Image source: Oreos on Wikimedia Commons
Plenty of New Yorkers have made it big in Hollywood over the years. But which movie stars are from Queens? Since we’re in “awards season” between the Golden Globes and the Oscars, we thought it was a good time to pay homage to all the big-time filmmakers and actors who come from our fair borough.
First, we’d like to give a big congratulations to Benh Zeitlin, director of Beasts of the Southern Wild, who has been nominated for two Academy Awards this year – for best director and best adapted screenplay. The 30-year-old filmmaker was raised in Sunnyside. According to IndieWire, “His parents are folklorists, and his house was frequently filled with all sorts of people and wild stories. It was normal to come home and find an inner city church choir. The Coney Island freak show were close friends; members squeezed themselves through coat hangers at birthday parties.” So it’s fitting that his first feature film is an imaginative fantasy drama; Beasts of the Southern Wild is also up for an Oscar for best picture, and has already won awards at Cannes, Sundance, and other film festivals.
Zeitlin could join the ranks of other Oscar-winning directors who hail from Queens: huge names like Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese. Coppola, who lived in Woodside for most of his childhood, won a Golden Globe for best director in 1972 (for The Godfather) and an Academy Award for best director in 1974 (for The Godfather Part II). Both films won Academy Awards for best picture. Scorsese, who was born in Flushing but mostly grew up in Manhattan’s Little Italy, has won three Golden Globes for best director: in 2002 for Gangs of New York, in 2006 for The Departed, and in 2011 for Hugo. Surprisingly, he has has only won one Academy Award for best director (in 2006 for The Departed), although he has been nominated seven times now.
Other filmmakers originally from Flushing include Judd Apatow and Jon Favreau (who also attended Queens College). Apatow is famous for directing, producing and writing comedies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, and producing/co-producing Bridesmaids, Superbad and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Favreau is most well known for writing and acting in Swingers, and directing and acting in films such as Elf and Iron Man. The film producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who are more active on the executive side of the business, are also from Flushing, having grown up in the Electchester housing co-op.
Image source: nick step on Flickr
One of the most famous Academy Award-winning actors from the borough is Susan Sarandon, who was born in Jackson Heights. She won an Oscar for best actress for her role in 1995′s Dead Man Walking, and has been in other classics like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Thelma & Louise. Active in many nonprofit organizations and progressive causes, Sarandon recently held a post-Sandy benefit for Breezy Point at her Manhattan ping pong club, SPiN.
Martin Landau is another of the Oscar-winning actors from Queens, having grown up in Kew Gardens Hills. Landau won the Academy Award for best supporting actor in 1994′s Ed Wood, a biopic in which he played Bela Lugosi of Dracula fame. His film career has been going for over 50 years, since 1959, when he appeared in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller North by Northwest.
Another notable Oscar winner from Queens is actor Adrien Brody, who was born in Woodhaven and went to middle school at I.S. 145 in Jackson Heights. Brody won the 2002 Academy Award for best actor for his role in The Pianist playing a Polish-Jewish musician living under Nazi rule. One of his more recent roles was in Detachment, a 2011 film about a public high school in Queens.
Image source: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer on Flickr
Also in Detachment was Jackson Heights native Lucy Liu, who attended I.S. 145 too. Liu became famous for her role in TV’s Ally McBeal, and went on to star in movies such as Charlie’s Angels and Kill Bill. Raised in Jackson Heights and a former student of I.S. 145 as well, John Leguizamo has acted in dozens of films, including Romeo + Juliet, Ice Age and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.
The neighborhood of Forest Hills has produced plenty of stars. Ray Romano, who grew up in Forest Hills, is most famous for his TV comedy work on Everybody Loves Raymond, and was also the voice of the main character in the animated Ice Age films. Another notable actor from Forest Hills is Hank Azaria, who is most well known for his voice acting for The Simpsons, and has appeared in many films including Pretty Woman, Quiz Show and America’s Sweethearts. Forest Hills is also the hometown of David Krumholtz, who has been in The Santa Clause, 10 Things I Hate About You and the Harold & Kumar movies.
Plenty of other film actors hail from Queens. Robert Davi, born in Astoria, appeared in Die Hard, The Goonies and Showgirls. Rosemarie DeWitt, born in Flushing, was lauded for her role in Rachel Getting Married. Burt Young, who was in the Rocky films, grew up in Corona. Tichina Arnold, who appeared in Big Momma’s House and several TV shows, is from Jamaica. Madeline Kahn, famous for her roles in Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles, grew up in Queens Village. And, going way back, the legendary actress Mae West lived in Woodhaven for some of her childhood.
These are just some of the film stars who were born in Queens or grew up here. It’s interesting to see the neighborhoods they hail from – there are so many from Flushing, Jackson Heights and Forest Hills that we wonder if there’s something in the water, especially at I.S. 145, which helped educate at least three movie stars.