How well did Hollywood stars, movie stars, film actors and celebrities fare in Broadway shows. Did they win Tony Awards or did they get Raspberries?
Many Hollywood celebrities and movie stars perform on the Broadway stage. There are two main approaches - one is the limited-run Broadway show. To the movie star or Hollywood celebrity this is all about taking a break from the stresses of movies and Hollywood and a chance to develop their acting chops, especially in a forum where it doesn't matter if they fail. The other is when the celebrities or film stars join a big Broadway show to boost flagging sales. Often the star or celebrity is trying to rekindle a flagging Hollywood career or just cashing in on their household name. Both approaches can be called stunt casting, but this term applies more to the latter than the former. Either way, there is no doubt that we'll be seeing stars on Broadway for sometime to come, as Broadway producers try to use their celebrity as a way of drawing in audiences.
Let's examine the recent forays onto Broadway by big non-Broadway stars:
How Well Did Hollywood Stars Do on Broadway?
Robin Williams - Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (2011)
Given Robin Williams' well-known manic comic persona, some were worried that he might start inappropriately ad-libbing and riffing in the Broadway production of Rajiv Joseph's drama, which takes place in Baghdad right after the Iraq invasion. But Williams' acting chops took over, and he gave a strong performance in the unusual role of the Bengal tiger referred to in the play's title.
Chris Rock - The Mother****** with the Hat (2011)
Although he has logged many onstage hours as a stand-up comic, and he has played numerous characters on film and TV, Chris Rock had not performed as an actor onstage until The Mother****** with the Hat, his Broadway debut. Struggling at first, Rock eventually became comfortable doing live drama, but unfortunately he lacked the electricity that he has previously brought to his stand-up and sketch comedy work.
Daniel Radcliffe - How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (2011)
With the the Harry Potter movies long behind him, Daniel Radcliffe made a bold move by returning to Broadway to star in a big, old-fashioned musical comedy. The gamble paid off, with Radcliffe ably proving that he has the charm and boundless energy to headline a classic Broadway revival. And what do you know, the kid can dance!
Kiefer Sutherland - That Championship Season (2011)
The young movie star of the Brat Pack era went on to establish himself as a TV action hero with several seasons of 24. But in his Broadway debut, co-starring in the ensemble of the Broadway revival of That Championship Season, Sutherland plays way against type as a hard-working, demure political consultant.
Al Pacino - The Merchant of Venice (2010)
Considered by many to be the greatest actor of his generation, Al Pacino did not disappoint in this excellent production of Shakespeare's brilliant but difficult play. Under the sure-handed direction of Daniel Sullivan, Pacino embodied Shylock in all of his complexity, asking the audience to feel compassion for a character who is no longer able to feel compassion himself.
Denzel Washington - Fences (2010)
The charismatic film star packed in the crowds and gave them a hell of a performance in this revival of August Wilson's drama Fences. Washington did an excellent job of navigating a difficult character, who is initially so likable and funny before he reveals his ugly side.
Scarlet Johansson - A View From the Bridge (2009)
Because of her recent appearances in big Hollywood flicks like Iron Man 2, some may have forgotten that ScarJo once blew away critics with prodigious turns in indie movies like Lost in Translation and Match Point. But if there was ever any doubt of her acting gifts, she proved them again with her Tony Award-winning Broadway debut in this powerful Arthur Miller play.
Jude Law - Hamlet (2009)
British actor Jude Law has a long resume of both Hollywood and London-based films, but he is no stranger to the stage. However, this production of Hamlet was his first time to appear on Broadway since he rise to full-blown star status and he was quite impressive in the challenging Shakespearean role . Interestingly, Law's ex Sienna Miller (the pair's relationship had been tabloid fodder for some time) also appeared on Broadway just a few blocks away that season.
Will Ferrell - You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush(2009)
Broadway audiences welcomed movie star, Saturday Night Live alum, and all around funny guy Will Ferrell with open arms. The reviews were restrained, but mostly positive, with the critics just sitting back and enjoying Ferrell's well-established "Dubya" persona without over thinking the theatrical merit of the play.
Katie Holmes - All My Sons (2008)
With the stigma of being a Hollywood tabloid darling firmly attached, Mrs. Tom Cruise at-the-time, Katie Holmes had little chance of winning over Broadway die-hards, and it didn't help that she couldn't rise to the level of experienced co-stars John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, and Patrick Wilson. Lack of critical love notwithstanding, there were no shortage of fans at the stage door each night waiting to get photos of this Hollywood celebrity. Scientologists were not big fans.
Daniel Radcliffe - Equus (2008)
Having already received a warm reception from West End theater critics and audiences, Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe arrived on Broadway with the all-important stamp of British approval. Broadway fans and critics embraced the young man as well, and Radcliffe has now officially earned his stripes as a legitimate adult actor.
Jeremy Piven - Speed-the-Plow (2008)
Entourage's Jeremy Piven, who grew up on the Chicago theater scene, received fairly positive reviews when the Speed-the-Plow revival opened on Broadway, but his early departure due to "high levels of mercury" (apparently caused by excessive sushi consumption) lost party-boy Piven the goodwill of the Broadway community - the producers of the show even threatened to slap the Piv with a lawsuit for his fishy exit from the show and it is not expected that he will ever actually make a Broadway debut.
Morgan Freeman - The Country Girl (2008)
Morgan Freeman began on the stage, but his career truly flourished in the Hollywood film industry. With The Country Girl, Freeman returned to Broadway for the first time in 20 years as a major movie star. Unfortunately, the production got a tepid reception, and though Freeman's notices weren't unkind, it wasn't the triumphant return as a star on Broadway expected for an actor of his caliber.
Laurence Fishburne - Thurgood (2008)
His first time on Broadway in nearly a decade, Hollywood film actor Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) impressed critics with his performance as Thurgood Marshall in this one-man show, though they generally regarded the play itself as being just a run-of-the-mill biographical sketch.
Terrence Howard - Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (2008)
Oscar-nominated Hollywood actor Terrence Howard got mixed to positive reviews for his performance as Brick in this all-black Broadway production of the Tennessee Williams classic, but he lost a lot of goodwill among Broadway fans when he didn't appear for most of the show's extension (he had been cleat that he had a prior film commitment) and then went on to describe working Broadway's eight-shows-a-week schedule as "modern day slavery".
Kevin Spacey - A Moon for the Misbegotten (2007)
Long before the #meetoo movement, Spacey was overshadowed by his co-star Eve Best's glowing reception. Spacey still captured his fair share of positive notice though, but some critics took issue with Spacey eking too many laughs out of his performance in this Eugene O'Neill classic. Broadway audiences certainly didn't consider this a fault and bought tickets like they were going out of fashion.
Claire Danes - Pygmalion (2007)
Though Claire Danes was not universally lauded in her Broadway debut, on the whole her portrayal of Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle was greeted warmly by Broadway reviewers and audiences, a far cry from her ubre-popular Carrie Mathison on Showtime's Homeland
Julia Roberts - Three Days Of Rain (2006)
Broadway audiences were psyched about seeing Hollywood celebrity and "pretty woman" Julia Roberts live onstage, but Roberts' movie fans weren't enough to make this Broadway show a success. Critics didn't care much for the production and it ended its limited run on time amid surprisingly weak ticket sales. She should have stuck to Rodeo drive.
Christina Applegate - Sweet Charity (2005)
Broadway wags were skeptical when it was announced that former Married With Children star Christina Applegate wanted to take on a role originated by Broadway legend Gwen Verdon, but Applegate eventually won most Broadway musical fans over with her skills, plucky spirit, and her determination to bring the show to Broadway even after suffering a foot injury during out-of-town tryouts.
Sean "P. Diddy" Combs - A Raisin in the Sun (2004)
One of the biggest stars on Broadway to come from the music world, Sean "Puffy" Combs sold tons of tickets when he starred in a Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun. Unfortunately the critics mostly felt that Combs' performance, while competent, paled in comparison to those of experienced co-stars like Audra McDonald and Phylicia Rashad.
Hugh Jackman - The Boy From Oz (2003)
London saw Hugh Jackman's talent when he played cowpoke Curly in Oklahoma in '99, and he subsequently became a major Hollywood star by playing Wolverine in X-Men. But nobody was prepared to see triple threat Jackman command the stage as Peter Allen in the Broadway musical The Boy From Oz. The show itself wasn't so impressive, but between his dance moves and improv skills, Jackman entranced all of Broadway.
Antonio Banderas - Nine (2003)
Although he held his own as Che in the Evita film starring Madonna, and for years was rumored to be the favorite to star in The Phantom of the Opera movie, Antonio Banderas exceeded everyone's wildest expectations when he took the stage in the Broadway musical Nine. The Spanish actor exuded charisma and charm in the difficult role of a narcissistic film director, and left Broadway wanting more.