Movie actors who have won a Tony Award for Leading Actor
To perform for a theater full of spectators, a stage actor's performance must be bigger and more theatrical, so that the person in the balcony feels the performance with the same intensity as the person in the front row. In screen acting, subtlety is king; every spectator has a similar seat, a whisper away. Because of that difference, some of the best stage actors just don't translate to film and vice versa.
But the rare great actors can do it all, thriving on stage and on the silver screen. Even rarer still, some can thrive on the small screen as well. “30 Rock” popularized the idea of the EGOT, the feat of winning an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony; there have been only 15 EGOT winners, and only 24 actors have even achieved a Triple Crown of Acting, winning an Oscar, a Tony, and an Emmy. To act in a play is to do it live, without cuts, night after night in a crowded theater; to act on screen is to summon deep emotion in short spurts, often out of order. Clearly, the skills are similar—and yet, they're not the same.
On June 9, the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing will give out awards to the best of American theater at the 73rd Annual Tony Awards. The show will air on CBS and be hosted by James Corden of “Late Late Show.” With Jeff Daniels, Adam Driver, and Bryan Cranston all nominated for Best Actor in a Play, Stacker compiled a list of 50 great male film actors who had won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play or Best Actor in a Musical. Cranston has already won Best Actor for his portrayal of Lyndon Johnson in “All the Way,” but Driver and Daniels can add their names to this list with a win.
Using data updated in 2018 from the IBDb Tony Awards Database, these 50 hand-picked cross-over actors have won for either Best Actor in a Musical or Best Actor in a Play.
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- Title: "Mister Roberts" (Play)
- Year: 1948
Legendary actor Henry Fonda started his five-decade-long film career in 1935 after finding success on Broadway. Fonda won the Tony Award for Lead Actor in 1948 for his performance in the World War II play “Mister Roberts” based on the novel by Thomas Heggen. In March 1982, Fonda won Best Actor at the Oscars for his performance in “On Golden Pond.”
- Title: "Where's Charley?" (Musical)
- Year: 1949
Actor Ray Bolger won the Tony Award for Leading Man in a Musical for his performance in “Where's Charley?” in 1948. Bolger became forever connected with the musical's most famous song “Once in Love with Amy” which he performed regularly on variety shows. However, Bolger is best known for an even more famous character: he played the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz.”
- Title: "Fanny" (Musical)
- Year: 1955
Walter Slezak was an Austrian actor who was often cast as a bad guy after arriving in Hollywood in the 1930s. He played a German submarine captain in Alfred Hitchcock's “Lifeboat,” a 1944 film written by John Steinbeck and Jo Swerling. A decade later, he starred as Panisse—a rich older man who marries the pregnant woman at the center of the play—in the Broadway musical “Fanny.” He won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical in 1955.
- Title: "The Disenchanted" (Play)
- Year: 1959
Jason Robards—son of actor Jason Robards Sr.—saw his acting career bloom after returning from service in World War II. In the mid-1970s, Robards became a two-time Oscar winner; he is one of just 42 actors to achieve that feat. In 1959, he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for a performance as Manley Halliday, a 1920s renowned author whose star has faded by the time he collaborates with a younger writer in the 1930s.
- Title: "Take Me Along" (Musical)
- Year: 1960
Jackie Gleason was an actor and comedian with a sharp edge and a New York brashness and bravado. Gleason started by performing in clubs before getting a string of film and stage roles throughout the 1940s. Gleason won the Tony Award for Best Lead Actor in a Musical for “Take Me Along” which played at Broadway's Shubert Theater from October 1959 to December 1960.
- Title: "Camelot" (Musical)
- Year: 1961
For a time, the Welsh thespian was believed to be the next Laurence Olivier; instead, after an impressive run doing Shakespeare in the 1950s at the Old Vic in London, he fell into drinking, womanizing, and public marital controversy with on-and-off lover Elizabeth Taylor. In 1960, Burton played King Arthur in the musical that also starred Julie Andrews as Guinevere and was written by Lerner and Loewe of “My Fair Lady” fame; he won the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance.
- Title: "Dylan" (Play)
- Year: 1964
Sir Alec Guinness began his acting career on the stage, playing many Shakespearean characters at London's Old Vic theater throughout the 1930s. The greatest moments in his film career came later in life when Guinness appeared in a run of classics by director David Lean: “The Bridge Over River Kwai,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” and “Doctor Zhivago.” He won the Tony for Best Actor for his performance as the writer Dylan Thomas in “Dylan,” which was written by David Michaels and ran at the Plymouth Theater from January to September of 1964.
- Title: "Foxy" (Musical)
- Year: 1964
Bert Lahr began his career on stage but gave his most lasting acting performance as the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz.” Starting in the mid-1950s, Lahr began a run of serious theater roles, including playing Estragon in the U.S. premiere of “Waiting for Godot.” In 1964, he won Best Actor in a Musical for his performance in “Foxy,” a musical that takes place during the Klondike Gold Rush, which ran from February to April 1964 at the Ziegfeld Theater on Broadway.
- Title: "The Odd Couple" (Play)
- Year: 1965
After winning the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in 1962's “A Shot in the Dark,” Walter Matthau won the Tony Award for Best Lead Actor in 1965's “The Odd Couple,” which was written by Neil Simon and directed by Mike Nichols. In 1968, Matthau starred in the film adaptation alongside Jack Lemmon; the two would star alongside each other in films for decades to come.
- Title: "Promises, Promises" (Musical)
- Year: 1969
Jerry Orbach is best known for his role as Detective Lennie Briscoe on “Law and Order,” but he made his name in the New York City theater scene, starring in the original runs of “Chicago” and “42nd Street.” He won the Tony Award for Best Lead Actor in a Musical for his performance in “Promises, Promises,” which was a musical based on the film “The Apartment.” Burt Bacharach wrote the music for the play, which ran from 1968 to 1972 at Broadway's Shubert Theater, and one of the songs (“I'll Never Fall in Love Again”) became a hit single for Dionne Warwick.2018 All rights reserved.