Which of our 20 nominees in the acting categories have any hope of seeing live?
Answer: Quite a few. In the case of Best Actress font-runner Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark 30”), right now if you happen to live in New York.
As to which of these 20 might ever perform live in L.A….that’s a decidedly dicier proposition.
There is a school of thought that says all of the best film actors start out on stage; they get their training in drama school, tread the boards anonymously, hit it big on film and TV and then – if they’re true to their background – return periodically to live theater to fuel their souls. This is, in many respects, fantasy island. Acting in a play is a lengthy, difficult commitment that zaps one’s evenings for weeks or months, pays hugely less than a non-live medium and offers a kind of payback that real stars aren’t necessarily seeking. Robert De Niro (“Silver Linings Playbook”) may indeed have played the Cowardly Lion when he was 10 and studied both with Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler, but he’ll turn 70 this year and – unless someone is offering him King Lear or something similarly enticing - the man is probably not going to go back on stage again. Ever.
The odds are probably equally long on veterans Sally Field (“Lincoln”) and Tommy Lee Jones (“Lincoln”). Field stepped into Edward Albee’s “The Goat” on Broadway in 2002 and I could actually envision a regional theater, perhaps even a local one offering her an interesting role in a short run because, let’s face it, movie roles dry for women of a certain age. And Field, currently 66, might even take it. Jones is a bit of a wild card. He has some Broadway credits from the 1970s and played Austin in the famously calamitous Public Theater production of Sam Shepard’s “True West” back in the early 80s. Jones is also 66 and – if memory serves – doesn’t hang around theater-producing meccas like L.A. or New York that much unless he’s working. Alan Arkin (“Argo”), who will turn 69 this year, directed for Broadway in 2000. I’m thinking the chances are better of catching his performing sons Adam or Matthew, both of whom have trod the boards locally.
Daniel Day-Lewis who will most likely win his third Oscar for “Lincoln”…fuhgeddabout it. Despite being married to the daughter of playwright Arthur Miller, Day Lewis will not act on stage. His last live outing, Day Lewis played Hamlet for the National Theatre and had to leave the production early when the role started tearing him apart. This was in 1989.
Hugh Jackman (“Les Miserables”) and Denzel Washington (“Flight”), both stars, are also creatures of the stage. Both are Tony winners (Jackman for “The Boy from Oz”, Washington for “Fences”) and both regularly alternate between stage and screen. Jackman was on Broadway as recently as this time last year doing a show titled “Back on Broadway” and he won a special Tony that same year. Washington could probably build his own project, although if I were Phylicia Rashad casting my upcoming production of August Wilson’s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” at the Mark Taper Forum, I would throw Mr. Washington a “hey no harm in asking” phone call offering him the tortured Herald Loomis.
Philip Seymour Hoffman (“The Master”). He’ll go live again. Not if. When. The man just played Willy Loman and frequently produces and directs in New York. He could win four more Oscars (to go with his “Capote” statue) and he won’t be done.
Anne Hathaway (“Les Miserables”) was already a pretty hot property when, after securing her Oscar nod for “Rachel Getting Married” she elected to play Viola in “Twelfth Night” for Shakespeare in the Park. Now of course, she’s also played Catwoman and can pretty much write her own ticket for any movie project she wants. I always thought Hathaway’s “Princess Diaries” director Garry Marshall missed the boat by not getting her to take the stage at his Falcon Theatre. Now that ship has sailed. If Hathaway goes live anywhere it will almost certainly be New York or perhaps London. Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”), perhaps even hotter (and at 22, eight years younger) than Hathaway, will be occupied by “The Hunger Games” franchise for awhile. The lady has never taken an acting class. Unless she loves a challenge, nobody’s going to lure her to go live any time soon. Then again, I would have said the same thing about Scarlett Johansson.
Can’t speak with too much certainly about the international crop. Jacki Weaver (“Silver Linings Playbook”) has a stage background in her native Australia. She’s 65, and, I suspect won’t be enticed away from her homeland for a live engagement. Christoph Waltz (“Django Unchained”), maybe. Emanuelle Riva (“Amour”) is 85. Quvenzhané Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) is 9. Aussie Naomi Watts (“The Impossible”) has no history, but she has young children with a man, Liev Schrieber, who does a lot of stage work. Maybe the bug will be catching.
As she is both adventurous, a character actress and possessed of stage chops, Amy Adams (“The Master”) will probably go live again. She was in the Public’s outdoor staging of “Into the Woods” over the summer. The nomination field’s other redhead, Chastain (“Zero Dark 30”) has been on stage in L.A. before, opposite Al Pacino as “Salome” at the Wadsworth Theatre, but that was before the movies found her. Give the lady credit. As we speak, she’s finishing up “The Heiress” on Broadway.
Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master”), from everything I’ve ever heard or read about him, is unpredictable in all things.
Which leaves a lady who lives in L.A. and who takes to the stage on a pretty frequent basis here: Helen Hunt (“The Sessions”) whose recent local stage appearances include Beatrice in “Much ado About Nothing” for Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles and the Stage Manager in “Our Town” at the Broad Stage.