“Mukesh al aharam. Septin tooso barayool. Heghlin im sarawar…” No, I haven’t had some kind of undiagnosed brain incident. That is a genuine, original, 100% authentic Elvish greeting, all by way of wishing Lord of the Rings star VIGGO MORTENSEN (1958-) a very happy birthday. During the making of Peter Jackson’s “epic” trilogy, the notoriously intense actor famously slept with his horse (well, you know, not slept with) and refused to be without his sword, all in the name of helping himself get into character; he even went as far as writing that funny little song he sings at the end that is apparently so emotional. He was due to appear here to say a few words but, unfortunately, in preparation for his upcoming birthday party, he has disappeared into the woods to bond with his birthday cake and translate Happy Birthday into Elvish. Still, it’s the thought that counts, eh?
Also celebrating their birthday today is Trainspotting director DANNY BOYLE (1956-), Manchester’s very own hyper-kinetic, try-any-genre-once, throw-it-all-in-and-see-if-it-sticks, occasionally successful, former enfant terrible. We have a difficult history, Danny and I; for every bold, spirited movie he makes (Trainspotting and erm…), he is guilty of two or three mis-steps (hateful hippy toss The Beach, the Event Horizon remake Sunshine), but it’s his birthday so I’ll go easy on him. The late, great BELA LUGOSI (1882-1956) also celebrates today or would had he not died half a century ago; still, his Dracula continues to be the one to beat and even the shortest of glares from those peepers of his would make vampire Bill piss in his denims.
In movie star deaths for this date we mourn the ever-impressive BURT LANCASTER, who I kind of see as a nice guy Charlton Heston (you know, without the gun fetish). After making his debut in Robert Siodmak’s adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers he went on to greatness, a career high point coming with his portrayal of J.J Hunsecker in Alexander McKendrick’s awesome The Sweet Smell Of Success opposite Tony Curtis. Also of note is The Swimmer; based on a short story by the brilliant John Cheever, it’s the tale of a man who, living as he does in a neighbourhood full of people with pools in their gardens, decides to swim home from work. Each new neighbour he encounters along the way illuminates his character a little more, until finally he reaches both his home and an unforgettable gut-punch ending. It’s pretty dated, but awesome; check it out. JACK ELAM, the crazy-eyed Grizzly Adams looky-likey also died on this day, in 2003. Although he starred in dozens of films, he’s most likely remembered as the crazy-eyed Grizzly Adams looking Doctor from The Cannonball Run 1 & 2. God bless.
In the movies (which is, after all, why we’re here) this is apparently the day when – in 2006 – Batman finally stopped both the Joker and Harvey Dent in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, as well as being Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas)’s birthday in David Fincher’s The Game. On a more serious note, and in real life too, it was on this day in 1949 that the House Un-American Activities Committee began it’s hearings into the supposed infiltration of communism into the US film industry, eventually resulting in the imprisonment of Dalton Trumbo, Ring Lardner Jr. and others (the so-called Hollywood 10) and the blacklisting of hundreds of others…