Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Betcha Didn't Know...?

Some of the most notable names from the dawn of film and television are of Latino descent. Here are some of them.

In this edition, an actor-musician known for his "Entourage", an opera diva (and Kennedy Center honoree), a European actor making his breakthrough in Hollywood, and a science communicator (who among other things, popularized the term "Manhattanhenge").

Adrian Grenier was born on July 10, 1976 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A., the son of Karesse Grenier and John T. Dunbar. His parents met at a commune in the 1970s, and were never married. His father was from Ohio, and was of European ancestry; his mother was born in New Mexico, to a Hispanic family, with mestizo (Spanish/Native American) roots; a DNA test, on the PBS program "Finding Your Roots". He was raised by his mother, a real estate agent, in Manhattan, New York. He went to Bard College in New York where he studied molecular biology. In 1997, he made his film debut in the independent drama Arresting Gena. In 1999, he played opposite Melissa Joan Hart in Drive Me Crazy. In 2002, Grenier made his directorial debut with the documentary, Shot in the Dark. The documentary chronicles his years-long search for his father, with whom Grenier's mother broke up while he was still a baby. Grenier and Dunbar remained estranged for 18 years, and in 2001, Adrian began work on the documentary in an attempt to forge a relationship with Dunbar. The two eventually reunited and maintain a warm relationship. HBO premiered the documentary on June 3, 2007. In 2004, he landed the lead role in the HBO series "Entourage", which has brought him his most substantial notice and success. In 2006, he won a role in The Devil Wears Prada, as Anne Hathaway's boyfriend, Nate. In addition to being a filmmaker, he is also a musician, playing guitar, drums, French horn, and the piano. He is a member of two New York bands, lead singer in Kid Friendly and drummer in The Honey Brothers.

Martina Arroyo (or Martina Arroyo Washington al estilo latino) was born on February 2, 1937 in New York, New York, USA, the daughter of Puerto Rican-born Demetrio Arroyo and Lucille Washington, an African American. Born and raised in Harlem, the operatic soprano conquered the opera world, from the Metropolitan Opera to the Vienna State Opera, from Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires to La Scala in Milan, Paris Opera, the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden as well as the great concert halls from Salzburg and Berlin to her hometown of New York. Few in her generation have been so fearless, or so successful, triumphant across the repertory, from Mozart, Verdi, Puccini and Strauss to Barber, Bolcom, Schönberg and Stockhausen. The New York Times once heralded her voice as "among the most glorious in the world." Her extensive recorded legacy reflects Arroyo's at once inspired and inspiring collaborations with the greatest conductors of our age: Leonard Bernstein, Karl Böhm, Rafael Kubelik, Zubin Mehta, Thomas Schippers, Colin Davis and James Levine. Since her official retirement from singing in 1989, she has amassed significant teaching credits, including stints at Louisiana State University, UCLA, University of Delaware, Wilberforce University, the International Sommerakademie-Mozarteum in Salzburg and Indiana University. She has given master classes nationally and internationally, and judged several competitions including the George London Competition and the Tchaikovsky International Competition. She founded the Martina Arroyo Foundation, which is dedicated to the development of emerging young opera singers by immersing them in complete role preparation courses. She is also active on the Boards of Trustees of Hunter College and Carnegie Hall. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000. She is a recipient of a 2010 Opera Honors Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2013, she received a Kennedy Center Honor.

Daniel Brühl, born Daniel César Martín Brühl González Domingo on June 16, 1978 in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, is an actor. The son of a Brazilian-born German TV producer Hanno Brühl and a Spaniard teacher mother, he was raised in Spain and Cologne, Germany. Brought up in a fully multilingual home, he speaks German, Spanish, English, French and Catalán. Brühl began acting at a young age and made his acting debut in 1995 as street kid Benji in the soap opera "Verbotene Liebe" ("Forbidden Love"). His international breakthrough role came in 2003 as Alex Kerner in the Golden Globe-nominated film Good Bye, Lenin!, which reached an estimated six million cinema-goers worldwide. In 2003, he won the European Film Academy award trophies for Best Actor (Critics/Audience Awards) for the role. He made his English-speaking film debut in the 2004 Ladies in Lavender, starring alongside British acting legends Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. He featured as Lieutenant Horstmayer, a central character in the 2005 film Joyeux Noël, a trilingual World War I film based on the experiences of French, German and Scottish soldiers during the Christmas truce of 1914. The film shows his linguistic ability as he ably communicates in German, French and English throughout.

In June 2006, he made a cameo appearance in Two Days in Paris, a romantic comedy film which was directed by French actress Julie Delpy. In September 2006 his Cannes-nominated film Salvador (Puig Antich) premiered in Spain. In the film he played Salvador Puig Antich, a Catalán anarchist executed during the Franco era. In 2007 he appeared in a small role in the film The Bourne Ultimatum. He was further introduced to mainstream U.S. audiences in the role of Frederik Zoller, a German war hero in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, starring Brad Pitt, which premiered at Cannes 2009. He, and his co-stars won the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. In 2009, he also starred in Julie Delpy's third directorial film The Countess. Later that year he decided to become active in a different field of filmmaking by launching the production company Fouronfilm together with Film1. He starred in the 2010 British-Russian production In Transit where he played a young Nazi soldier opposite John Malkovich. He also co-starred with Clive Owen in the 2011 horror thriller Intruders, which was directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. In 2013, he co-starred in The Fifth Estate, a film based on the founding of WikiLeaks, where he played Daniel Domscheit-Berg, alongside Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange. He is currently (as of this writing) nominated for a Golden Globe and a SAG Award for his role as race-car driver Niki Lauda in the Ron Howard-helmed motion picture Rush.

Neil deGrasse Tyson (or Neil deGrasse Tyson Feliciano al estilo latino) was born on October 5, 1958 in New York, New York, USA. Her mother, Sunchita Marie Feliciano Tyson, was a gerontologist, and his father, Cyril deGrasse Tyson, was a sociologist, human resource commissioner for the New York City mayor John Lindsay, and the first Director of Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited. His maternal grandparents were Puerto Rican. The astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator is currently the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space and a research associate in the department of astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History. From 2006 to 2011 he hosted the educational science television show "NOVA ScienceNow" on PBS and has been a frequent guest on "The Daily Show", "The Colbert Report", "Real Time with Bill Maher", and "Jeopardy!" He attended the Bronx High School of Science (1972–76) where he was captain of the wrestling team, and editor-in-chief of the school's Physical Science Journal. He had an abiding interest in astronomy since he was nine years old, following his visit to Pennsylvania and seeing the stars, saying "it looks like the Hayden Planetarium". He obsessively studied astronomy in his teens, and eventually even gained some fame in the astronomy community by giving lectures on the subject at the age of fifteen. He recalls that "so strong was that imprint [of the night sky] that I'm certain that I had no choice in the matter, that in fact, the universe called me."

Astronomer Carl Sagan, who was a faculty member at Cornell University, tried to recruit Tyson to Cornell for undergraduate studies. He chose to attend Harvard University, however, where he majored in physics. He was a member of the crew team during his freshman year, but returned to wrestling, eventually lettering in his senior year. In addition to wrestling and rowing in college, he was active in dance, in styles including jazz, ballet, Afro-Caribbean, and Latin Ballroom. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in physics from Harvard in 1980 and began his graduate work at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a Master of Arts in astronomy in 1983. In 1985, he won a gold medal with the University of Texas dance team at a national tournament in the International Latin Ballroom style. Tyson transferred from the University of Texas at Austin to Columbia University in 1988. At Columbia University, he earned a Master of Philosophy in astrophysics in 1989, and a Doctor of Philosophy in astrophysics in 1991. 

Dr. Tyson's research has focused on observations in cosmology, stellar evolution, galactic astronomy, bulges, and stellar formation. He has held numerous positions at institutions including the University of Maryland, Princeton University, the American Museum of Natural History, and Hayden Planetarium. He has written a number of popular books on astronomy. In 1995, he began to write the "Universe" column for Natural History magazine. In a column he authored for the magazine in 2002, Tyson coined the term "Manhattanhenge" to describe the two days annually on which the evening sun aligns with the cross streets of the street grid in Manhattan, making the sunset visible along unobstructed side streets. 

As director of the Hayden Planetarium, Tyson bucked traditional thinking in order to keep Pluto from being referred to as the ninth planet in exhibits at the center. Tyson has explained that he wanted to look at commonalities between objects, grouping the terrestrial planets together, the gas giants together, and Pluto with like objects and to get away from simply counting the planets. In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) confirmed this assessment by changing Pluto to the dwarf planet classification. He has written over a dozen books. He also donates all his income earned from numerous television appearances and appearances as a personal speaker. 

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