BootLeg Betty

Seven Biggest Tony Award Snubs: From Bette Midler to Jessica Chastain

The Wrap
7 Biggest Tony Award Snubs: From Bette Midler to Jessica Chastain
April 30, 2013

Photo: Bruce Glikas
Photo: Bruce Glikas

Tom Hanks may have a date with the Tony Awards, but many of Hollywood’s biggest stars didn’t make the grade when nominations for Broadway’s highest honor were announced on Tuesday morning.

Al Pacino, Jessica Chastain and Alec Baldwin were among the big names who found themselves snubbed by Tony voters. The biggest shocks, however, were likely Bette Midler and Fiona Shaw, critical darlings, who Tony tea leaf readers believed were all but guaranteed a nomination.

Here’s a look at some of the actors and actresses who are likely having a very bad morning.

Bette Midler, “I’ll Eat You Last”

Holding the audience in the palm of her hand for 90 minutes, Midler delivers a bravura performance as Hollywood’s first super-agent, Sue Mengers. The Divine Miss M’s return to Broadway after a three- decade absence were greeted with strong reviews and a rapturous response from audiences. It’s possible that the story of movie-making wheeling and dealing was too focused on the wrong coast for Tony voters, who prefer their art live.

Al Pacino, “Glengarry Glen Ross”

Critics hated Pacino’s against-type performance as down-on-his-luck salesman Shelly Levene, but the movie star was a box office heavyweight. Commercial success didn’t translate into Tony votes, however, and Pacino and the production were shut out entirely.

Jessica Chastain, “The Heiress”

Chastain suffered for her art in the latest revival of Henry James’ tale of turn-of-the-century sexual power dynamics. The Oscar-nominee was saddled with the worst hairpiece since Tommy Lee Jones’ wig in “Lincoln.” Masking her natural good looks wasn’t enough to snag Chastain a seat at the Tony Awards. Unlike Cherry Jones and Olivia de Havilland, both of whom played the spinsterish central role to awards and acclaim, the would-be theater star found herself knocked out of contention.

Fiona Shaw, “The Testamant of Mary”

When Irish actress Fiona Shaw and iconoclastic director Deborah Warner teamed up to revitalize “Medea” in 2000, the Greek tragedy was a big hit with Tony voters, scoring nominations for both women. This time, the veteran collaborators found themselves on the snub list. It’s possible that the play, which presents a more human, less pious version of the Virgin Mary, was too controversial for awards attention. Score one for Catholic protestors?

Alec Baldwin, “Orphans”

The abrupt departure of Shia LaBeouf from the revival of Lyle Kessler’s crime drama this spring made “Orphans” and Baldwin staples of the New York tabloids. The attention didn’t translate into Tony love. When nominations were announced on Tuesday, neither Baldwin nor LaBeouf’s replacement, Ben Foster, were among the nominees. Instead, it was little-known English actor Tom Sturridge who found himself on the short-list.

Alan Cumming, “MacBeth”

If Tony voters rewarded ambition alone, then Cumming would likely have another statue to go along with the one he picked up for “Cabaret.” After all, few performers walked a more slender tightrope than he did when he agreed to play every major role in Shakespeare’s tragic tale of the perils of ambition. Alas, the curse of the “Scottish Play” continues, and Cumming was deemed undeserving of awards love.

Scarlett Johansson, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”

When Johansson made her Broadway debut in 2010’s revival of Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge,” Tony voters rewarded her with a Best Featured Actress trophy. Her return trip to the Great White Way resulted in a ticket to snubsville. As Maggie the Cat, Johansson sported a spotty Southern accent and, despite her physical gifts, failed to radiate much heat. Reviews were tepid and so was the Tony response.

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13 thoughts on “Seven Biggest Tony Award Snubs: From Bette Midler to Jessica Chastain

  1. Hey Don!

    She was robbed! Oh well, you can never predict these things. I’m guessing that voters thought the role was too close to Bette’s own persona, even though to me it was a fully fleshed-out character, and Bette delivered the goods and then some. You just KNOW that tonight she will be greeted with thunderous applause by her fans. I hope she at least wins the Drama Desk or one of the other things she’s nominated for. I guess the sellout crowds,
    rave reviews and euphoric audience response will have to do for now! : )

  2. I’d like to know how do the Tonys work. Who vote for them and how? I mean, at the Oscars, in the first round, each professional votes for your own craft, actors vote for actors, costume designers for costume designers. After they have the 5 nominees, every member of the academy votes for every cathegory. I want to know if Miss M needs to be liked as a person to get a Tony nomination. You know, politics and diplomacy. Or is it more comercial like the Grammys?

  3. Wow…..I think Tony is beginning to lose its relevance. On Gold Derby, all 11 of the Tony experts/pundits had Bette a nominee, and most of them put her in the Top 5 at #2 (with Cicely Tyson leading the group). Cicely’s story is similar to Bette’s–first-time nominee in over 30 years, but with the addition of the backlash that too few African-Americans are being considered for Tony.

    My 25-cent analysis is this: perhaps the limited engagement run (89 performances only) turned off some of the voters from considering her a serious contender (??), or her slight, but vocal comments concerning Tony’s snub of “Priscilla” may not have endeared her to the community. Another thought is that its opening date (right under the wire/in the nick of time) for Tony consideration might have meant that not all of the Tony voters had a chance to see the play.

    Who knows……but, I for one, will not be watching the Tony’s this year. They’ve been making serious mistakes for too long now. On any other thoughts on what could have happened?

    1. My thoughts were a combination of what you already said…I saw the Gold Derby predictions, so I was pretty shocked by today’s events. I still hope they film it for HBO like they did with Carrie Fischer….xx

  4. Marcos brings up excellent points/questions. I think Oscar is a lot less political than the Tony’s, which may be contrary to popular opinion. But, look at the people who have bashed Oscar over the years (Marlon Brando, George C. Scott, and more recently Joaquin Phoenix), and not only receive nominations, but frequently win the top prize! Oscar doesn’t always get it right, but they tend to protect the rights of the First Amendement!

  5. I flew all the way to New York from Switzerland just to see Bette in I’ll Eat You Last and I absolutely loved her in it, because it was classic “Divine Miss M” material; a character we’ve seen and loved for more than thirty years. And that’s the reason why Bette did get sensational reviews: she is phenomenal as the Divine Miss M; and that’s also the reason why she didn’t get nominated: it’s no stretch for her whatsoever, just the same thing under a new label; without the singing and working the stage… Bette said she said “yes” to the project, because it’s about time to do something new. However, it is not really “new” at all – and she has the multiple American Comedy Awards and the Golden Globe nominations to prove how good she is as the loudmouthed broad.
    I hope that she finally finds the courage to really move on – to something completely different (think “Misery” or “Phil Spector”; not “been there, done that roles” such as in “Parental Guidance” or even as Sue Mengers; as sensationally entertaining the latter was/is): the world is ready for a new side of Bette Midler: the divine Miss M may take a rest for a little while. I want to see MORE of Bette: I want to SEE all the subtle nuances she uses as as a singer (not just hear them). In the meantime, I of course will continue to travel to Las Vegas or New York to get whatever she is willing to give.

  6. Princer just zapped Bette! I haven’t seen her as Mengers yet, so I can’t compare the character to The Divine Miss M character. But, from the videos of the play I saw, is NOT quite the same, The Divine Miss M was so much louder… But, anyway, Prince is entitled to his opinion and The Divine One did made huge sins when she tuned down “Misery” and the “Sister Act” films. But not the “Phil Spector” project. What a boring movie!

    Mr. D, what was the Carrie Fisher play HBO shot? Wishful Drinking?

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