This was originally going to be a post about the best actors on television or in movies to make a career transition to the theatre, but as I did more research it turns out that many of them actually started in the theatre and then made seamless transitions back and forth. So these are the chameleons that can act on film and onstage, despite the vast differences in the two mediums.
Matthew Broderick: Mr. Broderick has done his fair share of acting both onstage and in movies. He won a Tony Award when he was 21 with a featured role in Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983). But, of course, he is most famous for the movie that came soon after, 1986’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. This really shot him to stardom, and he continued to dabble in films for several years. In the last 15 years or so most of his work has been back onstage, including 1995’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (for which he won a Tony) and 2001’s The Producers. His next project is Nice Work If You Can Get It, which begins previews March 29, 2012, at Imperial Theatre on Broadway.
Hugh Jackman: Hugh Jackman first became famous outside of his home country (Australia) in 1998, when he starred in Oklahoma! in London. Of course, his breakout movie role was Wolverine in X-Men in 2000, followed by several sequels, plus Van Helsing and The Prestige, among other film and television roles. But in 2004, he made a flawless transition back to the stage, winning a Tony Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical for The Boy from Oz. Most recently he performed in a one-man show, Hugh Jackman Back on Broadway, which consistently grossed over $1 million every week for the limited run. This guy is definitely multi-talented.
Bebe Neuwirth: Bebe first made her Broadway debut in 1980, playing Sheila in A Chorus Line. In 1986 she won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her work in Sweet Charity, and in the same year she began playing Dr. Lilith Sternin on the hit TV show Cheers. She continued to play Lilith for over a decade, including her work on the spin-off Frasier. Meanwhile, she won multiple awards for her starring role in the Broadway revival of Chicago in 1996 and continued stage work through 2010, when she starred opposite Nathan Lane in the original cast of The Addams Family. Basically, she does everything. And she does it well.
Denzel Washington: Denzel is a different case from many on this list. While he did theater when he was younger, he first became a star on the television drama St. Elsewhere, which ran from 1982 to 1988. He followed that up with several movies, including Cry Freedom, Glory, The Mighty Quinn, Philadelphia, The Pelican Brief, Remember the Titans and many more. In 2005, he starred on Broadway in Julius Caesar, and after another stint starring in movies, he won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play for his role in Fences opposite Viola Davis. I think that Denzel will be seen onstage more and more in the upcoming years; it seems to be something he’s good at but hasn’t gotten to do much of.
Catherine Zeta-Jones:This is another actor who did a lot of onstage work before becoming a star of the big screen. She starred in several productions through adolescence, including major productions in London. Her big screen break came in 1998 with The Mask of Zorro, alongside Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas. She followed that up with starring roles in Entrapment, The Haunting, Traffic and America’s Sweethearts. In 2002, she starred in a unique combination of the stage and the screen, playing Velma Kelly in the movie version of Chicago, winning an Oscar for her efforts. In 2009, she returned to the stage in A Little Night Music, starring with Angela Lansbury on Broadway. She won a Tony Award for her performance, completing her dominance of both the big screen and the Broadway stage.
Who's your favorite on this list? Did we miss anyone? Tell us in the comments!