Posted in books, Fantasy, films & DVD

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

English author Lewis Carroll ( Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) told Alice Liddell and her sisters a story that would eventually form the basis for his book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland In a rowing boat on the River Thames from Oxford to Godstow, On July 4 1862 and It was subsequently published 4 July 1865. The journey began at Folly Bridge near Oxford and ended five miles away in the village Godstow. During the trip Dodgson told the girls a story that featured a bored little girl named Alice who goes looking for an adventure. The girls loved it, and Alice Liddell asked Dodgson to write it down for her. He began writing the manuscript of the story the next day, although that earliest version no longer exists. The girls and Dodgson took another boat trip a month later when he elaborated the plot to the story of Alice, and in November he began working on the manuscript in earnest. It tells of a girl named Alice falling through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures. The tale plays with logic, giving the story lasting popularity with adults as well as with children.It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre. Its narrative course and structure, characters and imagery have been enormously influential in both popular culture and literature, especially in the fantasy genre.

The novel starts with Alice feeling bored and drowsy while sitting on the riverbank with her elder sister who is reading a book with no pictures or conversations. She then notices a talking, clothed White Rabbit with a pocket watch run past. So She follows it down a rabbit hole, suddenly she falls a long way to a curious hall with many locked doors of all sizes. She finds a small key to a door too small for her to fit through, but through it she sees an attractive garden. She then discovers a bottle on a table labelled “DRINK ME,” so she drinks a little and the contents cause her to shrink in size. Unfortunately she leaves the key on the table. So She eats a cake with “EAT ME” written on it in currants.

After eating the cake Alice grows alarmingly and her head hits the ceiling. Alice starts crying and her tears flood the hallway. After shrinking down again Alice swims through her own tears and meets a Mouse, who is swimming as well and tries unsuccessfully to talk to him. The sea of tears becomes crowded with other animals and birds that have been swept away by the rising waters. Alice and the other animals reach the bank and a Dodo decides that the best thing to dry them off would be a Caucus-Race, which consists of everyone running in a circle with no clear winner. Then The White Rabbit appears and Mistaking her for his maidservant, Mary Ann, orders Alice to go into the house and retrieve some gloves but once inside she starts growing. The horrified Rabbit orders his gardener, Bill the Lizard, to climb on the roof and go down the chimney. Outside, Alice hears the voices of animals who hurl pebbles at her, which turn into little cakes and after eating them, Alice shrinks again.

Alice then encounters a blue Caterpillar on a mushroom smoking a hookah, who tells Alice that one side of the mushroom will make her taller while the other side will make her shorter. She breaks off two pieces from the mushroom. One side makes her shrink smaller than ever, while the other causes her to grow alarmingly. Eventually Alice brings herself back to her normal height and discovers a small estate and uses the mushroom to reach a more appropriate height. She sees a Fish-Footman deliver an invitation to the Duchess, who lives at the estate and meets The Duchess’s Cook who is throwing dishes and making a soup that has too much pepper, which causes Alice, the Duchess, and her baby to sneeze violently. Alice is then given the baby by the Duchess which turns into a pig. The Duchess’s Cheshire Cat then directs her to the March Hare’s house.

Here Alice becomes a guest at a “mad” tea party along with the March Hare, the Hatter, and a very tired Dormouse who falls asleep frequently, only to be violently woken up moments later by the March Hare and the Hatter. The characters give Alice many riddles and stories. Eventually though Alice tires of all the inane riddles and leaves claiming that it was the stupidest tea party that she had ever been to. Upon leaving the Tea-Party Alice enters the Queen of Hearts garden and encounters three living playing cards painting the white roses on a rose tree red because The Queen of Hearts hates white roses. A procession of more cards, kings and queens and even the White Rabbit enters the garden. Alice then meets the King and Queen, who is fond of saying “Off with his head!” For the slightest transgression. Alice is invited to play a game of croquet with the Queen and the rest of her subjects but the game quickly descends into chaos. Live flamingos are used as mallets and hedgehogs as balls. The Queen is then prompted by the Cheshire Cat to release the Duchess from prison.

The Duchess is then brought to the croquet ground at Alice’s request, and The Queen of Hearts dismisses her on the threat of execution and introduces Alice to the Gryphon, who takes her to the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon then suggests they play a game. So The Mock Turtle and the Gryphon dance to the Lobster Quadrille, and then the Gryphon drags Alice away for an impending trial where the Knave of Hearts is accused of stealing the Queen’s tarts. The jury is composed of various animals, including Bill the Lizard, the White Rabbit is the court’s trumpeter, and the judge is the King of Hearts. Others Attending the trial include the Hatter, and the Duchess’s cook. Alice is then called upon to give evidence as a witness. During the proceedings, Alice finds to her alarms that she is steadily growing larger and her increasing size causes problems. So The King and Queen order Alice to be gone, citing Rule 42 (“All persons more than a mile high to leave the court”). However Alice disputes their judgement and refuses to leave until the Queen of Hearts eventually shouts “Off With Her Head!”

Posted in Fantasy, films & DVD, Science fiction, Uncategorized

Ray Harryhausen

American-British artist, designer, visual effects creator, writer, and producer “Ray” Harryhausen was born June 29, 1920 in Los Angeles, California. He spent his early years experimenting in the production of animated short films and was greatly inspired by the stop-motion animation of pioneer model animator Willis O’Brien on the film King Kong. So a friend arranged a meeting with O’Brien for him. O’Brien critiqued Harryhausen’s early models and urged him to take classes in graphic arts and sculpture to hone his skills. Meanwhile, Harryhausen became friends with an aspiring writer, Ray Bradbury, with similar enthusiasms. Bradbury and Harryhausen joined the Los Angeles-area Science Fiction League formed by Forrest J. Ackerman in 1939, and the three became lifelong friends. Harryhausen secured his first commercial model-animation job, on George Pal’s Puppetoons shorts, based on viewing his first formal demo reel of fighting dinosaurs from a project called Evolution of the World which was never finished.

During World War II, Harryhausen served in the United States Army Special Services Division under Colonel Frank Capra, as a loader, clapper boy, gofer and later camera assistant, whilst working at home animating short films about the use and development of military equipment. During this time he also worked with composer Dimitri Tiomkin and Theodore Geisel (“Dr. Seuss”). Following the war he salvaged several rolls of discarded 16 mm surplus film from which he made a series of fairy tale-based shorts, which he called his “Teething-rings”.

One of Harryhausen’s most long-cherished dreams was to make H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. After World War II, he shot a scene of an alien emerging from a Martian cylinder showing the fearsome being from Mars fatally succumbing to an earthly illness, contracted from the air the natives breathe harmlessly. It was part of an unrealized project to adapt the story using Wells’ original “octopus” concept for the Martians. In 1947 Harryhausen was hired as an assistant animator on what turned out to be his first major film, Mighty Joe Young (1949). O’Brien ended up concentrating on solving the various technical problems of the film, leaving most of the animation to Harryhausen. Their work won O’Brien the Academy Award for Best Special Effects that year.

Ray Harryhausen first film featuring his technical effects was The Beast from 20,000 Fathom based on a story by The writer Ray Bradbury, who was a long-time friend of Harryhausen. This was about a dinosaur drawn to a lone lighthouse by its foghorn. Because the story for Harryhausen’s film featured a similar scene, the film studio bought the rights to Bradbury’s story to avoid any potential legal problems. To film Beast from 20,000 fathoms Harryhausen used a technique called “Dynamation” that split the background and foreground of pre-shot live action footage into two separate images into which he would animate a model or models so seemingly integrating the live-action with the models. The background would be used as a miniature rear-screen with his models animated in front of it, re-photographed with an animation-capable camera to combine those two elements together, the foreground element matted out to leave a black space. Then the film was rewound, and everything except the foreground element matted out so that the foreground element would now photograph in the previously blacked out area. This created the effect that the animated model was “sandwiched” in between the two live action elements, right into the final live action scene.

In most of Harryhausen’s films, model animated characters interact with, and are a part of, the live action world, with the idea that they will cease to call attention to themselves as only “animation.” Most of the effects shots in his earliest films were created via Harryhausen’s careful frame-by-frame control of the lighting of both the set and the projector. This dramatically reduced much of degradation common in the use of back-projection or the creation of dupe negatives via the use of an optical printer. Harryhausen’s use of diffused glass to soften the sharpness of light on the animated elements allowed the matching of the soft background plates far more successfully than Willis O’Brien had achieved in his early films, allowing Harryhausen to match live and miniature elements seamlessly in most of his shots. Harryhausen managed to save money, by developing and executing most of this miniature work himself, while maintaining full technical control.

Harryhausen then began working with color film to make The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, experimenting with color film stocks to overcome the color-balance-shift problems. Ray’s producer/partner Charles H. Schneer coined the word Dynamation as a “merchandising term” (modifying it to “SuperDynaMation” and then “Dynarama”. Harryhausen was always heavily involved in the pre-production conceptualizing of each film’s story, script development, art-direction, design, storyboards, and general tone of the his films, as much as any auteur director would have on any other film, which any “director” of Harryhausen’s films had to understand and agree to work under. Only the complexities of Director’s Guild rules in Hollywood prevented Harryhausen from being credited as the director of his films, resulting in the more modest credits he had in most of his films.

Harryhausen’s often worked with his family His father did the machining of the metal armatures (based on his son’s designs) that were the skeletons for the models and allowed them to keep their position, while his mother assisted with some miniature costumes. After Harryhausen’s father died in 1973, Harryhausen contracted An occasional assistant, George Lofgren, a taxidermist, assisted Harryhausen with the creation of furred creatures. Another associate, Willis Cook, built some of Harryhausen’s miniature sets. Other than that, Harryhausen worked generally alone to produce almost all of the animation for his filmsThe same year that Beast was released, 1953, fledgling film producer Irwin Allen released a live action documentary about life in the oceans titled The Sea Around Us, which won an Oscar for best documentary feature film of that year. Harryhausen then worked on Allen’s sequel. He also met producer Charles H. Schneer, Their first tandem project was It Came from Beneath the Sea (aka Monster from Beneath the Sea, 1955), about a giant octopus attacking San Francisco. followed by Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. In 1954, Irwin Allen began work on a second feature-length documentary film, about animal life on land called The Animal World Needing an opening sequence about dinosaurs, Allen hired premier model animator Willis O’Brien and Harryhausen to animate the dinosaurs, many agreed that the dinosaur sequence of Animal World was the best part of the entire movie. (Animal World is available on the DVD release of O’Brien’s 1957 film The Black Scorpion).

Harryhausen then made 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), about an American spaceship returning from Venus. The spaceship crashes into the ocean near Italy, which releases an on-board alien egg specimen that washes up on shore. The egg soon hatches a creature that, in Earth’s atmosphere, rapidly grows to gigantic size running amok and terrifying the citizens of Rome. He refined and improved his animation techniques still further for the Venusian Ymir alien. Harryhausen then developed a technique to maintain proper color balances for his DynaMation process, resulting in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) The Three Worlds of Gulliver (1960), Mysterious Island and Jason and the Argonauts (1963). Among the film’s best sequences is an exciting fight between three actors and seven living skeletons, And the confrontation with Talos the bronze giant. Harryhausen next made First Men in the Moon (1964), his only film made in the 2.35:1 widescreen (AKA “CinemaScope”) format, based on the novel by H. G. Wells.

Harryhausen was then hired by Hammer Film Productions to animate the dinosaurs for One Million Years B.C. (1966) featuringRaquel Welch in her second film. Harryhausen next went on to make another dinosaur film, The Valley of Gwangi. This is Set in Mexico, and features cowboys who discover a forbidden valley inhabited by dinosaurs and manage to capture a living Allosaurus and bring him to the nearest Mexican city for exhibition. However the creature, escapes and wreaks havoc on the town. Harryhausen’s next film wasThe Golden Voyage of Sinbad, featuring a sword fight involving a statue of the six-armed goddess Kali this was followed by Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. Harryhausen and Shneer’s next film was Clash of the Titans featuring stars such as Laurence Olivier Ursula Andress, Burgess Meridith and Harry Hamlin and for which he was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Special Effects. This features Perseus and his efforts to save the beautiful princess Andromeda from being sacrificed to the fearsome Kraken by undertaking a perilous journey to the Isle of the Dead Where he confronts the equally fearsome gorgon Medusa. sadly more sophisticated computer-assisted technology developed by ILM and others began to eclipse Harryhausen’s production techniques, with MGM and other studios refusing to fund his planned sequel, Force of the Trojans, sO Harryhausen and Schneer Retired from filmmaking.

In the early 1970s, Harryhausen also published a book, Film Fantasy Scrapbook (produced in three editions as his last three films were released) and supervising the restoration and release of his films to video, laserdisc, DVD, and Blu-ray. A second book followed, An Animated Life, written with author and friend Tony Dalton which details his techniques and history. This was then followed in 2005 by The Art of Ray Harryhausen, featuring sketches and drawings for his many projects. In 2008 Harryhausen and Dalton published a history of stop-motion model animation, A Century of Model Animation and to celebrate Harryhausen’s 90th birthday The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation published Ray Harryhausen – A Life in Pictures. In 2011 the last volume, called Ray Harryhausen’s Fantasy Scrapbook, was also published. Harryhausen continued his lifelong friendship with Ray Bradbury until Bradbury’s death in 2012. Another long-time close friend was “Famous Monsters of Filmland” magazine editor, book writer, and sci-fi collector Forrest J Ackerman, another friend was long-time producer, Charles H. Schneer, who lived next door to him in a suburb of London until Schneer moved full-time to the USA. Harryhausen and Terry Moore appeared in small comedic cameo roles in the 1998 remake of Mighty Joe Young, and he has also provided the voice of a polar bear cub in the Will Ferrell film Elf. He also appears as a bar patron in Beverly Hills Cop III, and as a doctor in the John Landis film Spies Like Us. In 2010, Harryhausen had a brief cameo in Burke & Hare, a British film also directed by Landis.

In 1986 Harryhausen formed The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation, a registered charity in the UK and US, which preserves all of his collection and promotes the art of stop-motion animation. In 2002, young animators Seamus Walsh and Mark Caballero helped Harryhausen complete The Story of the Tortoise and the Hare. This was the sixth and final installment of the Harryhausen fairy tales. The film was started in 1952 and completed in 2002, 50 years later and went on to win the 2003 Annie award for best short film and gained worldwide attention. Ray Harryhausen was also given a special tribute at The BFI Southbank theater which was attended by all the top visual effects directors and technicians and was hosted by director John Landis. At this event he was presented by Peter Jackson with a special BAFTA award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. In 2009, he released colorized DVD versions of three of his classic black and white Columbia films: 20 Million Miles to Earth, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, and It Came from Beneath the Sea, and of She (1935), in tribute to its producer Merian C. Cooper.In June 2010, it was announced that the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation had agreed to deposit the animator’s complete collection of some 50,000 pieces with the National Media Museum in Bradford, England.

The work of Ray Harryhausen was celebrated in an exhibition at London’s Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI) in 1990. In 2010 A theater at Sony Pictures Digital Productions was named in honor of Harryhausen. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted Harryhausen in 2005, He also received the annual British Fantasy Society Wagner Award in 2008 for his lifetime contribution to the genre and in 2003, Harryhausen was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 2013, the RH foundation and Arrow Films released a feature-length biography of Harryhausen and his films called “Ray Harryhausen – Special Effects Titan” on Blu-Ray. Featuring photos, artifacts, and film clips culled directly Harryhausen’s estate and never before seen by the public. A major exhibition of Ray Harryhausen’s models Entitled “Ray Harryhausen – Mythical Menagerie” was held at the Science Museum Oklahoma and another exhibition took place at Tate Britain in 2017 featuring work from the Harryhausen collection and short film made by John Walsh on the restoration of a painting owned by Harryhausen which influenced his work. In 1992 The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Ray Harryhausen a Gordon E.Sawyer Award to acknowledge His “technological contributions to the industry. He also made” A long series of appearances at film festivals, colleges, and film seminars around the world Harryhausen met many of

Ray Harryhausen sadly died on May 7, 2013 however his influence on today’s film makers is enormous, with luminaries; Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, John Landis and Nick Park citing Harryhausen as being the man whose work inspired their own creations. Peter Lord of Aardman animation also said that Harryhausen was “a one-man industry and a one-man genre”. Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright said “I loved every single frame of Ray Harryhausen’s work … He was the man who made me believe in monsters.” George Lucas also said, “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no Star Wars”. Terry Gilliam said, “What we do now digitally with computers, Ray did digitally long before but without computers. Only with his digits.” James Cameron also paid tribute by saying, “I think all of us who are practitioners in the arts of science fiction and fantasy movies now all feel that we’re standing on the shoulders of a giant. If not for Ray’s contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn’t be who we are.”

Ray Harryhausen left his collection, which includes all of his film related artefacts to the Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation, set up in 1986 to look after his extensive collection, to protect his name and to further the art of model stop-motion animation. The trustees are his daughter Vanessa Harryhausen, Simon Mackintosh, actress Caroline Munro who appeared in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and film maker John Walsh who first met with Ray Harryhausen in 1988 as a film student of the London Film School and made a documentary entitled Ray Harryhausen: Movement Into Life narrated by Doctor Who actor Tom Baker (who also appeared in the Golden Voyage of Sinbad. The Foundation’s website charts progress on the restoration of the collection and future plans for Ray’s legacy. In 2016 the foundation launched The Ray Harryhausen Podcast. This included never before heard audio from Ray Harryhausen. Hosted by Collections Manager Connor Heaney and John Walsh.

Posted in books, Fantasy, films & DVD

SIR J. M. Barrie OM

Best remembered today as the creator of Peter Pan, The Scottish author and dramatist, Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM sadly died 19 June 1937 after contracting Pneumonia. He was born 9 May 1860 in Kirriemuir, he was the child of a family of small-town weavers. At the age of 8, Barrie was sent to The Glasgow Academy, Scotland, in the care of his eldest siblings Alexander and Mary Ann, who taught at the school. When he was 10 he returned home and continued his education at the Forfar Academy. At 14, he left home for Dumfries Academy, again under the watch of Alexander and Mary Ann. He became a voracious reader, and was fond of Penny Dreadfuls, and the works of Robert Michael Ballantyne and James Fenimore Cooper.

At Dumfries he and his friends spent time in the garden of Moat Brae house, playing pirates “in a sort of Odyssey that was long afterwards to become the play of Peter Pan”.They formed a drama club, producing his first play Bandelero the Bandit, which provoked a minor controversy following a scathing moral denunciation from a clergyman on the school’s governing board. Barrie wished to follow a career as an author, but was dissuaded by his family who wanted him to have a profession such as the ministry. With advice from Alec, he was able to work out a compromise: he was to attend a university, but would study literature. He enrolled at the University of Edinburgh, where he wrote drama reviews for the Edinburgh Evening Courant. He graduated and obtained a M.A. on 21 April 1882.

He worked for a year and a half as a staff journalist on the Nottingham Journal following a job advertisement found by his sister in The Scotsman, then returned to Kirriemuir, using his mother’s stories about the town (which he renamed “Thrums”) for a piece submitted to the newspaper St. James’s Gazette in London. The editor ‘liked that Scotch thing’, so Barrie wrote a series of them, which served as the basis for his first novels: Auld Licht Idylls (1888), A Window in Thrums (1890), and The Little Minister, which eventually established Barrie as a successful writer. After the success of the “Auld Lichts”, he printed Better Dead (1888) privately and at his own expense, and it failed to sell. His two “Tommy” novels, Sentimental Tommy (1896) and Tommy and Grizel (1900), were about a boy and young man who clings to childish fantasy, with an unhappy ending.

Barrie began writing for the theatre, beginning with a biography of Richard Savage and written by both Barrie and H.B. Marriott Watson, this was followed by Ibsen’s Ghost (or Toole Up-to-Date) (1891), a parody of Henrik Ibsen’s dramas Hedda Gabler and Ghosts. His third play, Walker, London (1892), helped him be introduced to a young actress named Mary Ansell. He proposed to her and they were married on 9 July 1894. Barrie bought her a Saint Bernard puppy, who would play a part in the novel The Little White Bird (or Adventures in Kensington Gardens). He also gave Ansell’s given name to many characters in his novels. He then wrote Jane Annie, a failed comic opera for Richard D’Oyly Carte (1893), which he begged his friend Arthur Conan Doyle to revise and finish for him. In 1901 and 1902 he had back-to-back successes: Quality Street, about a responsible ‘old maid’ who poses as her own flirtatious niece to win the attention of a former suitor returned from the war; and The Admirable Crichton, a critically acclaimed social commentary with elaborate staging, about an aristocratic household shipwrecked on a desert island, in which the butler naturally rises to leadership over his lord and ladies for the duration of their time away from civilisation.


Peter Pan first appeared in his novel The Little White Bird, in 1902, and later in Barrie’s more famous and enduring work, Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, a “fairy play” about an ageless boy and an ordinary girl named Wendy who have adventures in the fantasy setting of Neverland. This was inspired by the Llewelyn Davis Boys whom he met in London who suggested a baby boy who has magical adventures in Kensington Gardens (included in The Little White Bird). It had its first stage performance on 27 December 1904. It has been performed innumerable times since then, and was developed by Barrie into the 1911 novel Peter and Wendy. It has since been adapted into feature films, musicals, and more. The Bloomsbury scenes show the societal constraints of late Victorian and Edwardian middle-class domestic reality, contrasted with Neverland, a world where morality is ambivalent. George Bernard Shaw’s description of the play as “ostensibly a holiday entertainment for children but really a play for grown-up people”, suggests deeper social metaphors at work in Peter Pan.

Following Peter Pan, Barrie had many more successes on the stage including The Twelve Pound Look which concerns a wife divorcing a peer and gaining an independent income. Other plays, such as Mary Rose and a subplot in Dear Brutus, revisit the idea of the ageless child. Later plays included What Every Woman Knows (1908). His final play was The Boy David (1936), which dramatised the Biblical story of King Saul and the young David. Like the role of Peter Pan, that of David was played by a woman, Elisabeth Bergner, for whom Barrie wrote the play. Barrie had many Friends including Novelist George Meredith, fellow Scot Robert Louis Stevenson, who lived in Samoa at the time, George Bernard Shaw who was his neighbour in London for several years, H. G. Wells was also a friend of many years, and Barrie met Thomas Hardy through Hugh Clifford while he was staying in London.

Although Barrie continued to write, Peter Pan quickly overshadowed his previous work and became his best-known work, and is credited with popularising the name Wendy, which was very uncommon previously. Barrie unofficially adopted the Davies boys following the deaths of their parents and was made a baronet by George V in 1913, and a member of the Order of Merit in 1922. Barrie is buried at Kirriemuir next to his parents and two of his siblings. He left the bulk of his estate (excluding the Peter Pan works, which he had previously given to Great Ormond Street Hospital in April 1929) to his secretary Cynthia Asquith. His birthplace at 4 Brechin Road is maintained as a museum by the National Trust for Scotland. However, Ormond Street Hospital, continues to benefit from the somewhat complex arrangement.

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Sir Ian McKellen CH CBE

English actor Sir Ian Murray McKellen, CH, CBE was born 25 May 1939 in Burnley, Lancashire. Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, his family moved to Wigan. They lived there until Ian was twelve years old, before relocating to Bolton in 1951, after his father had been promoted. McKellen’s father was a civil engineer and lay preacher, and was of Protestant Irish and Scottish descent. Both of McKellen’s grandfathers were preachers, and his great-great-grandfather, James McKellen, was a “strict, evangelical Protestant minister” in Ballymena, County Antrim. His home environment was strongly Christian, but non-orthodox. When he was 12, his mother died of breast cancer; his father died when he was 24. His great-great-grandfather Robert J. Lowes was an activist and campaigner in the ultimately successful campaign for a Saturday half-holiday in Manchester, the forerunner to the modern five-day work week, thus making Lowes a “grandfather of the modern weekend. McKellen attended Bolton School (Boys’ Division), and his acting career started at Bolton Little Theatre, of which he is now the patron.

An early fascination with the theatre was encouraged by his parents, who took him on a family outing to Peter Pan at the Opera House in Manchester when he was three. When he was nine, his main Christmas present was a wood and bakelite, fold-away Victorian theatre from Pollocks Toy Theatres, with cardboard scenery and wires to push on the cut-outs of Cinderella and of Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet. His sister took him to his first Shakespeare play, Twelfth Night, by the amateurs of Wigan’s Little Theatre, shortly followed by their Macbeth and Wigan High School for Girls’ production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with music by Mendelssohn, with the role of Bottom played by Jean McKellen. In 1958, McKellen won a scholarship to St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, where he read English literature.While at Cambridge, McKellen was a member of the Marlowe Society, where he appeared in 23 plays over the course of 3 years. At that young age he was already giving performances that have since become legendary such as his Justice Shallow in Henry IV alongside Trevor Nunn and Derek Jacobi, Cymbeline (as Posthumus, opposite Margaret Drabble as Imogen) and Doctor Faustus.

McKellen made his first professional appearance in 1961 at the Belgrade Theatre, as Roper in A Man for All Seasons. After four years in regional repertory theatres he made his first West End appearance, in A Scent of Flowers. In 1965 he was a member of Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre Company at the Old Vic, which led to roles at the Chichester Festival. With the Prospect Theatre Company, McKellen made his breakthrough performances of Richard II and Marlowe’s Edward II at the Edinburgh festival in 1969. During the 1970s and 1980s McKellen performed frequently at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre, portraying several leading Shakespearean characters including Macbeth and Iago in Othello. In 2007 he appeared in the Royal Shakespeare Company, productions of King Lear and The Seagull. In 2009 he appeared in Waiting for Godot at London’s Haymarket Theatre, opposite Patrick Stewart. He is Patron of English Touring Theatre and also President and Patron of the Little Theatre Guild of Great Britain, an association of amateur theatre organisations throughout the UK. In late August 2012, he took part in the opening ceremony of the London Paralympics, portraying Prospero from The Tempest.

McKellen’s career spans genres ranging from Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular fantasy and science fiction and He started his professional career in 1961 at the Belgrade Theatre as a member of their highly regarded repertory company. In 1965 McKellen made his first West End appearance. In 1969 he was invited to join the Prospect Theatre Company to play the lead parts in Shakespeare’s Richard II and Marlowe’s Edward II, firmly establishing himself as one of the country’s foremost classical actors. In the 1970s McKellen became a stalwart of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre of Great Britain.

Over the years he has gained fame for many notable film roles, which include Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies and Magneto in the X-Men films, both of which introduced McKellen to a new generation. He has been the recipient of six Laurence Olivier Awards, a Tony Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a BIF Award, two Saturn Awards, four Drama Desk Awards, and two Critics’ Choice Awards. He has also received two Oscar nominations, four BAFTA nominations and five Emmy Award nomination. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1979 Birthday Honours, was knighted in the 1991 New Year Honours for services to the performing arts, and made a Companion of Honour for services to drama and to equality in the 2008 New Year Honours. He has been openly gay since 1988, and continues to be a champion for LGBT social movements worldwide. He was made a Freeman of the City of London in October 2014.

Posted in Fantasy, films & DVD, Science fiction, Television

Jon Pertwee

Best known for portraying the Third Doctor in the science-fiction series Doctor Who between 1970 and 1974, and starring as Worzel Gummidge, the English actor, entertainer and cabaret performer John Pertwee sadly died in his sleep from a heart attack in Connecticut on 20 May 1996, at the age of 76. He was born 7 July 1919. Pertwee was educated at Frensham Heights School, an independent school in Rowledge, near Farnham in Surrey, at Sherborne School in Sherborne in Dorset, and at some other schools from which he was expelled. After school, he went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), from which he was also expelled after he refused to play a Greek “wind” during one of the lessons, feeling it was a waste of both his time and his father’s money. He was also accused of writing graffiti about the tutors on the lavatory walls.

During the Second World War, Pertwee spent six years in the Royal Navy. He was a crew member of HMS Hood and was transferred off the ship for officer training shortly before she was sunk by the German battleship Bismarck, losing all but three men in May 1941. Later, he was attached to the highly-secretive Naval Intelligence Division, working alongside future James Bond author Ian Fleming, and reporting directly to Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and Deputy Prime Minister, Clement Attlee. Teaching commandos how to use escapology equipment, compasses in brass buttons, secret maps in white cotton handkerchiefs, pipes you could smoke that also fired a .22 bullet.

After the war, he made a name for himself as a comedy actor on radio in Waterlogged Spa, alongside Eric Barker, and Puffney Post Office in which he played a hapless old postman with the catch-phrase “It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you tears them up.” On 15 November 1948, at the Wood Green Empire, he was billed as ‘The Most Versatile Voice in Radio. He also appeared in the Radio Shows “Merry-go-Round” and “Up the Pole”‘. From 1959 to 1977, he had a long-running role as the conniving Chief Petty Officer Pertwee in The Navy Lark on BBC Radio. He was known as a Danny Kaye look-alike, Whom he impersonated in the film Murder at the Windmill (1949).In 1953, he played Charlie Sterling in Will Any Gentleman…?. Alongside Future Doctor Who actor William Hartnell as Inspector Martin.

On stage, he played the part of Lycus in the 1963 London production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum with Frankie Howerd and appeared in the smaller role of Crassus in the 1966 film version. He appeared as Sidney Tait in the comedy film Ladies Who Do (1963). In 1966, Pertwee starred alongside Donald Sinden in the West End production of There’s a Girl in My Soup and also appeared in four Carry On films: Carry On Cleo (1964, as the soothsayer), Carry On Cowboy (1965, as Sheriff Earp), Carry On Screaming! (1966, as Dr. Fettle), and Carry On Columbus (1992, as the Duke of Costa Brava). In 1967 Pertwee had been producer David Croft’s choice for the role of Captain George Mainwaring in Dad’s Army.

His television career had started off with small parts in children’s shows featuring Richard Hearne’s Mr Pastry character. Later he made an appearance in The Avengers episode ‘From Venus With Love’ (1967) as Brigadier Whitehead, and in the 1970s, he guest-starred as a vicar in The Goodies’ episode “Wacky Wales”. In 1969, Pertwee was selected by outgoing producer Peter Bryant and the series’ next producer Derrick Sherwin to take over as the Doctor from Patrick Troughton in the television series Doctor Who. Pertwee had asked his agent to apply for the role for him and was surprised to find he was already on the shortlist. In a departure from the Doctor’s first two incarnations, Pertwee played the character as an active crusader with a penchant for action and fancy clothes, even while the character was exiled on Earth and serving with UNIT. He played the Doctor for five seasons from early 1970 to mid-1974, a longer stint than either of his predecessors in the role, William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, although the Pertwee era of Doctor Who ‘only’ had 128 episodes compared to the Hartnell era having had 134 episodes, as the BBC relaxed its shooting schedule from 39–45 episodes per season to 25–26 episodes per season at the start of Pertwee’s tenure as Doctor Who. He stayed until 1974, When he retired as the Doctor to resume his stage career in The Bedwinner.

The main reason for his departure was the death of his good friend and co-star Roger Delgado (The Master) and the departures of co-star Katy Manning and producer Barry Letts. His last full-time appearance in the series was in the story Planet of the Spiders in June 1974, which finished with Tom Baker replacing him in the role. He also starred in The House That Dripped Blood (1971) as an arrogant horror film star named Paul Henderson, who meets his doom thanks to a genuine vampire cloak. In 1973, Pertwee endorsed the Co-op’s Baking Your Cake and Eating it, a recipe book written by Sarah Charles. Pertwee later reprised his role as The Doctor in the 20th anniversary story The Five Doctors and the Children in Need story Dimensions in Time, in two radio adventures and on stage in Doctor Who – The Ultimate Adventure. On 14 April 1971, Pertwee was the subject of Thames Television’s This Is Your Life.between 1974 and 1978 Pertwee was the host of the murder-mystery game show Whodunnit?,

Pertwee then took the starring role in Worzel Gummidge, based on the books written by Barbara Euphan Todd. First aired in 1979 on ITV, the series saw Pertwee as a scarecrow, and continued until 1981. In 1987 Worzel Gummidge Down Under aired until 1989 and was screened in the UK on Channel 4. In 1995, Pertwee played the role one last time in a one-off special for ITV, which celebrated 40 years of the channel. Pertwee played the title character in Worzel Gummidge, the musical, book and lyrics by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall, music by Denis King, which opened at London’s Cambridge Theatre in December 1981, co-starring Una Stubbs and Geoffrey Bayldon. Pertwee also recorded an album, Worzel Gummidge Sings, as well as a Christmas single. In 1976, Pertwee voiced and appeared in the television advertisement which promoted the Green Cross Code and also starred with Australian actress Julie Anthony in a West End production of the musical IRENE playing the camp fashion-designer “Madame Lucy”. Pertwee also features on the cast recording album. He also voiced the character of “Spotty” in the 1980s cartoon series SuperTed and in 1985 he starred in Do You Know The Milkyway? Portraying Dr. Neuross and another nine characters. In 1995 Pertwee also had the key voice of Death and other voice characterisations in the PC and PlayStation renditions of “Discworld”. And also played General Von Kramer in the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles episode “Attack of the Hawkmen”. In 1975 he portrayed The Colonel’ in “One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing .

He returned to the role of the Doctor in the 1983 20th anniversary television special The Five Doctors and in the 1993 charity special Dimensions in Time for Children in Need. He also portrayed the Doctor in the stage play Doctor Who – The Ultimate Adventure. He made a guest appearance in the “Lords and Ladies” episode of the BBC Radio 4 comedy series Harry Hill’s Fruit Corner, playing a Time Lord and also spoofed the role in the Radio 4 comedy The Skivers. He also presented the Doctor Who video releases The Troughton Years. In 1993, Pertwee was featured in the unofficial 30th anniversary release of Doctor Who entitled 30 Years of Time Travel and Beyond. Pertwee portrayed the Third Doctor in two further audio productions for BBC Radio, The Paradise of Death and The Ghosts of N-Space. In April 1995, he appeared in Devious, an amateur video drama set between the second Doctor’s trial at the end of The War Games and before the start of Spearhead From Space. Pertwee’s final film role was in a short film entitled Cloud Cuckoo and also appeared on Cilla’s Surprise, Surprise, in 1996..

He was survived by his wife Ingeborg Rhoesa, and two children who had followed him into the acting profession, Sean Pertwee and Dariel Pertwee. Many Doctor Who actors payed tribute including Tom Baker and Colin Baker His body was cremated at Putney Vale Crematorium with a toy Worzel Gummidge affixed to the coffin, following the instructions in his will. His death came six days after the American broadcast of the Doctor Who television film, which used a logo based on the one from his era of the television series and featured a dedication to Pertwee at its end. Pertwee’s voice was used in the 40th Anniversary Doctor Who audio drama, Zagreus, as the TARDIS helps a corrupted Eighth Doctor (voiced by Paul McGann). Pertwee also wrote two autobiographies: Moon Boots and Dinner Suits and the posthumously published Doctor Who: I Am the Doctor – Jon Pertwee’s Final Memoir. In 2000, Jon Pertwee: The Biography by Bernard Bale (was published by André Deutsch, and included a few chapters by Pertwee’s widow Ingeborg.

Archival footage of Pertwee has been used several times in the revived Doctor Who. Including “The Next Doctor” when the Tenth Doctor shows Jackson Lake an infostamp about himself, “The Eleventh Hour” when the Eleventh Doctor rhetorically asks the Atraxi how previous alien invasion attempts were stopped, “The Name of the Doctor” and “The Day of the Doctor” which shows the Third Doctor assisting his other incarnations in sending Gallifrey to an alternate universe to protect it from the Daleks.

Posted in books, Fantasy, films & DVD

L. Frank Baum (Wizard of Oz)

Best known for writing “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, the prolific American author Lyman “L.” Frank Baum sadly passed away 6th May 1919. He was born on May 15, 1856 in Chittenango, New York, in 1856, and grew up on his parents’ expansive estate, Rose Lawn. AS a young child, he was tutored at home with his siblings, but at the age of 12, he was sent to study at Peekskill Military Academy, and after two utterly miserable years he was allowed to return home. Baum started writing at an early age and His father bought him a cheap printing press; which, with the help of his younger brother Henry (Harry) Clay Baum, he used to produce The Rose Lawn Home Journal.

The brothers published several issues of the journal, Baum also established a second amateur journal, The Stamp Collector, he also printed “Baum’s Complete Stamp Dealers” Directory, and started a stamp dealership with friends. At the age of 20, Baum started breeding fancy poultry, and specialized in raising a particular breed of fowl, the Hamburg. In March 1880 he established a monthly trade journal, The Poultry Record, and in 1886, he published his first book: The Book of the Hamburgs: A Brief Treatise upon the Mating, Rearing, and Management of the Different Varieties of Hamburgs.

Baum, then became interested in theatre, performing under the stage names of Louis F. Baum and George Brooks. In 1880, his father built him a theatre in Richburg, New York, and he set about writing plays and gathering a company to act in them. The Maid of Arran, a melodrama with songs based on William Black’s novel A Princess of Thule, proved a modest success. Baum not only wrote the play but composed songs for it and also acted in the leading role. His aunt was also the founder of Syracuse Oratory School, and Baum advertised his services in her catalog to teach theatre, including stage business, playwriting, directing, and translating, revision, and operettas.

In 1882, Baum married Maud Gage, and in 1888 they moved to Aberdeen, Dakota, where he opened a store, “Baum’s Bazaar” and later editing a local newspaper, The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, where he wrote a column, “Our Landlady”. Baum’s description of Kansas in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is based on his experiences in drought-ridden South Dakota. After Baum’s newspaper failed in 1891, he, Maud and their four sons moved to Humboldt Park, Chicago, where Baum took a job reporting for the Evening Post. In 1897 he wrote and published Mother Goose in Prose, a collection of Mother Goose rhymes written as prose stories, which was illustrated by Maxfield Parrish. This was followed in 1899 when Baum partnered with illustrator W. W. Denslow, to publish Father Goose, which was a collection of nonsense poetry, which became the best-selling children’s book of the year.

In 1900, Baum and Denslow published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to much critical acclaim and financial success, and this became the besselling children’s book for two years after its initial publication. Baum went on to write thirteen more novels based on the places and people of the Land of Oz.Two years after Wizard’s publication, Baum and Denslow teamed up with composer Paul Tietjens and director Julian Mitchell to produce a musical stage version of the book under Fred R. Hamlin, which, opened in Chicago in 1902, then ran on Broadway for 293 stage nights from January to October 1903. It returned to Broadway in 1904, where it played from March to May and again from November to December. It successfully toured the United States with much of the same cast, until 1911, it differed considerably from the book, and was aimed primarily at adults.

Encouraged by this success Baum then wrote a sequel, The Woggle-Bug, however the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman were omitted from this adaptation. He later worked on a musical version of Ozma of Oz, which eventually became The Tik-Tok Man Of Oz. This did fairly well in Los Angeles, and also began a stage version of The Patchwork Girl of Oz. Baum also wrote several plays for various celebrations. and In 1914, after moving to Hollywood, Baum started his own film production company, The Oz Film Manufacturing Company. Many times during the development of the Oz series, Baum declared that he had written his last Oz book and devoted himself to other works of fantasy fiction based in other magical lands, However, persuaded by popular demand, letters from children, and the failure of his new books, he returned to the series each time.

Sadly on May 6th 1919 L Frank Baum passed away after having a stroke, nine days short of his 63rd birthday. He was buried in Glendale’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery. His final Oz book, Glinda of Oz, was published on July 10, 1920, a year after his death. The Oz series was continued long after his death by other authors, notably Ruth Plumly Thompson, who wrote an additional nineteen Oz books. his other works also remained popular after his death, with The Master Key appearing on St. Nicholas Magazine’s survey of readers’ favorite books well into the 1920s. His novels also predicted such century-later commonplaces as television, laptop computers (The Master Key), wireless telephones (Tik-Tok of Oz), women in high risk, action-heavy occupations (Mary Louise in the Country), and the ubiquity of advertising on clothing (Aunt Jane’s Nieces at Work), and the Wonderful Wizard of Oz series of books remains popular to this day and his novels have been adapted for screen numerous times, the most famous being the 1939 version starring Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale which is a perennial Favourite on television during holidays.

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Sir Terry Pratchett OBE

English novelist Sir Terry Pratchett OBE, was born 28th April in 1948. He is best known for his frequently comical work in the fantasy genre In particular the popular and long-running Discworld series of comic fantasy novels. Pratchett’s first novel, The Carpet People, was published in 1971, and his first Discworld novel The Colour of Magic was published in 1983. Since then he has been very prolfc, writing on average, two books a year . After finishing the fourth Discworld novel, Mort, he decided to focus fully on hs novels and make his living through writing and published his fifth book Equal Rites soon after. Since then He has written many other discworld Novels including , wyrd sisters, pyramids, Guards Guards, Eric, Moving Pictures, Reaper Man, Witches Abroad, Lords and ladies, Men at arms, Maskerade, Feet of Clay, Hogfather, Jingo, Small Gods, The Last Continent, Interesting Times, the Fifth Elephant, The Truth, Thief of Time, Maurice & his Educated Rodents, Carpe Jugulum, Monstrous Regiment, the Last Hero, Night Watch, Wee Free Men, Hatful of Sky, Going Postal, Dodger, Making Money, Wintersmith, Thud!, Night Watch, Unseen Academicals, Raising Steam, The Shepherds Crown and I shall Wear Midnight. The Discoworld novel Snuff became the then third-fastest-selling novel since records began in the United Kingdom selling 55,000 copies in the first three days (and I bought one of them). The novels all had distinctive cover art by Josh Kirby and Since Kirby sadly passed away in October 2001, the covers have been designed by Paul Kidby. Pratchett has also written The Long Earth, The Long Mars and The Long Cosmos with Stephen Baxter and Good Omens with Neil Gaiman.

Many of Pratchett’s books have also been adapted for Radio and Television, the BBC’s Woman’s Hour broadcast The Colour of Magic as a serial in six parts and Truckers was adapted as a stop motion animation series for Thames Television by Cosgrove Hall Films in 1992. Johnny and the Dead was also made into a TV serial for Children’s ITV on ITV, and in 1995. Wyrd Sisters and Soul Music were adapted as animated cartoon series by Cosgrove Hall for Channel 4 in 1996. In January 2006, BBC One also aired a three-part adaptation of Johnny and the Bomb. A two-part, feature-length version of Hogfather starring Michelle Dockery, David Jason and featuring the voices of Christopher Lee and Ian Richardson, was first aired on Sky One in the United Kingdom in December 2006, and on ION Television in the U.S. in 2007. A two-part, feature-length adaptation of The Colour of Magic and its sequel The Light Fantastic aired during Easter 2008 on Sky One. A third adaptation, Going Postal was aired at the end of May 2010. The Sky adaptations are notable also for the author’s presence in cameo roles.

He remains a hugely popular author to this day and many of his books have occupied top places on the best-seller list. According to the Bookseller’s Pocket Yearbook from 2005, in 2003 Pratchett’s UK sales put him in 2nd place behind J. K. Rowling and in the paperback sales list Pratchett came 5th, behind James Patterson, Alexander McCall Smith, John Grisham and J. R. R. Tolkien). His sales in the UK alone are more than 2.5 million copies a year. In 1998 Pratchett was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) “for services to literature” . In addition, he was knighted in the 2009 New Year Honours. In 2001 he won the Carnegie Medal for his children’s novel The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents. In December 2007, Pratchett publicly announced that he was suffering from posterior cortical atrophy, a variation of Alzheimer’s disease and, subsequently, made a substantial public donation to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, and filmed a programme chronicling his experiences with the disease for the BBC. Sadly though Sir Terry Pratchett OBE, passed away on Thursday, 12 March 2015 at the age of 66 after a lengthy battle with the disease at his home surrounded by his family and with his cat sleeping on his bed. His latest novel “The Shepherd’s Crown” was published posthumously in 2015.

Posted in Fantasy, films & DVD, Science fiction, Television

George Takei (Star Trek)

Best known for his role as Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise in the 60′s television series Star Trek and numerous Star Trek Movies Amercan Actor George Takei was born 20th April 1937. Takei began his career in Hollywood in the late 1950s, His first role was providing voiceover for several characters in the English dub of Japanese monster films such as Godzilla Raids Again and Rodan, followed by an appearance in the Emmy award winning television series Playhouse 90 and Perry Mason The Case of the Blushing Pearls.He originated the role of George in the musical Fly Blackbird!, but when the show traveled from Los Angeles to Broadway the west coast actors were forced to audition and the role went to William Sugihara instead. Eventually Sugihara had to give up the role and Takei closed out the show’s final months.Takei subsequently appeared alongside such actors as Frank Sinatra in Never So Few (uncredited), Richard Burton in Ice Palace, Jeffrey Hunter in Hell to Eternity, Alec Guinness in A Majority of One, James Caan in Red Line 7000 and Cary Grant in Walk, Don’t Run. He featured in a lead role in “The Encounter” (1964), an episode of The Twilight Zone He had an uncredited role in the film PT-109 (1963) and also guest-starred in an episode of Mission: Impossible (1966). He also appeared in two Jerry Lewis comedies, The Big Mouth and Which Way to the Front? In 1969 Takei narrated the award winning documentary The Japanese Sword as the Soul of the Samurai.

In 1965, producer Gene Roddenberry cast him as Hikaru Sulu in the second Star Trek pilot and eventually the Star Trek television series. It was intended that Sulu’s role be expanded in the second season, but Takei’s role as Captain Nim, a South Vietnamese Army officer, alongside John Wayne’s character in The Green Berets meant that he only appeared in half the season, with Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov substituting for him in the other episodes. When Takei returned, the two men had to share a dressing room and a single episode script. Takei also appeared in the first six Star Trek motion pictures, and today he is a regular on the science fiction convention circuit throughout the world. He has also acted and provided voice acting for several science fiction computer games, including Freelancer and numerous Star Trek games. In 1996, in honor of the 30th anniversary of Star Trek, he reprised his role as Captain Hikaru Sulu on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, appearing as a memory of Lt. Tuvok, who served on the USS Excelsior under Sulu, during the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. He appeared alongside Shatner on the 2006 Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner in which the two mocked each other in good humor and embraced, Takei is also one of six actors (the other actors being Jonathan Frakes, Kate Mulgrew, Michael Dorn, Avery Brooks and Majel Barrett) to lend his voice to Star Trek: Captain’s Chair, reprising his role of Captain Hikaru Sulu when users visit the bridge of the original Enterprise in the computer game. In 2007, Takei also reprised his role of Sulu in the fan-made Internet based series Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II.

Aside from his film and television career with Star Trek, He also has a lengthy record of public service through his involvement with organizations such as the Japanese American Citizens League and the Human Rights Campaign.He is a proponent of gay rights and active in state and local politics as well as continuing his acting career. He has won several awards and accolades in his work on human rights and Japanese American relations, including his work with the Japanese American National Museum. In 2004, the government of Japan conferred the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, which represents the fourth highest of eight classes associated with the award. This decoration was presented in acknowledgment of his contributions to US-Japanese relations. George Takei also has an Asteroid named after him.


Andy Serkis

English Actor, Director and Author Andy Serkis, was born April 20th 1964. Serkis is known for his performance capture roles comprising motion capture acting, animation and voice work for such computer-generated characters as: Gollum in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (2001–2003) and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), King Kong in the eponymous 2005 film, Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), Captain Haddock in Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin (2011) and Snoke in Star Wars the Force Awakens.

Serkis’ film work in motion capture has been critically acclaimed, earning him recognition from many associations that do not traditionally recognise motion capture as “real acting”. Serkis has received an Empire Award, a National Board of Review Award, two Saturn Awards and a Screen Actors Guild Award for his motion capture work. Serkis also earned a Golden Globe Award nomination for his portrayal of serial killer Ian Brady in the British television film Longford (2006); and he was nominated for a BAFTA Award for his portrayal of New Wave and punk musician Ian Dury in the biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (2010). Serkis also reprised his role as the villainous Gollum in Peter Jackson’s three part Tolkien film adaptation “The Hobbit” – An unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug and “The Battle of Five Armies”.

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David Tennant

Best known for his roles as the Tenth Doctor in the British television series Doctor Who, Alec Hardy in Broadchurch, Giacomo Casanova in the TV serial Casanova, Kilgrave in Jessica Jones, and Barty Crouch, Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Scottish actor and voice actor David Tennant was born 18 April 1971 in Bathgate, West Lothian. He is the son of Alexander “Sandy” McDonald (1937–2016), a minister who served as the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and Helen McLeod. He grew up with his brother Blair and sister Karen in Ralston, Renfrewshire, where his father was the local minister. Tennant’s maternal grandfather, footballer Archie McLeod, met William and Agnes’ daughter Nellie while playing for Derry City FC. McLeod was descended from tenant farmers from the Isle of Mull.

At the age of three, Tennant told his parents that he wanted to become an actor because he was a fan of Doctor Who, but they tried to encourage him to aim for more conventional work. He watched almost every Doctor Who episode for years, and he spoke to Tom Baker at a book-signing event in Glasgow. Tennant was educated at Ralston Primary and Paisley Grammar School.He acted in school productions throughout primary and secondary school. Tennant also attended Saturday classes at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama;at 16, he passed an audition for the Academy, one of their youngest students, and studied there between the ages of 17 and 20, taking his stage name from the Pet Shop Boys frontman Neil Tennant after reading a copy of Smash Hits magazine. Tennant had to legally change his name to Tennant to meet Equity and Screen Actors Guild rules.

Tennant made his professional acting debut while still in secondary school. When he was 16, he acted in an anti-smoking film made by the Glasgow Health Board which aired on television and was also screened in schools. The following year, he played a role in Dramarama. Tennant’s first professional role upon graduating from drama school was in a staging of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui costarring Ashley Jensen. He also made a television appearance in the Scottish TV sitcom Rab C Nesbitt as a transsexual barmaid called Davina. In the 1990s, he appeared in several plays at the Dundee Repertory Theatre. Tennant’s first major TV role was as the manic depressive Campbell in the Scottish drama series Takin’ Over the Asylum. Where he met comic actress and writer Arabella Weir with whom he lodged in London for five years and became godfather to her youngest child. He has subsequently appeared with Weir in spoof television series Posh Nosh, in the Doctor Who audio drama Exile and as panellists on the West Wing Ultimate Quiz. Weir later guest-starred on Doctor Who itself after Tennant left the series). One of his earliest big-screen roles was in Jude (1996), in which he shared a scene with Christopher Eccleston, (Who also appeared in Doctor Who) playing a drunken undergraduate who challenges Eccleston’s Jude to prove his intellect.

Tennant developed his career in the British theatre, frequently performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company. His first Shakespearean role for the RSC was in As You Like It. He later portrayed playing Antipholus of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors and Captain Jack Absolute in The Rivals, Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. Tennant also contributed to several audio dramatisations of Shakespeare for the Arkangel Shakespeare series, Antipholus of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors, Launcelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice, Edgar/Poor Tom in King Lear, and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. In 1995, Tennant appeared at the Royal National Theatre, London, playing the role of Nicholas Beckett in Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw.

In 2000 Tennant appeared in the first episode of Reeves and Mortimer’s revamped Randall and Hopkirk Between In 2004 and 2005 he appeared in a dramatisation of He Knew He Was Right, Blackpool, Casanova, and The Quatermass Experiment In film, he appeared in Bright Young Things and later that same year appeared as Barty Crouch Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In 2005 Doctor Who was revived starring Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. Tennant replaced him as the Tenth Doctor in the episode “The Parting of the Ways” He also appeared in a special 7-minute mini-episode shown as part of the 2005 Children in Need appeal. His first full-length outing as the Doctor was in “The Christmas Invasion”. Tennant had fulfilled a childhood dream by becoming The Doctor. In 2006, readers of Doctor Who Magazine voted Tennant “Best Doctor” over perennial favourite Tom Baker. While In 2007, Tennant’s Doctor was voted the “coolest character on UK television”. Writer Russell T Davies made the decision not to use Tennant’s own natural Scottish accent for the character . However he used his own accent in the episode Tooth and claw masquerading as “Dr Jamie McCrimmon” of Edinburgh. He also had a small role in the BBC’s animated Doctor Who webcast Scream of the Shalka. He has also appeared in several audio plays based on the Doctor Who television series by Big Finish Productions. He appeared in the Seventh Doctor audio Colditz, portraying a Nazi lieutenant guard at Colditz Castle, he also appeared in Dalek Empire III as Galanar, a young man who is given an assignment to discover the secrets of the Daleks and UNIT: The Wasting for Big Finish, appearing as Brimmicombe-Wood from a Doctor Who Unbound play, Sympathy for the Devil alongside Nicholas Courtney, who reprised the character of Sir Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.

He also played an unnamed Time Lord in another Doctor Who Unbound play Exile. He also played the title role in Bryan Talbot’s The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, recorded The Stone Rose by Jacqueline Rayner, The Feast of the Drowned by Stephen Cole and The Resurrection Casket by Justin Richards. He made his directorial debut on the Doctor Who Confidential episode that accompanies Steven Moffat’s episode “Blink”, entitled “Do You Remember The First Time?” He also appeared with Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor in a Doctor Who special for Children in Need, entitled “Time Crash” and also performed alongside Davison’s daughter, Georgia Moffett (as “Jenny”) in the 2008 episode “The Doctor’s Daughter”. Tennant featured as the Doctor in an animated version of Doctor Who in The Infinite Quest, and also starred as the Doctor in the animated six-part Doctor Who series, Dreamland. Tennant guest starred as the Doctor in a two-part story in Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures. He played the Doctor in four special episodes in 2009, before his final episode aired on 1 January 2010, where he was replaced by the eleventh doctor, portrayed by Matt Smith. In 2013 Tennant and Billie Piper returned to Doctor Who for the 50th anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor” alongside Matt Smith and John Hurt and also appeared in the one-off 50th anniversary comedy homage The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.

Tennant portrayed the Tenth Doctor alongside Catherine Tate as former companion Donna Noble in three new stories from Big Finish which also Strax actor Dan Starkey, former Davros actor Terry Molloy, and many veterans of Big Finish, including Niky Wardley, who portrayed Eighth Doctor companion Tamsin. Tennant was also in the ITV drama Secret Smile. His performance as Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger at the Theatre Royal, Bath, and Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, was recorded by the National Video Archive of Performance for the Victoria and Albert Museum Theatre Collection. In 2006, he portrayed Richard Hoggart in a dramatisation of the 1960 Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscenity trial, The Chatterley Affair. In 2007, Tennant starred in the BBC Drama Recovery, Portraying Alan, a self-made building site manager who attempted to rebuild his life after suffering a debilitating brain injury. His costar in the drama was friend Sarah Parish, with whom he had previously appeared in Blackpool. He also starred in Learners, a BBC comedy drama written by and starring Jessica Hynes (another Doctor Who costar, in the episodes “Human Nature”, “The Family of Blood” and “The End of Time”), in which he played a Christian driving instructor who became the object of a student’s affection. Tennant had a cameo appearance as the Doctor in the 2007 finale episode of the BBC/HBO comedy series Extras with Ricky Gervais. In November 2008, Tennant played Sir Arthur Eddington in the biographical film Einstein and Eddington, In 2009, he worked on a TV film version of the RSC’s 2008 Hamlet for BBC Two and hosted the Masterpiece Contemporary programming on ABC And appeared in Rex Is Not Your Lawyer, playing Rex, a Chicago lawyer who starts to coach clients to represent themselves when he starts suffering panic attacks.

In 2010 he starred as Dave, a man struggling to raise five children after the death of his partner, in the British drama Single Father. For which he was nominated as Best Actor at the Royal Television Society Programme Awards 2010. In 2011, he starred in United, about the Manchester United “Busby Babes” team and the 1958 Munich air disaster, playing coach and assistant manager Jimmy Murphy. In 2011, he appeared in a guest role in one episode of the comedy series This is Jinsy, and also started filming True Love. In 2012, Tennant played lead in a one-off drama The Minor Character for Sky Arts and filmed Spies of Warsaw, an adaptation of Alan Furst’s novel The Spies of Warsaw, portraying Jean-François. In 2012, he started filming the 3-part political drama series The Politician’s Husband for BBC Two, playing an ambitious cabinet minister who takes drastic action when his wife’s career starts to outshine his. In 2012 Tennant appeared in the ITV detective series Broadchurch and also presented the new comedy quiz show Comedy World Cup. Tennant also appeared in The Escape Artist portraying a talented, junior barrister who is yet to lose a case. In 2014 Tennant filmed the US remake of Broadchurch, re-titled Gracepoint and a second series of Broadchurch during summer 2014. Tennant also portrayed the villainous Kilgrave in Jessica Jones. He is currently filming Mad to be Normal (previously titled Metanoia), a biopic of the renowned Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing. Tennant ALSO appears in writer/director Daisy Aitkens’ first feature film, You, Me and Him, co-produced by Tennant’s wife, Georgia. Tennant also portrays Cale Erendreich in the film Bad Samaritan.

In 2008 David Tennant joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), to play Hamlet with Patrick Stewart and Berowne in Love’s Labours Lost and appeared at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon as Hamlet, In 2011, a photograph of Tennant as Hamlet featured on a stamp issued by the Royal Mail to mark the RSC’s fiftieth anniversary. In 2012, Tennant was appointed to the Royal Shakespeare Company board, on the selection committee interviewing and choosing the new artistic director. In 2013 Tennant returned to the RSC portraying the title role in Richard II at Stratford-upon-Avon and the Barbican Centre in London. In 2016 Tennant reprised his role as Richard II in the RSC’s ‘King and Country’ cycle at the Barbican Theatre in London and the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York.

In 2007 David Tennant was the “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car” on Top Gear and also appeared in Derren Brown’s Trick or Treat. Tennant also appeared the radio series Nebulous (a parody of Doctor Who) in the role of Doctor Beep, during the 2008 episode “Holofile 703: Us and Phlegm” And voiced the character of Hamish the Hunter in the 2008 English language DVD re-release of the 2006 animated Norwegian film, Free Jimmy, alongside Woody Harrelson and Simon Pegg. In 2009, Tennant narrated the digital planetarium space dome film “We Are Astronomers” commissioned by the UK’s National Space Centre. In 2009, he presented Red Nose Day 2009 with Davina McCall and joined Franz Ferdinand onstage to play the guitar on their song “No You Girls” on a special Comic Relief edition of Top of the Pops. Tennant also appears in St. Trinian’s II: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold and he co-hosted the Absolute Radio Breakfast Show with Christian O’Connell.

Tennant also provides all the character voices for the audio book versions of the Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III stories by Cressida Cowell such as How to Train Your Dragon, including the Norfolk yokel of Norbert the Nutjob, the broad Glaswegian of Gobber the Belch, the hissing and whining Cockney of Toothless the Dragon and the sly insinuations of Alvin the Treacherous. He also played the role of Spitelout. In 2010, he also appeared as George in a one-part BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Of Mice and Men and also appeared with Catherine Tate in the Shakespeare comedy Much Ado About Nothing at London’s Wyndham’s Theatre as Benedick for which he he won the BroadwayWorld UK Award for Best Leading Actor in a Play. Tennant also voiced a character in the Postman Pat film. In 2011, Tennant started shooting the semi-improvised comedy film, Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger in Coventry.He played dual roles: the main character, put-upon teacher Mr Peterson, and his “golden boy” twin brother and rival. He appeared in a multi-million-pound campaign for Virgin Media. Tennant starred opposite Rosamund Pike and Billy Connolly in a BBC/Origin Pictures film, What We Did on Our Holiday, a semi-improvised comedy from the writers of the popular BBC sit-com Outnumbered.He is the narrator on Xbox One video game Kinect Sports Rivals. In 2015, Tennant appeared on the Radio 4 panel show Just a Minute, becoming the show’s most successful debut contestant. During 2017 Tennant is appearing in Patrick Marber’s Don Juan in Soho at the Wyndham’s Theatre.

Tennant was named “Coolest Man on TV” of 2007 in a Radio Times survey. He won the National Television Awards award for Most Popular Actor in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010. He was voted 16th Sexiest Man in the World by a 2008 Cosmopolitan survey. Tennant was ranked the 24th most influential person in the British media on 9 July 2007, according to MediaGuardian. He appeared in the paper’s annual media rankings in 2006. In December 2008, he was named as one of the most influential people in show business by British theatre and entertainment magazine The Stage, making him the fifth actor to achieve a ranking in the top 20. He was voted the third best dressed man in Britain in GQ reader’s poll for 2013. In the expansion EverQuest: Seeds of Destruction for the game EverQuest, a character was introduced called Tavid Dennant, named after David Tennant. In 2008, Tennant was voted “Greenest Star on the Planet” in an online vote held by Playhouse Disney as part of the Playing for the Planet Awards.In 2008 he underwent surgery for a prolapsed disc. He is a supporter of the Labour Party and appeared in a party political broadcast for them in 2005; in 2010, he declared his support for then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown. In April 2010, he lent his voice to a Labour Party election broadcast. In 2012, he introduced Labour Party leader Ed Miliband at the Labour Party Conference. In 2015, he also lent his voice to a Labour Party General Election broadcast. He is a patron of Worldwide Cancer Research.

In December 2005, The Stage placed Tennant at No. 6 in its “Top Ten” list of the most influential British television artists of the year, citing his roles in Blackpool, Casanova, Secret Smile, and Doctor Who.In January 2006, readers of the British gay and lesbian newspaper The Pink Paper voted him the “Sexiest Man in the Universe”. A poll of over 10,000 women for the March 2006 issue of New Woman magazine ranked him 20th in their list of the “Top 100 Men”.In October 2006, he was named “Scotland’s most stylish male” in the Scottish Style Awards.

Posted in Fantasy, films & DVD, Television

Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones)

English actress Margaret Constance “Maisie” Williams was born 15 April 1997 in Bristol, UK. She is nicknamed “Maisie” after the character from the comic strip The Perishers. Maisie is the youngest of four children; her three older siblings are James, Beth, and Ted. Born to Hilary Pitt (now Frances) a former university course administrator, she grew up in Clutton, Somerset. She attended Clutton Primary School and Norton Hill School in Midsomer Norton, before moving to Bath Dance College to study Performing Arts.

She made her professional acting debut as Arya Stark of Winterfell in the HBO fantasy television series Game of Thrones in 2011, for which she won the EWwy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama, the Portal Award for Best Supporting Actress – Television and Best Young Actor, and the Saturn Award for Best Performance by a Younger Actor. In 2016, she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Williams has also had a recurring role in Doctor Who as Ashildr in 2015. She made her feature film debut in the mystery The Falling (2014), for which she won the London Film Critics’ Circle Award for Young Performer of the Year.