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The 2021 Oscar winners are theatre stars too

April 27, 2021 by Abby Bien
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The 2021 Academy Awards were this past Sunday and because “making everything that happens in pop culture about theatre” is our entire personality — we thought it’d be fun to take a deep dive into the winner’s theatre careers. Below is a list of the winners that have worked (most of them, extensively) either on or off stage throughout the years.

Anthony Hopkins, Best Actor for The Father

With this Oscar — at the age of 83 and 30 years after his first for The Silence of the Lambs — Anthony Hopkins became the oldest actor to ever win Best Actor. Hopkins was asleep when his name was called which is almost as iconic as his career both on screen and stage. But we’re going to focus on the stage, of course.

Hopkins became Laurence Olivier’s understudy at the Royal National Theatre in 1965 after Olivier himself invited him to join the company. During his time there, Hopkins led productions of Shakespeare and covered for Olivier in The Dance of Death when the actor got appendicitis right before a show.

After a couple years, Hopkins was itching to star in movies and television shows (he didn’t love playing the same character each night, which, fair) but that didn’t stop him from taking the stage for a couple more decades. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Hopkins continued to land lead roles on the West End, in Los Angeles, and on Broadway; he was Coriolanus in Coriolanus, Macbeth in Macbeth, Anthony in Antony and Cleopatra with Judi Dench, and he brought the London show Equus to Broadway in 1974. Hopkins last took the stage on the West End in 1989 in M. Butterfly.

Frances McDormand, Best Actress for Nomadland

Any day we get to talk about Frances McDormand wearing a jean jacket at the Tony Awards is a good day. The Queen of not giving any f*cks won another Oscar and while she was not wearing a jean jacket this time around, she did howl during her speech so we’re calling this a big win.

McDormand has a long history with theatre. Not only did her first Broadway credit as Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire earn her a Tony Award nomination in 1988 but she also spent early years of her career as a member of an experimental theatre company called The Wooster Group; Willem Dafoe was also a member in the past which just makes sense in ways we can’t explain.

McDormand then spent many years focusing on her film work before returning to the stage. But when she finally came back to Broadway in 2011 in the play Good People she won a Tony Award and wore a jean jacket to the ceremony which means she never has to be in another play again and she will still be one of our theatre faves.

Daniel Kaluuya, Best Supporting Actor for Judas and the Black Messiah

Theatre is where Daniel Kaluuya’s story began. Before Get Out, before The Black Panther, before becoming an Academy Award winner — he was just a nine-year-old in London writing and performing with an improvisational theatre. As a teenager, he landed a slew of television roles before returning to the stage in 2010 for Sucker Punch at the Royal Court Theatre. He received rave reviews for his performance; no surprise there.

In 2013 he led the comedy Trelawny of the ‘Wells’ at the Donmar Warehouse in London, followed by A Season in the Congo at the Young Vic. Kaluuya’s most recent stage performance was in 2016 at the Young Vic again, in a play called Blue/Orange.

Oh, we forget to mention the very casual time he was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre in 2009 — when he was 20 years old. A legend from the start. 

Emerald Fennell, Best Original Screenplay for Promising Young Woman

Emerald Fennell can do it all. She’s an actress in Call the Midwife, she’s the showrunner for Killing Eve, she’s a writer, she’s a director, she’s the prettiest pregnant lady we ever did see. While Fennell has never been onstage in a professional capacity, she did go to school for acting and performed in plenty of productions throughout those years. We love a school production, but we’re really here to talk about Cinderella. Yes, the one with the shoe.

In case you haven’t heard, Andrew Lloyd Webber has written new music for a new production of Cinderella. It’s set to open in London this year and Emerald Fennell wrote the book (also known as all of the words that aren’t sung) and we are literally so excited for this show we can hardly wait.

Ann Roth, Best Costume Design for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Here are some of the Broadway credits you’ll find when scrolling through Ann Roth’s never-ending Wikipedia page: The Odd Couple, The Waverly Gallery, Singin’ in the Rain, Present Laughter, The Book of Mormon, A Raisin in the Sun, Death of a Salesman, Shuffle Along, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Prom. Her most recent Broadway credit is from 2020 (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) and her first Broadway credit was in 1957. When she won the Academy Award on Sunday, she became the oldest woman to win a competitive Oscar at the age of 89. She has been nominated for 12 Tony Awards and won one. Nobody can compete with Ann Roth.

Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller, Adapted Screenplay for The Father

Before they joined forces, Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller had significant careers of their own, both in the theatre and on screen.

Hampton has made a name for himself as a playwright for works like the West End and Broadway play The Philanthropist and as a translator for plays The Seagull, The Height of the Storm, The Father (more on that later), and more. Early in his career, he was even the Resident Dramatist at the Royal Court Theatre in London. And now for the best part because it reminds us that Glenn Close exists and we love Glenn Close: Hampton wrote the book and lyrics for the musical Sunset Boulevard. The original run in 1995 won Hampton two Tony Awards for Book of a Musical and Best Original Score.

French playwright Zeller is an incredibly accomplished figure, having had works staged consistently throughout the last decade. He’s been nominated for an Olivier Award for his play The Truth, received rave reviews for The Son, and had stars like Eileen Atkins and Jonathan Pryce perform his words.

Hampton and Zeller have worked together on a number of projects — with Hampton translating Zeller’s plays from French to English — including The Father. The play The Father was first staged in London in 2014 before coming to Broadway, where it was critically acclaimed and nominated for Best Play at the Tony Awards. Hampton and Zeller then worked together to bring the story to the screen, with Zeller as a first-time director and Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman as the leads. Looks like that leap to a new medium paid off, huh?