A Journey from Broadway to Tinseltown, Sometimes with a Return Ticket
Sunday night Radio City Hall in New York City will host the 75th Tony Awards Ceremony that will honor some of Broadways’ best work after its first post-pandemic season. In anticipation of that event, nothing better than to recall some of the Hollywood heavyweights who successfully made the jump from stage to screen and sometimes back to the stage again.
While Golden Globe-nominated star of Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel Jodie Comer will only make her Broadway debut next spring starring in Prima Facie, the new play by Suzie Miller, that will be a solo show and a transfer from London’s West End, many Hollywood A-listers have started their careers on stage.
For instance, a star of Euphoria and Dune, Zendaya began acting as a child appearing in productions at the California Shakespeare Theater and Berkeley Playhouse and TheatreWorks before her first television gig in 2010.
Her Spider-Man co-star Tom Holland was a star of Elton John’s Billy Elliott – The Musical in Victoria Palace Theatre in London from 2008 to 2010 before making his debut in 2012 in The Impossible that led him to the role of new Peter Parker in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Last year Holland was in talks about playing Fred Astaire in an upcoming biopic, so his Billy Elliott’s extensive tapping experience would come in handy.
Another Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield, appeared in Kes (2004) and Romeo & Juliet (2005) in The Royal Exchange Theater in Manchester before he landed a role in Robert Redford’s drama Lions for Lambs costarring Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise in 2007. Future Golden Globe winner, Garfield made his Broadway debut in 2012 as Biff Loman in an acclaimed revival of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman alongside Philip Seymour Hoffman earning a Tony Award nomination for that performance. In 2018, after his success as Spider-Man, Garfield returned to Broadway to reprise his performance as Prior Walter in a transfer of the London’s National Theater production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America that earned him his first Tony award.
Garfield’s journey between the stage and big screen is quite unique: earlier this year Lin-Manuel Miranda’s feature directorial debut tick… tick… BOOM! garnered Garfield his first Golden Globe for the role of Jonathan Larson, whose semi-autobiographical story about writing a musical to get access to the theater industry created the basis for the stage musical of the same name.
It is impossible to discuss Broadway without mentioning the Golden Globe nominee Lin-Manuel Miranda. His musical In the Heights which debuted on Broadway in 2008 won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and was adapted to the musical feature film of the same name that was released in 2021. Miranda’s next Broadway hit – Hamilton – won eleven Tony Awards, a Pulitzer and Grammy in 2015. Miranda has been working closely with Disney pursuing his cinematic career: he appeared in 2018’s Mary Poppins Returns by Rob Marshall and contributed music to animated films such as Moana and the most recent Golden Globe winning Encanto.
Golden Globe winner Natalie Portman who will return to big screens as Jane Foster in Thor: Love and Thunder on July 1, made her off-Broadway debut at the age of 10 in 1992’s show Ruthless! when she played a girl who’d literally kill for the lead in her school play. A year later she made her film debut in Luc Besson’s Léon: The Professional, and in 1997 Portman played the role of Anne Frank in The Diary of a Young Girl in a Broadway adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank at The Music Box Theater in New York.
Portman’s onscreen sister in The Other Boleyn Girl (2008’s period drama written by Peter Morgan) Scarlett Johansson also had her first acting gig on stage: in 1993, when she was 9, future Golden Globe nominee acted alongside Ethan Hawke in an off-Broadway production of Sophistry, though she had literally two lines. It took her 17 years and four Golden Globe nominations before she made her debut on Broadway in Arthur Miller’s drama A View from the Bridge alongside the Golden Globe nominee Liev Schreiber and won her first Tony Award. In 2013, after she joined Marvel Cinematic Universe as Black Widow, Johansson returned to Broadway as Margaret in Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on the stage of Richard Rogers Theatre.
Golden Globe winning Gwyneth Paltrow cut her acting teeth at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 1990, a year before her acting debut in the Golden Globe nominated film Hook directed by her godfather Steven Spielberg when she had a chance to share the set with the Golden Globe winning Julia Roberts. In 1999, Paltrow returned to the stage of that Massachusetts Theatre to star in William Shakespeare’s As You Like It after winning her first Golden Globe for Shakespeare in Love though her Broadway experience yet only included the role of a producer of 2018’s Head Over Heels musical.
Speaking of Julia Roberts, it took her eighteen years of cinematic career and three Golden Globes to make her Broadway debut in 2006 with the role in Richard Greenberg’s Three Days of Rain alongside future Golden Globe nominees Bradley Cooper and Paul Rudd. Interestingly, this play is still the only Broadway experience for Roberts while Cooper, who also made his Broadway debut in Greenberg’s play, returned to the stage in 2014 for the role in The Elephant Man, Victorian era play by Bernard Pomerance. Paul Rudd who’s been performing on Broadway since 1997, in his turn hit Broadway only once since his trio with Cooper and Roberts: in 2012 he starred in Craig Wright’s Grace alongside Michael Shannon.
Golden Globe nominee and NYC Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute graduate Sienna Miller, on the contrary, commenced her career in film in 2001. Her stage debut followed in 2005 when she starred as Celia in London’s Wyndham Theatre production of As You Like It. And after her Broadway debut in 2009s play After Miss Julie, she starred as Sally Bowles in Broadway revival of the legendary 1966’s musical Cabaret on the stage of Manhattan’s Studio 54 in 2015 replacing the Golden Globe winning Michelle Williams.
Intriguingly, the second replacement for this role was assigned to then Golden Globe nominee Emma Stone. Cabaret has yet been the only Broadway appearance for Stone, though life-changing: she was cast as Mia in the Golden Globe winning La La Land after producers saw her performing on the stage of Studio 54.
An off-Broadway production of As You Like It in 1992 commenced the 30-year long stage career of Viola Davis. The Julliard grad, who plays as Michelle Obama in Showtime’s The First Lady, made her Tony-nominated Broadway debut four years later in Pulitzer-winning August Wilson’s Seven Guitars at Walter Kerr Theatre before she landed her first role in a Hollywood feature film. Davis returned to Broadway twice and both times she received Tony Awards: in 2001 for the role in Wilson’s King Hedley II, and in 2010 for the role of Rose in Wilson’s drama Fences alongside the Golden Globe winner Denzel Washington. It is noteworthy that a 2016’s film adaptation of Fences directed by Washington and starring he and Davis reprising their roles from the 2010 Broadway revival brought Davis her first Golden Globe award. And in 2020 she starred in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom directed by George C. Wolfe and based on the 1982 play of the same name by August Wilson set in 1920s Chicago. Davis’ performance as a legendary blues singer Ma Rainey garnered her the Golden Globe nomination in 2021.
Washington’s entire acting career, kicked off with Wings of the Morning in Maryland’s summer stock theater in 1976, is as well as an intermix of theatre and film. After his first stage performance, it took him twelve years to return to the theater world making his Broadway debut in Ron Milner’s Checkmates at 46th Street Theater in 1988, the same year he nabbed his first Golden Globe nomination in Richard Attenborough’s Cry Freedom. Washington’s most recent appearance on Broadway took place on the stage of Bernard B. Jacobs Theater in The Iceman Cometh, a revival of legendary 1939’s play by Eugene O’Neill. And earlier this year he received Golden Globe nomination for the role of Macbeth in The Tragedy of Macbeth, film adaptation of Shakespeare’s drama by Joel Coen.
This Shakespeare’s tragedy has always been in the spotlight, and currently we may see the new Macbeth on Broadway starring the Golden Globe nominee Daniel Craig that will be performed on the stage of Longacre Theater in New York through July 10. Directed by the Tony Award winning Sam Gold, this revival reteams producer Barbara Broccoli and Craig after his final appearance as James Bond in No Time to Die. For Craig, whose acting career commenced in the prestigious National Youth Theatre in London when he was 16, this is not the first Broadway appearance. He made his Broadway debut in 2009 as Joey in Keith Huff’s drama A Steady Rain alongside Hugh Jackman on the stage of Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. And four years later he returned to Broadway to join his wife Rachel Weisz in Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, examining an extramarital affair between Emma (Weisz) and her husband’s (Craig) best friend in backward chronology on the stage of Ethel Barrymore Theatre.
In Macbeth Craig stars opposite Golden Globe nominee Ruth Negga whose Broadway debut as Lady Macbeth garnered her the first Tony Awards nomination. The star of Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut Passing, like Craig, began her acting career in theatre, with the role of Ophelia in Hamlet, performed in the stage of the London’s National Theatre in 2010, being among her most acclaimed performances.
Welsh born actress, Catherine Zeta-Jones who will be playing Morticia Adams in Wednesday, Tim Burton’s live-action Addams Family series to be released on Netflix this year, garnered her Golden Globe nomination in 2003 for the role of Velma Kelly in Rob Marshall’s film adaptation of Broadway iconic musical Chicago. Unsurprisingly her acting career began in music theater: Zeta-Jones made her West End debut at the age of nine playing one of the orphans in Annie musical. After 28 years of cinematic career, Zeta-Jones made her long-awaited debut on Broadway and won her first Tony Award for the role of an aging actress Desirée Armfeldt in the 2009 revival of Steven Sondheim’s 1973 musical A Little Night Music based on Ingmar Bergman’s 1955 film Smiles of a Summer Night.
1977s original Broadway production of Annie musical became a breakthrough onstage role for Golden Globe winner Sarah Jessica Parker who had a prominent career in theater long before she became famous as Sex and the City star and Manhattanite fashion icon. Although the role of Carrie Bradshaw in HBO’s series garnered Parker four Golden Globes, it made her step away from Broadway for quite a while. After her roles in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in 1995 and Once Upon in Mattress in 1996, Parker focused on her cinematic career.
In March she made her triumphant comeback to Broadway with Plaza Suite – the first-ever New York revival of 1968’s classic comedy by Neil Simon, which is composed of three acts, each evolving three different characters by all set in Suite 719 of New York City’s Plaza Hotel. Parker plays three different ladies visiting New York City from Mamaroneck, Hollywood, and Forest Hills reuniting with her husband and two-time Tony Award winner Matthew Broderick. The play will be on stage of Hudson Theatre through July 10.
Another Tony Award nominee who is currently seen on Broadway is Beanie Feldstein nominated for a Golden Globe in 2020 for the role in Olivia Wilde’s feature directorial debut Booksmart. She is now starring as Fanny Brice in the first Broadway revival of 1964’s classic musical comedy Funny Girl performed on the stage of August Wilson Theatre and featuring some of the most iconic songs in theatre history including Don’t Rain on My Parade and I’m the Greatest Star. Fun fact: original production of Funny Girl was led by 21-year-old Barbra Streisand who won her first Golden Globe in 1968 after reprising this Broadway role in her feature film debut of the same name playing a girl from the Lower East Side who dreamed of a life on the stage. Streisand’s next role in 1969 was the film adaptation of Broadway musical Hello, Dolly! directed by Gene Kelly that brought her another Golden Globe nomination, and Feldstein made her Broadway debut as Minnie Fay in 2017’s revival of the iconic 1964’s Hello, Dolly! musical.
It’s typical for Broadway hits to get film adaptations, while the reverse is quite rare. Golden Globe nominee and Tony winner Billy Crystal is in the list of this year’s Tony Awards nominees for the Broadway musical Mr. Saturday Night that is a stage adaptation of his own 1992’s directorial debut of the same name. Crystal currently stars in the musical reprising his role of a stand-up comedian Buddy Young Jr. from the film alongside the Golden Globe nominee David Paymer on the stage of the Nederlander Theatre.
Before he became Logan aka Wolverine in X-Men series on screen in 2000, the Golden Globe winner Hugh Jackman starred in a series of stage musicals in Australia and in London’s West End including lead roles in Beauty and the Beast, Sunset Boulevard and Oklahoma! He started his theater and television career in 1994, and eight years later his role in James Mangold’s Kate & Leopold brought him his first Golden Globe nomination in 2002. In 2003 Jackman made his Tony-winning Broadway debut in the title role in The Boy from Oz, a jukebox musical based on the life of singer and writer Peter Allen. Three years later, in 2009 Jackman returned to Broadway starring in A Steady Rain, Keith Huff’s play about two Chicago cops alongside Daniel Craig. His cinematic career was in the upswing, and his role of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, 2012 epic period musical film, based on the 1862’s novel of the same name by Victor Hugo, earned him his first Golden Globe award. On his ongoing journey between Broadway and Hollywood Jackman has never been far from his theatre background, and in 2014 he starred in Jez Butterworth’s dark psychological drama The River.
Three years later Jackman gave another Golden Globe nominated performance as P.T. Barnum in the Grammy winning musical biopic The Greatest Showman as well as said goodbye to the role of Wolverine in Logan.
Earlier this year Jackman made his highly anticipated return to Broadway in what is widely agreed to be the greatest role ever created for an actor in the history of musical theater: Professor Harold Hill in the revival of the iconic Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man that has garnered him a second Tony Award nomination and currently is on stage of Winter Garden Theater. One of the treasures of the American musical theater, The Music Man was an instant smash hit when it premiered on Broadway in 1957 winning five Tony Awards and running for 1,375 performances. Interestingly, that Jackman was trying to get the role of Harold Hill when he was fourteen, but he lost it to his classmate, so this performance could be considered as Jackman’s journey back to his acting roots.