Tonys: Can Helen Mirren Win Another Award for Playing the Queen?

Helen Mirren Audience - H 2015

Helen Mirren Audience - H 2015

The countdown to the coronation is already underway: Dame Helen Mirren, who won the best actress Oscar for playing Queen Elizabeth II in the 2006 film The Queen, is now the clear frontrunner to win the best actress in a play Tony for her portrayal of the same monarch in this year's acclaimed Broadway production The Audience.

Which begs the question: how many people have previously won an Oscar and a Tony for performances as the same character/person?

The answer is nine. In the order of which they completed the double, they are:

  1. Jose Ferrer as Cyrano de Bergerac in Cyrano de Bergerac (Tony in 1948, Oscar in 1951)
  2. Shirley Booth as Lola Delaney in Come Back, Little Sheba (Tony in 1950, Oscar in 1953)
  3. Yul Brynner as King Mongkut of Siam in The King and I (Tony in 1952, Oscar in 1957)
  4. Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker (Tony in 1960, Oscar in 1963)
  5. Rex Harrison as Prof. Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady (Tony in 1957, Oscar in 1965)
  6. Paul Scofield as Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons (Tony in 1962, Oscar in 1967)
  7. Jack Albertson as John Cleary in The Subject Was Roses (Tony in 1965, Oscar in 1969)
  8. Joel Grey as the Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret (Tony in 1967, Oscar in 1973)
  9. Lila Kedrova as Madame Hortense in Zorba the Greek (Oscar in 1965) and Zorba (Tony in 1984)

It makes sense that Mirren, 69, would become No. 10: She is as associated with the role of the Queen as the aforementioned individuals will forever be with the aforementioned roles.

As you can see, though, only one of those people — Kedrova — won the Oscar before the Tony, as would be the case with Mirren, too. They would also be the only people on the list to win for playing the same people in different properties. (In Mirren's case, The Queen focused on her response to Princess Diana's death, while The Audience is about her interactions with Britain's prime ministers throughout her reign. Both were written by Peter Morgan.)

It seems unlikely that Mirren will be "penalized" for having previously played the Queen on the big screen, since that was a one-time performance. However, for many years, and perhaps even to this day, people who performed a role onstage and then on film (the much more common path) were dismissed by many — including the Hollywood trade papers — as being unworthy of Oscar recognition because, those people felt, they'd had an opportunity to perfect their portrayal over the course of many previous performances, unlike their competition.

More often than not, it never even came to that sort of a debate, because the Broadway performer was replaced by a "bigger name" Hollywood star when a show was adapted into a film. (The most famous example, perhaps, is Julie Andrews being replaced by Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. Ethel Merman, Kim Stanley, Carol Channing, Angela Lansbury and Chita Rivera also lost major film roles in this manner.)

Anyway, Mirren — who I had the pleasure of interviewing in 2012, and who recently was gracious enough to send flowers to one of her chief competitors for this year's best actress in a play Tony, Skylight's Carey Mulligan — isn't treating the award as a given. In between her seven performances a week, she's made a number of prominent media appearances promoting the show — The Late Show on Feb. 23, NPR on March 8, The Tonight Show on March 30, etc. And today, in fact, she will be participating a Q&A at Tina Brown's 6th annual Women in the World Summit — that has been titled, appropriately enough, "Helen Mirren Rules!"