When it’s cold outside, grab a steaming mug of hot chocolate and start a binge-a-thon of movies and television shows featuring Illinois alumni who later became award-winning directors, screenwriters and actors.
Here are a few suggestions to add to your streaming queue for your next movie night:
Anything directed by alumnus Ang Lee
The Oscar-winning director has been recognized for his critically-acclaimed work on movies like “Brokeback Mountain,” “Life of Pi,” “Sense and Sensibility," “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and most recently "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk."
David Magee, also an alumnus with a master’s in fine arts from Illinois, was a screenwriter for “Life of Pi.”
Peter Pan and Pettigrew
Speaking of Magee, he also penned the screenplays for both “Finding Neverland" and “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.”
This Golden-Globe nominated Netflix original series took the Internet by storm (and gave us an insatiable craving for waffles), but did you know that one of the actors is an Illinois alum? Cynthia Barrett, an Illinois fine and applied arts alumna, plays the role as Barb's mom and reprises it in Season 2.
Binge-watch “Parks and Recreation,” starring Illinois theatre alumnus Nick Offerman
Offerman, who received his bachelor’s in fine arts from Illinois and gave the Commencement speech to the Class of 2017, played the loveable curmudgeon Parks Department supervisor Ron Swanson on the award-winning series. He is also featured in the movies “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” and “The Founder” and the TV series “Fargo.” Behind the scenes, Offerman has done voice work on “Hotel Transylvania 2,” “The Lego movie” and “Ice Age: Collison Course” and has toured nationally with his comedy show “American Ham” (now on Netflix).
Illinois – in space
After you’ve seen the newest Star Wars installment, check out two movies taking place in other galaxies far, far way that have Illinois connections.
First up is “Interstellar,” brought to you with assistance from animations of space created by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications’ Advanced Visualizations Laboratory. The film’s star Matthew McConaughey narrates a short film that explains the science behind “Interstellar” that features animations created by the Lab.
The Advanced Visualizations Laboratory has also created animated visualizations for the movie “The Tree of Life.”
And speaking of space …
What does one of the most famous science fiction films in history, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” have in common with Illinois?
According to co-screenwriter Arthur C. Clarke, the villainous computer HAL 9000 “became operational at the H.A.L Plant in Urbana, Illinois.” Clarke chose to put him at Illinois because his old math professor, George McVittie, was a faculty member on campus. “He had been my math professor at King's College, London, and he became professor of astronomy at Urbana, and that was a tribute to him,” Clarke told the Chicago Tribune in an interview.
Alumna Shanola Hampton has appeared in several television series, such as "Shameless," "Reba," "Popular," "Scrubs," "Criminal Minds," "Related" and "Miami Medical."
Here comes Spider-Man
Former Illini men’s gymnast Chris Silcox, BFA ’08, has worked as a stuntman in the movie “Spider-Man:Homecoming” as well as the HBO series “Westworld” and the TV live production of “The Wiz Live!” He’ll also be doing stunts in the upcoming Hugh Jackman and Zach Efron movie “The Greatest Showman.”
Groundhog Day, again and again and again ...
According to The News-Gazette, alumnus Stephen Tobolowsky earned his master's degree from Illinois and plays Ned Ryerson, the annoying former high school classmate Bill Murray is trying to flee in "Groundhog Day." The actor also had roles in "Memento," "Thelma and Louise," "Silicon Valley" and "Californication.”
Paging “Nurse Jackie”
Alumnus Dominc Fumusa, who received a master’s of fine arts from Illinois, played the character of Kevin Peyton on the comedy drama series “Nurse Jackie.” He also portrayed the character of Jared in the 2015 romantic comedy “Focus” starring Will Smith. He was also in the Michael Bay film “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi."
Find a new favorite
Morgan Peter Brown (BFA) has been featured in “Absentia,” “Ouija” and “Contracted: Phase II.” Jocelyn DeBoer (BFA) was in “Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead” and was a voice performer on “Wings: Sky Force Heroes.” Justin Gordon (MFA) was in “The Unbreakable Sword,” “Oculus,” “Absentia” and “The Hunting of Lost Characters.”
Although not an actor himself, Illinois alumnus Robert Greenblatt is the chairman for NBC Entertainment and oversees nearly 40 scripted series as well as late-night and reality programming for a variety of networks and digital platforms. He broke ground by introducing a live TV broadcast of the musical “The Sound of Music,” which drew 21 million viewers and has become an annual tradition.
The documentary "Life Itself" focuses on the career and life of the late Roger Ebert, a Pulitzer Prize winning movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and an Illinois alumnus. His wife, Chaz, continues to host Champaign-Urbana's annual Ebertfest, which journalism graduate Roger Ebert founded in 1999.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Alumnus Alan Ruck, who received his bachelor's degree from Illinois, portrays best friend Cameron Frye in the classic John Hughes film "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."
Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In
A journalism alumnus from the Class of 1949, Arte Johnson is an iconic comedic performer best known for his work on “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In," a sketch comedy series that ran until 1973. Fellow journalism alumnus Howard Johnson, Class of 1952, also worked on "Laugh-In," as well as “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour,” “Bewitched” and “The Monkees.” Howard Johnson also wrote and directed industrial films for the aircraft industry.
Film and television producers, writers
Alumnus Stephen Feder, who studied media and religion at Illinois, is currently the vice president of film development at Lucasfilm.
Charles Cooper, JOUR '49, spent most of his professional career with Helene Curtis from which he retired as chief operating officer. A documentary co-produced by Cooper, “In Our Own Hands: The Story of the Jewish Brigade in WWII,” was selected by the Motion Picture Academy as one of the outstanding documentaries of the 1998.
Alex Hedlund, MACS '05 and a 2006 graduate with a master's in journalism, is vice president of creative affairs and production at Legendary Pictures. His credits include “The Great Wall” and “As Above, So Below.”
Journalism alumnus William Nack, Class of 1964, wrote for Newsday, Sports Illustrated, GQ and ESPN.com. He also wrote several books including “Secretariat: The Making of a Champion” and served as an adviser on the Disney film.
"Happy Days" and "Real Husbands of Hollywood"
Ralph Farquhar, a veteran of the film and television industry and a 1973 advertising alumnus, began his career writing for the classic television series “Happy Days.” He was supervising producer of “Married With Children” and executive producer and co-creator of “South Central,” “Moesha” and “The Parkers.” Farquhar also developed and executive produced the hit animation series “The Proud Family” and the made-for-television martial arts movie “Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior.” Farquhar wrote the 1985 cult classic hip-hop flick “Krush Groove.” Farquhar is currently executive producer of “Real Husbands of Hollywood.”
Alumnus Jon Michael Hill is a Tony Award-nominated theater actor and is one of the lead recurring characters in the Sherlock-inspired TV series “Elementary.”
Sing-a-long with No Comment
One of Illinois' premiere a capella groups, No Comment, is featured in "Sing It On," a reality documentary series that follows the journey of five college a capella groups as they battle to win the International Championship of Collegiate A Capella (ICCA).
Danielle Banks, an Illinois sociology graduate, plays the role of Autumn in the Amazon Prime original series “Cheetah in August.”
Alumnus Ryan McPartlin, who graduated with a degree in speech communication, portrayed Devon "Captain Awesome" Woodcomb in the spy comedy TV series "Chuck" and has had roles on shows like "Hart of Dixie" and "Rizzoli & Isles."
Lights, camera, special effects
Rachel Reed, MACS '08, is a production manager at Industrial Light and Magic. Her credits include “Transformers: The Last Knight,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Jurassic World.”
Two Broke Girls
Jonathon Kite, who received his bachelor in fine arts degree from Illinois, was one of the leads in the TV series “Two Broke Girls.”
Alumna Betsy Brandt was one of the main characters in the TV series “Breaking Bad,” in which she played Marie Schrader, the protagonist Walter White’s sister-in-law. She was also featured in “Parenthood” and “Life in Pieces.”
Alumna Melissa Carlson has a recurring role in the TV series “Chicago PD" and alumna Amanda Drinkall had a featured role on "Chicago Med."
Corey Allen (MFA) had a recurring role in the TV series “Manhattan” as the character Theodore Sinclair.
Jeffrey Lieber (BFA) has written for “NCIS New Orleans,” “Necessary Roughness,” and “Miami Medical,” and was one of the creators of the iconic TV series “Lost.”