While I was writing up the Emmy predictions article this weekend, I was struck by how many Oscar nominees are competing to get a piece of this year's Emmy pie. Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Bob Thornton, Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Julia Roberts, and Ellen Burstyn all already have an Oscar to go with their potential future Emmys.
This also got me to thinking about how this category has become really a proxy for (usually former) movie stars who want a detour or a career boost so they head over to cable and get an easy paycheck on a TV movie or miniseries. It's in fact extremely rare for an actor to score multiple nominations for TV movie acting without also being an Oscar nominee. How rare, you ask? Well you're about to find out.
Emmy Nominations: Rich Man, Poor Man (1976), The Jericho Mile (1979), and Masada (1981)
Emmy Wins: Best Actor for The Jericho Mile
Closest He Got to Oscar: He didn't
Thoughts: As a way to break a pretty extensive tie, I'm counting people who got an Emmy win and three nominations as the cutoff for making this list (if I hadn't, Richard Chamberlain, Danny Glover, Ann Jillian, Joe Mantegna, and Sada Thompson all would have made this list, and since Chamberlain, Glover, and Mantegna are all still alive and working, they could break this list yet). That said, Strauss was at one point the king of the TV Miniseries, becoming one of the few actors to be known almost exclusively for this medium rather than also for series television or film. He had a small role in Elia Kazan's ill-fated (but on-paper Oscar dynamite) The Last Tycoon, which is probably his closest brush with AMPAS.
Emmy Nominations: Seymour received three nominations for acting in a movie/miniseries, for Captains and the Kings (1976), Onassis: The Richest Man in the World (1988), and War and Remembrance (1989). She also nabbed two nominations for her most famous role, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman.
Emmy Wins: Best Supporting Actress for Onassis: The Richest Man in the World
Closest She Got to Oscar: Not particularly close
Thoughts: Unlike Strauss, Seymour did have some success in cinema, though never to the extent she had in television. She starred opposite of Christopher Reeve in the Oscar-nominated Somewhere in Time, and did the Bond girl thing in Live and Let Die. That being said, none of her cinematic performances were remotely on-par with the success that she received with the Emmys and the closest she probably ever got to an Oscar was when she presented Best Film Editing at the 53rd Academy Awards.
6 (tie). Richard Kiley
Emmy Nominations: Kiley received nine Emmy nominations (and three wins) throughout his illustrious career, but only three of them were for Miniseries/Movies: The Thorn Birds (1983), Do You Remember Love (1985), and Separate But Equal (1991)
Emmy Wins: Kiley won for Supporting Actor in The Thorn Birds, and then went on to win Emmys for Best Actor in a Drama for A Year in the Life and Best Guest Actor for Picket Fences.
Closest He Got to Oscar: Oscar remained an "impossible dream"
Thoughts: Richard Kiley is one of those actors who managed to have monumental success in two of the three principle acting mediums but couldn't quite muster it in the third, despite a plethora of appearances. In addition to his three Emmys, Kiley won two Tony Awards (including for the role of his career in Man of La Mancha). He never came close to Oscar, but he did have dozens of onscreen credits, most notably as the narrator of the park tour in Jurassic Park.
6 (tie). Penny Fuller
Emmy Nominations: Fuller received three nominations for acting in a movie/miniseries, for The Elephant Man (1982), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1985), and Miss Rose White (1992), as well as three nominations for guest actress on China Beach, NYPD Blue, and ER.
Emmy Wins: Fuller got her sole Emmy win on her first try, for Supporting Actress in The Elephant Man
Closest She Got to an Oscar: All the President's Men (1976)
Thoughts: One of the lesser-known actors on this list, Fuller has long been a fixture both on Broadway (she's a two-time Tony nominee) and in television. She has a pretty mild cinematic resume, with her only major onscreen credit being for All the President's Men where she played Sally Aiken. Considering 1976 is the year of the "small performance in a big film" nominations, this is certainly the only time she flirted with Oscar.
Emmy Nominations: Bergen received three nominations for acting in a movie/miniseries/single performance (back in the day that's what this category was considered) for Playhouse 90 (1958), The Winds of War (1983), and War and Remembrance (1989). She was also nominated for her guest work on Desperate Housewives.
Emmy Wins: She also won on her first try for Playhouse 90.
Closest She Got to an Oscar: The Caretakers (1963)
Thoughts: I was starting to get worried that I had happened to land the only ten actors who are fixtures in this category that aren't also cinematic stars, but Polly Bergen puts that to rest. Seventy years after she first started working in entertainment, Bergen is still going strong (her most recent film being Struck by Lightning), and during the late 1950's/early 1960's she was a relatively important actress, frequently starring opposite Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, and playing Gregory Peck's wife in the original Cape Fear. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama for The Caretakers (the very definition of "close with Oscar") but missed out when Patricia Neal got promoted to lead for Hud. Despite decades of more work, she never again came that close to an Oscar nomination.
5. Ed Flanders
Emmy Nominations: Flanders received three nominations for movie/miniseries, for A Moon for the Misbegotten (1976), Harry S. Truman: Plain Speaking (1977), and Backstairs at the White House (1979); he would go on to get another four nominations for his work as Donald Westphall on St. Elsewhere
Emmy Wins: Flanders picked up trophies for both A Moon for the Misbegotten and Harry S. Truman (as well as a third for St. Elsewhere)
Closest He Got to an Oscar: Nowhere close
Thoughts: First, let's all acknowledge how similar his name is to that of Homer Simpson's favorite frenemy. Then we can also say that Flanders, like Peter Strauss, was a creature of television, though Flanders also enjoyed success in series television. Most of his non-St. Elsewhere credits are TV movies and miniseries, and his biggest cinematic success was in The Exorcist III (a dour statement...though again, he won three Emmys so it's not easy to feel bad for him).
Emmy Nominations: Montgomery is our first person to score four nominations in this field without some Oscar attention, getting nominated for The Untouchables (1961), A Case of Rape (1974), The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975), and The Awakening Land (1978); she also would receive four nominations for her most beloved role as Samantha Stephens on Bewitched.
Emmy Wins: Despite eight nominations, Elizabeth Montgomery never won an Emmy Award.
Closest She Got to an Oscar: Umm...her father was an Oscar nominee?
Thoughts: Montgomery is another creature of television who was famous enough in the 1970's from her years on Bewitched to translate that into major TV movie roles. Her cinematic work never rivaled her dad Robert Montgomery (who was a two-time Oscar nominee), though she did make her mark in 1963's Johnny Cool.
3. Brian Dennehy
Emmy Nominations: Dennehy picked up six Emmy nominations, all for miniseries/TV movie: A Killing in a Small Town (1990), The Burden of Proof (1992), To Catch a Killer (also 1992), Murder in the Heartland (1993), Death of a Salesman (2000), and Our Fathers (2005)
Emmy Wins: Like Montgomery, Dennehy has never won an Emmy Award (though he does have a Golden Globe and two Tony Awards).
Closest He Got to an Oscar: The Belly of an Architect
Thoughts: Brian Dennehy is one of those great character actors that for some reason never had his The Visitor or Good Night, and Good Luck. Most well-known onscreen for his work in First Blood and Cocoon, the closest he got to Oscar wasn't close at all, though he did win accolades for 1987's The Belly of an Architect. Dennehy's lack of an Emmy is the really shocking thing here-he won the Golden Globe, the Tony Award, and the Olivier for his work in Death of a Salesman, but had the bad luck to compete with Jack Lemmon in Tuesdays with Morrie, as he would have won in almost any other year as Willy Loman.
Emmy Nominations: Bridges has received eight Emmy nominations for miniseries/TV movies: Without Warning: The James Brady Story (1992), The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (1993...and awesome title), Kissinger and Nixon (1996), Hidden in America (1997), The Second Civil War ( also 1997), Inherit the Wind (1999), P.T. Barnum (2000), We Were the Mulvaneys (2002); Bridges also was nominated for six other Emmys in guest and producing roles
Emmy Wins: Bridges won for Without Warning, The Positively True Adventures, and The Second Civil War
Closest He Got to Oscar: Aside from living with an Oscar winner for many years, his best shot at an Oscar nomination happened before Jeff even had one nomination, with For Love of Ivy in 1968
Thoughts: I'm not sure if the Bridges brothers decided when they were kids that one would dominate film and the other television, but that's how it turned out (Jeff does have one Emmy nomination, though nothing near what Beau amassed). Though he is best-known for television, Bridges did get a Golden Globe nomination very early in his career for For the Love of Ivy (with Sidney Poitier). Had that translated over to Oscar, could he have had his brother's career? The world may never know, but Bridges still works quite regularly so he may yet take the top berth on this list, which belongs to...
Emmy Nominations: An Emmy titan, she received nine nominations for miniseries/TV movie: Focus (1962), The Crucible (1968), The Price (1971), A Moon for the Misbegotten (1976), Silent Victory: The Kitty O'Neil Story (1979), The Women's Room (1981), Between Two Women (1986), Those She Left Behind (1989), and Lantern Hill (1989); she also was nominated for Guest Actressing four times
Emmy Wins: In addition to two guest actress wins for Murphy Brown, she also won for Between Two Women and Those She Left Behind.
Closest She Got to Oscar: The Nun's Story
Thoughts: Dewhurst, a goddess of acting, was a television staple for most of her career, and frequently found herself playing strong, proud women. She was married for many years to an Oscar winner (George C. Scott), but never actually was nominated herself and probably came the closest quite early in her career opposite Audrey Hepburn in The Nun's Story. She would oddly not get an Emmy nomination for what was arguably her most famous work in Anne of Green Gables, but would reap two guest acting nominations for the same role in Road to Avonlea.
And there you have it-the most Emmy-nominated actors in miniseries that have never been nominated for Oscar. This year Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, and Audra McDonald are all in the running for their third nomination, which could put them on the list-do you think any of them could do it? Do you think some of the living actors in this list like Beau Bridges or Jane Seymour (both of whom still work) could get Oscar nominations still? Share in the comments!