased each other from their memories, then re-met and started dating again. The cast includes Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, and Tom Wilkinson. The film looks at both memory and romantic love. It won an Academy Award and developed a cult following in the years after its release, it has come to be considered as one of the best films of the 21st century.

 

This year:

Dark Waters (2019)

Ruffalo’s latest movie is Dark Waters, where his character finds a dark secret that connects several deaths to one of the world’s largest corporations.  This is a shocking true story about an attorney who risks everything, including his own life and family to take on a corporate chemical company and expose the truth.  The film also stars Anne Hathaway, Bill Pullman and Tim Robbins and the film is based on the 2016 article “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” by Nathaniel Rich, published in The New York Times Magazine

Mark Ruffalo Profile

By Melanie Cork

“I became an actor, so I didn’t have to be myself.” Mark Ruffalo
 

Profile

Mark Ruffalo is an activist and American actor known for being Bruce Banner and The Hulk in the superhero Marvel Avenger movies. He has received Oscar nominations for films ‘The Kids Are All Right,’ ‘Foxcatcher’ and ‘Spotlight’ and has a new film called Dark Waters out soon and an upcoming HBO series ‘I know this much is true’ in 2020.

 

Background

Ruffalo was born on November 22, 1967 in Wisconsin America. His mother is half French Canadian and half Italian, she is a hairdresser and stylist; his father was from an Italian background and was a construction painter. Ruffalo has two sisters and had a brother who sadly died in 2008.

 

Ruffalo went to Catholic and progressive schools, he struggled with dyslexia but says he had a happy childhood. He spent his teen years in Virginia and graduated from High School in Virginia Beach, where he started acting for Patriot Playhouse.  He was also competing in wrestling.  Ruffalo admits to anger management issues in his early years and said later that he could identify with his character Bruce Banner in a way.

 

He and his family moved to San Diego California and then to Los Angeles. He took classes at the Stella Adler Conservatory and co-started the Orpheus Theatre Company where he wrote, directed and acted in plays as well as working as a bartender.

 

Career and Awards

Ruffalo started acting on stage in 1990, but it was ten years later when his career became successful with a film role in You Can Count on Me.

His acting range is shown in the varied characters he has played – in romantic comedies 13 Going on 30 and Just Like Heaven, thrillers such as Zodiac and high-profile films such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Shutter Island. He had Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor in the comedy-drama The Kids Are Alright in 2010.

In 2012 he first starred as the Hulk in the smash hit superhero film The Avengers.  Sequels followed with Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2015, Thor: Ragnarök in 2017, Avengers: Infinity War in 2018 and most recently Avengers: Endgame in 2019.

Ruffalo has played other interesting roles – in the crime thriller Now You See Me (2013), with Woody Harrelson, and the musical drama Begin Again (2014), with Keira Knightley.  He was the lead in The Normal Heart (2014) a TV version of a play about the beginning of the AIDS crisis. Over one million people watched the premiere, also featuring Julia Roberts, it was a critics success and got Ruffalo an Emmy Award nomination.

Later that year, Ruffalo appeared in the drama Foxcatcher, as a wrestler. The film, co-starring Steve Carell saw Ruffalo getting Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations.

Ruffalo’s performance in the 2015 comedy-drama Infinitely Polar Bear, received a Golden Globe nomination. He later received another Oscar nomination, for the 2015 drama Spotlight, which follows the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal in Boston. Spotlight won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. Ruffalo revisited his character for Now You See Me 2 in 2016 and returned to Broadway for a 2017 revival of Arthur Miller’s The Price.

 

Directing

Ruffalo directed plays at the Orpheus Theatre Company and made his movie director debut with Sympathy for Delicious

 

Personal life

Ruffalo is an environmental activist, outspoken on politics and climate change. He started the Solutions Project, which aims for 100 percent renewable energy.

 

He has been married to actress Sunrise Coigney since 2000, and they have three children. The family lives in Manhattan.

 

In 2002 Ruffalo was diagnosed with a brain tumour. The surgery to remove the tumour led to partial facial paralysis, which went away but he remains deaf in his left ear.

 

In December 2008, Ruffalo’s younger brother, Scott, was found in Los Angeles with an execution-style bullet wound to the head. Scott died the following week. The case remains unsolved.

 

Coming Up

Ruffalo stars alongside Anne Hathaway in a true story about an attorney who risks his life and family to take on a corporate giant in Dark Waters (2019).  His character finds a secret that connects several deaths to one of the world’s largest corporations.   This is a subject close to Ruffalo’s passion as an activist.

 

Due for release in 2020 is the HBO series I Know This Much Is True. A family saga that follows the lives of identical twin brothers in a story of betrayal, sacrifice and forgiveness in 20th-century America.  Ruffalo plays both twin brothers Dominick and Thomas Birdsey. 

 

 

 “I feel like from this blessing that I’ve been given that I want to give people the voice that don’t have a voice.”  Mark Ruffalo

Celine Dion Profile

By Melanie Cork

 

“If you follow your dreams, it means you follow your heart. If you do follow your heart, I don’t think you can go wrong” Celine Dion.

 

Profile

Celine Dion is one of the most famous singers in the world. Starting her career at a young age, the beautiful Canadian singer is now an icon and her epic song “My Heart Will Go On” is legendary from the film Titanic.  In her 35-year career she has sold 250 million albums and won many awards. Ending her successful second Las Vegas residency in 2019 Celine is now on a World Tour and will be coming to Hungary in June.

 

Background

Céline Marie Claudette Dion was born on the 30 March 1968 into a large family from Quebec in Canada. Celine was the fourteenth child of her parents Thérèse Tanguay and Adhémar Dion.   The whole family were interested in music and often performed together; Celine’s mother encouraged Celine in her singing career.

 

Singing Career

As a teenager in the 1980s Celine Dion made several French-language albums and won the 1982 Yamaha World Popular Song Festival, in 1988 she won the Eurovision Song contest.

 

After learning to speak English, she signed with Epic Records in America.  In 1990, she released her first English album, Unison, which helped her become a pop star in America and other English-speaking areas of the world.

 

During the 1990s, she achieved worldwide fame with number one hit records including “The Power of Love”, “Think Twice”, “Because You Loved Me”, ” and “My Heart Will Go On”.

 

Dion continued releasing French albums between each English record. Her recordings are mainly in French and English, but she also sings in Spanish, Italian, German, Latin, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese. 

 

During the 2000s, she built her reputation as a successful live performer with the Taking Chances World Tour (2008–09), one of most successful concert tours of all time and in the Las Vegas Strip (2003–07). Las Vegas residencies were made famous by Liberace, Sinatra and Elvis Presley but Dion’s A New Day… 2003 to 2007 is the most successful concert residency of all time with nearly three million people attending 717 shows.

 

Her second Las Vegas residency, Celine, is the second most successful, generating $296 million from a total of 427 shows between 2011 and 2019. These two residencies made Dion the highest-grossing resident performer of all time.

 

In 2016, she had a sold-out show tour of Europe and Québec before returning to Las Vegas.  In the summer of 2017, Celine toured across Europe and the UK with 25 sold-out shows in 15 cities. 

 

In May 2018, the song “Ashes”, from the soundtrack of the Deadpool 2 movie, was released along with the official video and became a US dance chart topper. 

 

 

 

Influences

Dion’s music has been influenced by rock and R&B, gospel and classical.

 

Awards

Dion has many awards and recognition including Diamond and Gold albums, Grammy Awards and a Billboard Music Lifetime Achievement Icon Award. She is one of the best-selling artists of all time with record sales of 200 million copies worldwide. The theme song for a Disney film. “Beauty and the Beast “won both a Grammy and an Academy Award.   

 

Personal life

Dion met Canadian music producer and manager René Angélil, when she was twelve years old. Dion’s brother Michel had sent him a demo tape of Dion singing and Angélil was amazed by her voice and decided he would make her a star. He was instrumental throughout her career. Even with her mother’s concerns over the age gap, they started dating when Celine was 19. In December 1994 they married at Notre-Dame Basilica in Montréal. They were very much in love and married for over two decades, with three children.   

 

In 2014, Celine postponed her engagements as her husband was fighting cancer. In January 2016, her husband sadly passed away.    

 

Projects

Dion has the Celine Dion Collection, a line of handbags, luggage and accessories. In November 2018, Celine and brand NUNUNU launched a new children’s fashion brand with gender-neutral styles.  In 2019 Celine was named as L’Oréal’s newest global spokesperson.

 

Celine Comes to Hungary!

Celine Dion arrives in Hungary for the first time in June 2020. The Courage World Tour started in September 2019, in Celine’s home of Quebec and continues into 2020 going to 100 cities worldwide including Budapest.  A new album goes with the Tour in November called “Courage” and went to number on in the US Billboard charts.   This is her first English album in six years, and she worked with artists including Sia, David Guetta and Sam Smith on this.  Celine will see her Hungarian fans on June 7, 2020 at the Budapest Sportarena.

 

 

“It’s the moment you think you can’t, that you can.” Celine Dion

 

Helen Mirren Movies

By Melanie Cork

 

“It’s great to be Queen!” Helen Mirren

 

 Movies

The award-winning actress and Dame of the British Empire Helen Mirren has made over 60 movies in her career. Here we look at just a few that she is most famous for and which showcase her varied characters, including that most Royal of roles.

 

The Long Good Friday (1980)

This gangster film received praise and Mirren plays her role confidently as Victoria, girlfriend of Bob Hoskins’s insecure London mobster, who is trying to build his new property empire. 

 

Excalibur (1981)
The fantasy movie has Mirren as the sorceress Morgana, King Arthur’s vengeful half-sister.  Mirren really brought the character to life and the film is where she met future boyfriend Liam Neeson.

 

Cal (1984)

It this role that got Mirren her first major film awards. She plays Marcella, a Catholic married to a Protestant police officer murdered by the IRA. John Lynch plays Cal, a younger man implicated in the killing. They begin a doomed affair. This is often seen as one of Mirren’s best performances.

 

White Nights (1985)

This is the film where she met her future husband, Taylor Hackford. It is another Russian role (born Helen Mironoff, she is the granddaughter of an exiled Russian diplomat). Here she plays a Soviet bureaucrat and former lover of a Russian dancer who is trying to defect.

 

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover (1989)
In a breakout role for Mirren, Peter Greenaway’s ground-breaking movie casts her as a prim and proper gangster’s wife who begins a dangerous affair.

 

Gosford Park (2001)
This period film is full of talented actors, but Mirren stands as Mrs Wilson the housekeeper of the country house.  

 

Calendar Girls (2003)
The true story of a group of older ladies who take their clothes off to pose for a nude calendar to raise money for their local hospital. Mirren’s performance as the glamourous Chris is wonderfully light-hearted, fun and sexy.

 

The Queen (2006)
This may be Mirren’s greatest role, and her most loved, for which she won the Best Actress Oscar. It is set around the time that Diana, the “People’s Princess” died in a car accident in Paris. The Queen (Mirren) and her family decide that for the best and the children, they should stay hidden behind the closed doors. The heartbroken public do not understand and ask the Queen to comfort her people. This puts pressure on newly elected prime minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), who tries to convince the Queen to address the public. Mirren perfectly and respectfully shows the difficulties the Queen faced.

 

 

The Last Station (2009)

Mirren was nominated for her fourth Academy Award for her performance in the Leo Tolstoy biopic. Mirren is Sofia, the long-suffering wife of Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer).  

 

Red / Red 2 (2010/2013)

A fast-paced action thriller this was a fun change for Mirren, she co-starred with Morgan Freeman and Bruce Willis as a former spy who goes back to work to help a friend.  

 

Hitchcock (2012)

Mirren had great reviews for her portrayal of Alma Reville, the wife of director Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins), in the biopic Hitchcock.   

 

Woman in Gold (2015)

In this true story Mirren plays an elderly Jewish refugee who takes on the Austrian government to recover artwork she believes belongs to her family. Ryan Reynolds stars as her young lawyer.

 

Eye in the Sky (2015)

Mirren is a professional soldier in this brilliant thriller. This is a strong performance by Mirren and in her role as colonel she must make tough decisions about the deployment of a drone to kill terrorists.  

 

Trumbo (2015)

 In 1947, Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) was Hollywood’s top screenwriter until he and others were blacklisted for their political beliefs. It shows how Dalton used his wit to win Awards and expose the injustice of the blacklist, which included everyone from gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Mirren) to John Wayne.

 

The Good Liar (2019)

A crime thriller film starring Ian McKellen as a career con artist who meets a wealthy widow (Helen Mirren) online, and then discovers that his plan to steal her fortune may not work.

 

Fast & Furious (2017/2019/2020)

Mirren first appears as the mother of Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw in Fast & Furious 8 Fate of the Furious (2017) and goes back to the same role in Hobbs & Shaw (2019).  Clearly having fun, she is great to watch in this and is scheduled to be in Fast & Furious 9 in 2020.

 

Coming up

Now 74, Mirren’s career goes from strength to strength in her widely varied roles.

As well as Fast & Furious 9, Mirren is currently filming The Duke with Jim Broadbent. This story is set in 1961, when a 60-year-old bus driver was accused of stealing a portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London – the only theft in the institution’s history.

Helen Mirren Profile

By Melanie Cork

 

“The trick in life is learning how to deal with it” Helen Mirren

 

Profile

Dame Helen Mirren is an English actor who began her acting career with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1967 and is one of the few actors who have achieved the Triple Crown of Acting with an Oscar, an Olivier and a Tony Award. Now aged 74, and looking better than ever, she is a versatile and respected actress who has made over 60 movies. Mirren has played a queen six different times, including as Queen Elizabeth II in 2006 in The Queen, for which she won the Oscar. Queen Elizabeth II herself said that The Queen was one of her favourite films of that year.

 

Background

Mirren’s father had Russian aristocratic roots, and she was born Illiana Lydia Petrovna Mironova in London on 26th of July 1945, to parents Kathleen “Kitty” Alexandrina Eva Matilda and Vasily Petrovich Mironoff (Basil).  When she was 9, her father changed his last name to the more English sounding “Mirren”. She was brought up in Essex, with an older sister and younger brother.

 

Mirren’s grandfather was in the Imperial Russian Army, the former diplomat became a London cab driver to support his family and settled down in England.  Mirren’s father played viola with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, drove a taxi and was a driving-test examiner, before joining the Ministry of Transport. Mirren’s mother was from a large family in East London, whose father was a butcher and grandfather had been the butcher to Queen Victoria.

 

Career and Awards

By the time she was 20, Mirren was starring as Cleopatra in the 1965 production of Antony and Cleopatra. This led to a place with the Royal Shakespeare Company where she took on classical roles including Lady Macbeth. Theatre work continued throughout her career and she has starred in the West End in London and Broadway in New York.

 

Mirren has been a variety of TV and Movie characters in her 50-year career.  In 1992, she got her breakthrough TV role as Detective Inspector Jane Tennison in the mystery series Prime Suspect. By the time the show finished she had won five BAFTA Awards and several Emmy Award nominations. Her other television performances include  The Passion of Ayn Rand (1999), which won her an Emmy; and as Queen Elizabeth I in 2005, in the television serial Elizabeth I, for Channel 4 and HBO, for which she received another Emmy Award and a Golden Globe.  Her TV role for HBO and Sky in 2018 was another Royal one – as Catherine in the four-part series on Catherine the Great. 

 

Mirren has starred in period films, action movies and true life stories including Cal (1984), 2010 (1984),  Teaching Mrs. Tingle (1999), Calendar Girls (2003), Hitchcock (2012),  Woman in Gold (2015), Trumbo (2015), Red (2010) and Hobbs & Shaw (2019). The Triple Crown of Acting came from the Academy Award (film) for Best Actress in 2007 for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen, the Olivier Award (theatre) for Best Actress, and Tony Award (TV) for Best Actress in a Play for the same role in The Audience. Mirren’s other Academy Award nominations were for The Madness of King George (1994), Gosford Park (2001), and The Last Station (2009).  

 

In 2003, she was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for services to drama.

 

Mirren has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and a BAFTA Academy Fellowship. She has her own waxwork model at Madame Tussauds.

 

Personal life

Mirren lived with actor Liam Neeson during the early 1980s; they met while working on Excalibur (1981) and he said she was very important to his career in getting an agent.

She is now married to the American director Taylor Hackford, they met on the set of White Nights (1985). Hackford was married before and has children but Mirren does not have any of her own children, she always says she is not maternal.  

 

Even though she went to a catholic convent school Mirren has said that she does not believe in God but that she is quite spiritual, she likes the idea of fairies. When she was young, Mirren got a tattoo, a tiny symbol near her thumb which she says she now regrets.

 

Mirren is an inspiration to older women, beautiful, body confident and not afraid of nudity, she has been a model for clothing and is an ambassador for L’Oréal.  Modelling for L’Oréal during Paris Fashion Week in 2019 she went out onto the catwalk in a long black and white dress, running across the stage with no shoes – showing her fun attitude to life.

 

Next Projects

With latest film The Good Liar out she has new films coming up The Duke and Fast & Furious 9.

Camila Cabello

By Melanie Cork

 

“Hold on to what makes you glad you are alive and never let go” Camilla Cabello

 

Profile

Camila Cabello is an award-winning singer songwriter and one of the fastest rising stars in music. Now 23 years old the dark haired Cuban-American singer started her career in the girl group Fifth Harmony on the X Factor USA in 2012; and her first solo single “Crying in the Club” was released in 2017. “Havana” from her album “Camilla” also released in 2017 was an incredibly successful number one single and was at the top of the Billboard charts for seven weeks. Cabello starts a world tour in 2020 and is to star in a film of Cinderella in 2021.

 

Background

Born in Havana, Cuba on March 3rd, 1997 Karla Camila Cabello Estrabao was the daughter of Sinuhe Estrabao and Alejandro Cabello; she has a younger sister called Sofia. Her father is Mexican and during her early life she grew up between Havana and Mexico City. When she was 5, they moved to Miami, Florida. Cabello is now an American citizen. She went to High School in Miami but left early to become a singer. When Cabello first arrived in the US, she didn’t know English but was able to pick it up quickly by watching TV shows.

 

Singing Career

Cabello started out as a member of the girl group Fifth Harmony, on The X Factor USA in 2012 where they signed a record deal with Simon Cowell’s Syco Music, and Epic Records.  They released one EP “Better Together” and two albums.  When she was in  Fifth Harmony, Cabello began a solo career with the release of the collaborations “I Know What You Did Last Summer” with Shawn Mendes (which they wrote backstage at a Taylor Swift concert), and “Bad Things” with Machine Gun Kelly. After leaving Fifth Harmony in December 2016, Cabello released several other collaborations, including “Hey Ma” by Pitbull and J Balvin for The Fate of the Furious film soundtrack.

 

Her solo single “Crying in the Club” was released in May 2017. The Latin influenced first album Camila (2018) reached number one on the Billboard 200 chart. Its lead single “Havana”, with Young Thug was number one in several countries, including the UK and the USA. Havana is even rumoured to be former US president Barack Obama’s favourite song. Another single from the album “Never Be the Same” reached the top ten in multiple countries.

 

Cabello’s 2019 duet with singer Shawn Mendes, “Señorita”, reached number one in many European countries.  Cabello released her second studio album, Romance, which went to number one in the Canadian Albums Chart and reached number three on the Billboard 200 chart. The spooky musical sounds of “My Oh My” is the latest song to be released from this album featuring vocals from American rapper DaBaby.   

 

Influences

Cabello is influenced by Latin music and grew up listening to artists such as Alejandro Fernández and Celia Cruz. Her influences include J Balvin, Taylor Swift, Michael Jackson, Rihanna, and Shakira. In fact, Taylor Swift is a good friend.

 

Cabello’s style Icon is the actress Audrey Hepburn.

 

 

Awards

Cabello had the best-selling digital single of 2018 and has won many awards throughout her career, including two Latin Grammy Awards, five American Music Awards, and one Billboard Music Award. She has also received three Grammy Award nominations.

 

Personal life

Since July 2019, Cabello has been dating Canadian singer Shawn Mendes.

Cabello currently lives in a Mediterranean-style villa in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, California.

If she wasn’t a singer, she would be… a dentist or a barista!

Cabello has spoken openly about mental health and says she has dealt with shyness and social anxiety since she was a young girl and suffers with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).

 

Projects

Cabello donates to and supports Charities and is an ambassador for Save the Children.

On October 22, 2019, Cabello appeared with Prince William and Kate at Kensington Palace in support of the finalists for the BBC Radio 1 Teen Heroes Awards.

 

Romance Tour 2020

Cabello’s star continues to rise and tickets are on sale now for her Romance tour which starts in Europe on May 26 in Oslo, Norway, visits Europe, the UK and across America. 

 

And she’s going to be a fairy tale princess!

Cabello has always been a fan of Disney fairy-tale princesses. So, when she was offered the part of Cinderella in a Sony Pictures update of the classic story, due out in February 2021, it was an experience she couldn’t turn down, despite her anxiety. It will be a modern re-telling of the traditional fairy tale. She said in an interview it was like it had been handcrafted for her by God. “I just couldn’t say no. It’s honestly a dream for me. And, a little bit terrifying.”

Ed O’Neill TV & Movies

By Melanie Cork

 

I got into television, and I’m a television guy, so I’ve never really had a movie career.” Ed O’Neill

TV Shows & Movies

Funny man Ed O’Neil may be best known and loved for his two main long running TV roles as Al Bundy in Married… with Children and Jay Pritchett in Modern Family, but he has also starred in a lot of movies, some more well received than others, and often lends his distinctive gravelly voice to voiceover work. Here we look at some of Ed’s best.

 

Married… with Children 1987 – 1997

O’Neill became a household name when he began his role in “Married… with Children” as working class family man Al Bundy.  The comedy show follows the Chicago lives of Bundy, a once high school football player, now women’s shoe salesman who hates his job; his lazy wife, Peggy; their popular daughter, Kelly; and their unpopular son, Bud. Most storylines involve Al’s schemes being ruined by his own bad luck – the “Bundy curse”. His family mocks and disrespects him, and he always tries to relive his high-school football days.

 

Dragnet 2003-2004

In this re-make of the classic detective series, O’Neill played Lieutenant Joe Friday. O’Neill’s role was received well by critics and fans.

 

The West Wing 2004-2005

In a four-episode run on this classic political drama, O’Neill played the governor of Pennsylvania. It was a part that showed that he was very capable of a more serious acting role.

 

Modern Family 2009 to current

O’Neill’s most recent fame has been as Jay Pritchett on the Emmy-winning “Modern Family.” This highly successful series is about mixing up different people in a family. It follows the lives of Pritchett and his family, who live in Los Angeles. Pritchett is the father of Claire, Mitchell, and Joe. He is married to Gloria and stepfather to Manny. He is a veteran of the Vietnam War and founder and former CEO of Pritchett’s Closets & Blinds. The series was renewed for an eleventh and final season starting at the end of 2019. The show has won 22 Emmy awards and a Golden Globe.

 

Movies

 

Dutch 1991

Dutch is a road comedy-drama film starring Ethan Embry, Ed O’Neill and JoBeth Williams. To get to know his girlfriend’s son, a working-class good guy volunteers to pick him up from school, only to learn that her son isn’t a nice person at all.  

 

Wayne’s World 1992 and 1993

This cult comedy film stars Mike Myers as Wayne Campbell and Dana Carvey as Garth Algar, hosts of the Aurora, Illinois-based public-access cable TV show Wayne’s World. O’Neill’s character is Glen the manager of a popular donut shop, the character is comically dark and mysterious giving hints that his character he may have killed someone in the past. O’Neill plays the part brilliantly.

 

Little Giants 1994

The family-friendly sports movie was about two very different brothers (Rick Moranis and Ed O’Neill) who coached two separate football teams. The two decide to see which team is better in a game of all games in front of the whole town. Ed plays the tough and competitive football coach and former professional football player, Kevin O’Shea, with what appears to be the better team.  

 

The Bone Collector 1999

This hit thriller film stars Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. The movie was based on a crime novel about the quadriplegic detective Lincoln Rhyme.  O’Neill plays Detective Paulie Sellitto, one of the detectives trying to catch a killer on the loose who is basing their murders on an old book called The Bone Collector. 

 

Wreck-It Ralph 2012

Ralph is tired of playing the role of a bad guy in this Disney animation and starts a journey to become a video game hero, but he accidentally releases an enemy that threatens the entire arcade. When the arcade shuts down at night, the players come to life and live in a world of their own.  O’Neill is the voice of Mr. Stan Litwak the arcade owner. 

 

Entourage 2015

Entourage was a popular TV show on HBO. In this comedy film version, we see movie star Vincent Chase looking to get into directing. Throughout the movie, there are cameos from stars like Jessica Alba and Mike Tyson and Ed O’Neill.

 

Finding Dory 2016

O’Neill voices Hank, an octopus who was trying to escape when he met Dory. The two team up to get Dory where she needs to be and get Hank in a truck to Cleveland. O’Neill does a great job making Hank seem like the grumpy old man who’s too busy to help a person in need.

 

 Latest movie in 2020

O’Neill’s latest film is The Last Shift which follows an aging fast food worker, who’s approaching his final night shift after 38 years. When he’s asked to train his young replacement, his final weekend takes an unexpected turn.

Ed O’Neill

By Melanie Cork

 

I’ve always considered myself one of the luckiest guys.” Ed O’Neill
 

Profile

73-year-old Ed O’Neil is an American actor and comedian best known for his TV roles playing the character Al Bundy on the TV show Married… with Children and since 2009 as Jay Pritchett in the sitcom Modern Family. He has been in films including Wayne’s World, The Bone Collector and Sun Dogs and voices characters in Wreck in Ralph and Finding Dory.

 

Background

Edward Leonard O’Neill was born on April 12th, 1946 in Youngstown, Ohio USA. His parents were hard working Catholic Irish Americans.  O’Neil was the oldest of five children. To support the family, O’Neill’s father transported goods cross country as a truck driver and held a job as a steelworker. O’Neill’s mother was a local social worker.

At 6’1” O’Neil was a gifted athlete and footballer, and went to Ohio University on a football scholarship, he then transferred to Youngstown University. In 1969 he had a trial with a professional football club – the Pittsburgh Steelers but was dropped during training and so went back to University, this time to the theatre department. After graduating he became a social studies teacher before going into acting.

 

Career

It took time for O’Neill’s acting career to get going; from 1972 he auditioned many times for theatre productions, but rarely got speaking parts. He went to New York in 1977, managing with his small amount of savings, the money he got from selling his car, and a job as a bus boy. When he wasn’t working, he studied at New York’s Circle in the Square Theatre School and spent time at the Lincoln Library to listen to recordings of John Barrymore and Robert Shaw and read books on acting.

In 1979, he got a role as the lead understudy in the Broadway play, Knockout. When the main actor left, O’Neill was given a chance onstage. This got him started properly in acting. Over the next 10 years O’Neill worked in theatre and in commercials.

In 1980, he had a co-starring role in the Al Pacino film Cruising, and a supporting role in The Dogs of War. These higher profile roles helped him get guest appearances on TV series such as Miami Vice.

It was his starring role in a version of the play Of Mice and Men that would get him his big opportunity. An executive for the FOX network, saw him in the play and asked O’Neill to audition for a role on their new show – Married… With Children. This sitcom would focus on the lives of a working class, dysfunctional family in Chicago. O’Neill got the role of Al Bundy in 1987, the father who spent his time off work drinking beer, watching TV and talking about his days as a high school football hero. It became an instant hit.  The show ended in 1997 after 11 successful seasons.

After this O’Neill acted in a couple of movies The Spanish Prisoner (1997), and The Bone Collector (1999). Then more TV in the drama Big Apple (2001) and a remake of the crime drama Dragnet (2003). In 2004 O’Neill got a part in the successful political drama The West Wing.

It was in 2009 when O’Neill got his award-winning role of Jay Pritchett in the family comedy ABC’s Modern Family, a show about unconventional families which is still running, now in its very last season. O’Neill has also made guest appearances on shows including Entourage and Family Guy. He does voiceover work for advertisements and in animated films such as Wreck-It Ralph.

Awards

O’Neill was nominated for two Golden Globes for his role as Al Bundy and nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards and won four Screen Actors Guild Awards for his role as Jay Pritchett. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

 

 Personal

 O’Neill married actress and dancer Catherine Rusoff in 1986. They have two daughters and live in Los Angeles.

 

After being introduced to Jiu-Jitsu by his friend, O’Neill trained for 22 years and became a black belt.

 

Pop Superstar Britney Spears is a big fan, but O’Neill didn’t recognise her when she asked for a photo. O’Neill said he had been sitting at LAX airport when Spears asked for a photo, telling him he was her favourite cast member in Modern Family. O’Neill agreed and thought nothing more of it until he was told – as Britney’s photo generated thousands of likes on Twitter.  He had the same thing happen again when Taylor Swift asked for a photo with him at a party!

 

Coming Up

Modern Family is in its 11th and final season. As well as continued voice work, O’Neill is in The Last Shift, an American comedy film which premiered on January 27th, 2020.