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November 5, 2015
Tony Awards: Nominations Leave Some Starry Names Out in the Cold
Daniel Radcliffe must be starting to think it's personal, but he's in good company among this year's high-profile snubs, with James Franco, Michelle Williams and Denzel Washington.
NEW YORK – With separate categories for musicals and plays, as well as lead and featured performers, the Tony Awards has 40 possible slots to honor outstanding actors from the Broadway season. But every year when the nominations are announced, a slew of marquee names get the cold shoulder.
The most surprising exclusion among this year's hefty crop was Daniel Radcliffe for his acclaimed turn in The Cripple of Inishmaan. While that Martin McDonagh revival scored five nominations, Radcliffe's name wasn’t among them, making pundits wonder what the Tony Nominating Committee has against the erstwhile Harry Potter. Radcliffe's previous Broadway appearances – in the drama Equus and the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying – both got a lot of love from critics, but no Tony nom. What does this hardworking actor have to do to prove his theater chops?
While reviews were mixed on James Franco's Broadway debut in Of Mice and Men and Michelle Williams' in Cabaret, both of those Oscar-nominated actors had strong pockets of support, but not enough to secure either of them a nomination. Franco's co-star Chris O'Dowd did make the cut for lead actor, while Williams' castmates Linda Emond and Danny Burstein scored featured acting mentions. (Alan Cumming, who also stars in Cabaret, was deemed ineligible, having won for the same role in the production's original Broadway run in 1998.)
Denzel Washington had to be content with congratulating his A Raisin in the Sun co-stars LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Sophie Okonedo and Anika Noni Rose, while missing out on a nomination himself. However, Washington already has a lead actor Tony on his shelf from his 2010 role in August Wilson's Fences.
Another performance loved by critics but snubbed by Tony nominators was Zachary Quinto's nuanced take on Tom Wingfield, the stand-in for playwright Tennessee Williams in his 1944 semi-autobiographical memory play The Glass Menagerie. All three of Quinto's co-stars, Cherry Jones, Celia Keenan-Bolger and Brian J. Smith, made the cut.
Limited-engagement productions from the fall often tend to fade from the Tony committee's memory by the time spring rolls around, which might partly explain the absence of Mike Nichols' divisive remount of the Harold Pinter three-hander Betrayal. The dynamic work of Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Rafe Spall as the three points of an adulterous triangle went unrewarded.
More surprising was the unequivocal snub to Will Eno's smart existential comedy The Realistic Joneses, which drew a wide range of reviews that included several outright raves from leading critics, with strong praise for its four-member cast, Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts and Marisa Tomei. That production scored not a single nomination.
Also unexpected was the absence of Rebecca Hall among lead actress nominees for her role as a desperate woman executed for murder in Sophie Treadwell's 1928 expressionist psychodrama Machinal. That well-received revival clearly did get the nominating committee's attention, however, with four Tony nods acknowledging the work of the entire principal design team.
While the repertory double bill of Pinter's No Man’s Land and Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot paired X-Men adversaries who also happen to be two grand old lions of the stage, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, those tandem productions came up empty-handed on Tuesday morning.
The thunder for those plays may have been stolen by another double, of the Shakespeare's Globe imports Twelfth Night and Richard III. Those all-male traditional Elizabethan-style stagings scored an impressive eight nominations in total, including two spots for Mark Rylance, as lead in the title role of Richard III and as featured actor for his giddy noblewoman Olivia in Twelfth Night. Rylance previously won lead actor Tonys in 2008 for Boeing-Boeing and in 2011 for Jerusalem. His Twelfth Night castmates Samuel Barnett, Paul Chahidi and Stephen Fry also earned nominations.
Other Shakespearean contenders such as Orlando Bloom in Romeo and Juliet and Ethan Hawke in Macbeth were less surprising shut-outs, and few pundits expected Mary-Louise Parker's idiosyncratic turn in the Chekhovian drama The Snow Geese to be singled out.
While they had not figured highly in Tony nomination predictions, a number of Broadway debuts from actors better known for their film or television work were overlooked, including Zach Braff in Bullets Over Broadway, Zachary Levi in First Date, Debra Messing in Outside Mullingar and Leighton Meester in Of Mice and Men.
More disappointing was the Tony nominators' failure to acknowledge the masterful fall revival of Terence Rattigan's drama The Winslow Boy, including sterling work from castmembers Roger Rees, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Alessandro Nivola.
Broadway has extended an erratic welcome to Hollywood stars over the years. For every Tom Hanks, who was warmly embraced by the theater community and came close to winning lead actor last season for Lucky Guy, there’s a Julia Roberts, Jessica Chastain or Claire Danes who listened in vain for her name to be called on Tony nominations morning.
Or just ask Scarlett Johansson about the hot-and-cold treatment. She won a 2010 featured actress Tony for her Broadway debut in Arthur Miller's A View From the Bridge, then returned with a lead role in a poorly received 2012 revival of Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which was entirely absent from nominations.