Baija International Film Festival (November 14-18) will pay tributes to Edward Norton (Two time Academy Award nominee), Matt Dillon (Academy Award nominee), Melissa Leo (Academy Award winner), Diego Luna (Acclaimed actor, ‘Y Tu Mama También,’ ‘Milk,’ ‘The Terminal’), Michael Apted (Acclaimed director, ‘The Coal Miner’s Daughter,’ ‘Nell,’ ‘Enigma,’ ‘The World Is Not Enough.’ Current president of the Director’s Guild of America), Nicolas Echevarria (Acclaimed director, ‘Cabeza de Vaca,’ ‘De La Calle’), and Virginia Madsen (Academy Award nominee).
Edward Norton was born on August 18, 1969 to parents Edward, an attorney who works for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Robin Norton, a former foundation executive and teacher who passed away of brain cancer on March 6, 1997. Edward also has two younger siblings named James and Molly. From the age of 5 onward, the Yale graduate (majoring in history) has always been interested in acting. At the age of 8, he would ask his drama teacher what his motivation in a scene was. He attended theater schools throughout his life, and eventually managed to find work on stage in New York as a member of the Signature players, who produced the works of playwright and director Edward Albee. Around the time when he was appearing in Albee’s Fragments, in Hollywood, they were looking for a young actor to star opposite Richard Gere in a new courtroom thriller, Primal Fear (1996). The role was offered to Leonardo DiCaprio but he turned it down. Gere was on the verge of walking away from the project, fed up with the wait for a young star to be found, when Edward auditioned and won the role over 2000 other hopefuls. Before the film was even released, his test screenings for the part were causing a Hollywood sensation, and he was soon offered roles in Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You (1996) and The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996). Edward won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Primal Fear (1996). In 1998, Norton gained 30 pounds of muscle and transformed his look into that of a monstrous skinhead for his role as a violent white supremacist in American History X (1998). This performance would earn him his second Oscar nomination, this time for Best Actor. In 1999 came the critically acclaimed Fight Club (1999) and in 2000 came his directorial debut in Keeping the Faith (2000).
Matt Dillon, originally a teen star (generally in “troubled youth” roles), who has since matured into one of Hollywood’s most enjoyable actors to watch on screen with a wonderful versatility in his acting range, tall, lean and handsome Matt Dillon was born in February 1964 in New Rochelle, New York, and was discovered by pure chance. Talent scouts were roaming the halls of Hommocks School, spied the good-looking Dillon, and asked him to attend a casting call. He showed up, put on a swagger and petulant attitude for the casting director and landed his first film role, appearing in Over the Edge (1979), a “troubled-youth” film about bored Colorado teenagers fighting developers, their parents and the police. His next role was as a teen bully who gets his comeuppance in the “feel-good” movie My Bodyguard (1980). He was the object of teenage female desire in Little Darlings (1980), and followed that as a poor boy eloping with a rich girl in Liar’s Moon (1982).
Dillon was now a hot property, and his next three film roles were in quality productions of best-selling novels, by author S.E. Hinton, that cemented him as the US’ #1 teen star. First, he starred as a fatherless country boy in Tex (1982), then he headlined a cast of superb young actors, including Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze, in the moving The Outsiders (1983), and, finally, he was back in trouble once more in the superb Rumble Fish (1983). As his looks matured, Dillon moved into broader roles such as a Brooklyn teenager from a hard-working middle class family, who gets involved in the lives of the wealthy members of the “El Flamingo Beach Club” on Long Island, in 1963, in The Flamingo Kid (1984). He made his first foray into adult action with Gene Hackman in the thriller Target (1985), followed by several B-grade romantic efforts, before striking gold with the critics with his performance in the uncompromising ‘Gus van Sant’ film about drug addicts, Drugstore Cowboy (1989). Unfortunately, his next few films fell back into a degree of mediocrity until another intriguing performance as a young schizophrenic in The Saint of Fort Washington (1993), then another romantic comedy role in Mr. Wonderful (1993). He worked again with van Sant as naive husband “Larry Maretto” opposite murderous Nicole Kidman in the icy thriller To Die For (1995).
Melissa Leo attended the State University of New York, Purchase (SUNY Purchase). Other alumni include actors Parker Posey, Wesley Snipes, Stanley Tucci, Sherry Stringfield, Adam Trese, Edie Falco, Seth Gilliam, Dwight Ewell, and Steven Weber; producers Bob Gosse and Todd Baker; and directors Danny Leiner, Nick Gomez, and Hal Hartley.
In March 1997, ex-boyfriend John Heard was charged with harassing Melissa via telephone misuse and trespassing. Beat Julia Roberts for the role of Linda Warner on the soap opera “All My Children” (1970). Melissa studied at State University of New York, Purchase but did not graduate. Mother is Peggy Chessington Leo, a Californian teacher, and father, Arnold Leo, is an editor at Grove Press, and a fisherman spokesman for the East Hampton Baymen’s Association.
Was the runner-up for the 2004 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in 21 Grams (2003). Won the 2008 Utah Film Critics Association Award for Best Lead Performance by an Actress for her work in Frozen River (2008). Has two sons: Adam Leo (b.1984, adopted) and John Matthew Heard (b.1987, from ex-boyfriend, John Heard). Has worked with Kristen Stewart twice. Once in The Cake Eaters (2007) and again in Welcome to the Rileys (2010). According to Rob Lowe’s biography, “Stories I Only Tell My Friends”, he screen-tested with Melissa, who was in serious contention for the part of “Debbie” in About Last Night… (1986). However, the part eventually went to Demi Moore.
Diego Luna was born in Mexico City, Mexico on December 29, 1979. Unfortunately his mother died when Diego was only two in a car accident. He soon became immersed in his father’s passion, entertainment – he is the most acclaimed living theatre, cinema and opera set designer in Mexico.
From an early age he began acting working in tv, movies, and theater. His first television role was in the movie The Last New Year (1991). His next role in the Mexiacn soap opera “El abuelo y yo” (1992). His childhood best friend and fellow actor Gael Garcia Bernal played the title role. After ‘El Abuelo y Yo’, Diego began to receive more and more parts in theater, movies and TV. His big break came in 2001 when he was cast in the critically acclaimed Y Tu Mamá También (2001), once again alongside his best friend Gael Garcia Bernal, as Tenoch Iturbide.
His star continues to shine and he is currently making a name for himself in the American market such as staring along side Bon Jovi in Vampires: Los Muertos (2002) and the Oscar winning Frida (2002). He has just wrapped ‘Havana Nights: Dirty Dancing 2’, the prequel to ‘Dirty Dancing’ and is currently working on more projects in both Latin America and the United States.
Dillon remained busy and turned in excellent performances in the sexy thriller of murder and double-crosses, Wild Things (1998). He was hilarious as a sleazy private eye lovestruck by Cameron Diaz in the box-office smash There’s Something About Mary (1998). He starred in the black comedy One Night at McCool’s (2001), made his feature film directorial debut with City of Ghosts (2002), had a day that goes from bad to worse in Employee of the Month (2004). And, for his work in the Best Picture Academy Award winner Crash (2004/I), Dillon received a long-overdue Oscar nomination, as Best Supporting Actor.
Michael Apted is a former researcher at Granada TV. He was elected as the new President of the Director’s Guild of America. He replaces Martha Coolidge and has been a DGA member since 1978. Michael is a member of the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Documentary Branch)
He was awarded the C.M.G. (Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George) for his services to British film and television industries in the 2008 Queen’s Birthday Honors List. Directed three different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Jodie Foster, Sissy Spacek and Sigourney Weaver.
Nicolás Echevarría is a director, producer and cinematographer who has worked in both film and television, making documentaries and fiction films. His feature debut Cabeza de Vaca (1988) was an official selection of the Berlin Film Festival and represented Mexico in the Academy Awards. The film also won the Makhila dÂ’Or Award at the Biarritz Film Festival and Best Film at the Muestra de Cine Mexicano, among other prizes. He received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, among other honors. Echevarría studied architecture at the Universidad de Guadalajara, music at the Conservatorio Nacional in Mexico City, and animation at the School of Visual Arts in New York.
Virginia Madsen was one of the hottest stars of the mid-1980s, Virginia Madsen is one of Hollywood’s most talented actresses. Voted as one of the most beautiful actresses in 1986, Virginia has had several excellent performances in her career thus far. Audiences first caught a glimpse of her as “Princess Irulan” in the 1984 science fiction epic Dune (1984). She followed that up with Electric Dreams (1984); however, it was in 1986 that Virginia captured the hearts of the audience with an intense portrayal of a Catholic school girl who fell in love with a boy from a prison camp in Duncan Gibbins’ Fire with Fire (1986). Virginia played the role of “Lisa” and her co-star was Craig Sheffer, who played Lisa’s love interest, “Joe Fisk”. Kari Wuhrer also made an appearance as Virginia’s best friend, “Gloria”. Fire with Fire (1986) was a low-budget production, starring a bunch of fresh faces who were till then-unknown to Hollywood. However, the movie was a success and elevated its three young stars overnight. Virginia has never looked back since.
With 35 releases since Fire with Fire (1986) thus far, Virginia is a busy actress and has played a variety of roles which further enhance her reputation as a fantastic actress who can adapt to any kind of role. Virginia belongs to an acting family — with her brother Michael Madsen, also an actor, and her mother, Elaine Madsen, an Emmy-winning writer and producer.
Not only did she receive amazing reviews for her Academy Award and Golden Globe nominated performance in Alexander Payne’s hit film, Sideways (2004), but this Independent Spirit Award-winning actress has an illustrious resume of roles alongside the most notable and respected actors in the business.
Also on Virginia’s slate is her production company, with partner Karly Meola, called “Title IX Productions”. Their first project was the documentary I Know a Woman Like That (2009), which previewed at the Phoenix Film Festival in April 2009 and premiered at the Chicago Film Festival in October 2009. The doc was directed by Virginia’s mother, Elaine Madsen, about the lives of extraordinary women ages 64-94. Next in the company’s lineup is the documentary Fighting Gravity (2010), about women ski jumpers’ ongoing battle for the right to compete in the 2010 Winter Olympics. Title IX will team up with “Empire 8 Productions” and Vancouver-based “Screen Siren” on the project. The duo also has several projects in development that they’re shopping around for financing including screenwriters Sebastian Gutierrez’s screen adaptation of Martha O’Connor’s novel “The Bitch Posse” and a remake of the 1984 film Electric Dreams (1984), in which Virginia appeared.