Make us your home page

Many royal roles have led to Academy Awards nominations, Oscars

Does the surest path to Oscar gold run through Buckingham Palace?

With Colin Firth's portrayal of Britain's King George VI in The King's Speech — set to open in Tampa Bay on Christmas Day — already generating strong Academy Awards chatter, Hollywood's long-standing love affair with English monarchs seems to be burning as strong as ever.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences first swooned for the royals when Charles Laughton won one of the earliest best actor Oscars for 1933's The Private Life of Henry VIII, in which he played the king known for his gargantuan appetites for food, women and power.

Since then, Laurence Olivier, Kenneth Branagh, Cate Blanchett, Peter O'Toole, Robert Shaw, Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Burton, Genevieve Bujold and Nigel Hawthorne have received Oscar nominations for their royal performances; Helen Mirren, Judi Dench and Katharine Hepburn have taken home Academy Awards for their portrayals of queens. Royal-themed films have scooped up awards in many other categories.

Film historian Robert Osborne, host of Turner Classic Movies and author of 80 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards, says these performances often resonate with academy voters because royals live "on a huge panoramic plateau and their particularly dramatic stories give a lot of meat to chew on in a performance."

Here's a look at some of the crown jewels among the English royalty performances:

Judi Dench

Nominated for but did not win Oscar for her portrayal of Queen Victoria in 1997's Mrs. Brown. The next season she won the supporting actress Oscar as Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love.

Helen Mirren

Won the best actress Oscar for her performance as Queen Elizabeth II in 2006's The Queen. Was nominated for best supporting actress as Queen Charlotte in 1994's The Madness of King George. Mirren also won an Emmy, a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild award for her royal performance in HBO's 2005 miniseries Elizabeth I.

Peter O'Toole

Though he has never won an Oscar, two of his eight Academy Award nominations were for playing King Henry II. The first came for 1964's Becket, which revolves around the carousing monarch and the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket (Richard Burton). The second was for 1968's The Lion in Winter, in which he played an older Henry who keeps his wife locked in a tower as his three troubled sons vie for the throne.

Katharine Hepburn

Earned her third best actress Oscar for her acerbic turn opposite O'Toole as Eleanor of Aquitaine, French-born queen of England in The Lion in Winter. Hepburn tied in the category with Barbra Streisand for Funny Girl.

Cate Blanchett

Like O'Toole, Blanchett was twice nominated for an Oscar for playing the same royal — in her case, Queen Elizabeth I. The first was a best actress nomination for 1998's Elizabeth. She got another best actress nom for 2007's Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

But no Oscar for this 'King'

There's one movie that had zero luck at the Academy Awards — even though it co-starred monarch-friendly Peter O'Toole. Can you name it?

That would be 1991's King Ralph, featuring John Goodman as a broken-down Vegas entertainer who finds himself as the reluctant heir to England's throne when the entire royal family is accidentally electrocuted during a photo shoot. (Yeah, a real laugh riot.)

"Imagine a lavish royal dinner party for several hundred important guests," one reviewer wrote. "Imagine an endlessly long line of priceless crystal wine glasses, imagine the king knocking his over … and whammo! Chain reaction! There you have it."

Many royal roles have led to Academy Awards nominations, Oscars 12/22/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Los Angeles Times.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours