2000 TONY AWARDS SPOTLIGHT: Nominees for Best Actor in a Play

Tony Awards   2000 TONY AWARDS SPOTLIGHT: Nominees for Best Actor in a Play Gabriel Byrne, A Moon for the Misbegotten
Byrne makes his Broadway debut with Moon as the mournful, drunken James Tyrone; in fact, the role, first performed at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, is his first on the U.S. stage. His theatrical chops were honed in Dublin with The Focus Theatre and The Abbey Theatre and in London at the Royal Court and the National Theater. The Irish actor is best known, however, for his movies, including the Academy Award winners "Miller's Crossing" and "The Usual Suspects." Like Dillane and Hoffman, he is nominated for Drama Desk Award and he and Dillane both won Outer Critics Circle nominations (they lost to Derek Jacobi, who was not nominated for a Tony).

Gabriel Byrne, A Moon for the Misbegotten
Byrne makes his Broadway debut with Moon as the mournful, drunken James Tyrone; in fact, the role, first performed at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, is his first on the U.S. stage. His theatrical chops were honed in Dublin with The Focus Theatre and The Abbey Theatre and in London at the Royal Court and the National Theater. The Irish actor is best known, however, for his movies, including the Academy Award winners "Miller's Crossing" and "The Usual Suspects." Like Dillane and Hoffman, he is nominated for Drama Desk Award and he and Dillane both won Outer Critics Circle nominations (they lost to Derek Jacobi, who was not nominated for a Tony).

Stephen Dillane, in The Real Thing
Dillane, also making his New York and Broadway debut, as romantically conflicted London playwright Henry, has extensive theatrical credits across the pond. Olivier Award nominated for Real Thing (he lost to Henry Goodman in The Merchant of Venice), he has performed the title roles in Hamlet and Uncle Vanya and played everything from Beckett (Endgame) to Rabe (Hurly Burly) to Kushner (Angels in America). Not to be out-O'Neilled, Dillane did time in Long Day's Journey Into Night with London's National Theatre, playing not Jamie, but the TB-ridden younger brother, Edmund Tyrone. Film roles have included the lead reporter in "Welcome To Sarajevo" with Woody Harrelson. Like Byrne and Hoffman, he is nominated for the Drama Desk Award and shared an Outer Critics Circle nomination with Byrne (they lost to Derek Jacobi, who was not nominated for a Tony).

John C. Reilly, in True West
Like his co-nominee Philip Seymour Hoffman -- with whom he switches roles in True West every three performances -- Reilly has made a splash in his film roles, including appearances in "Magnolia," "Boogie Nights," "The Thin Red Line," "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?," and the upcoming "The Perfect Storm." In the theatre, Reilly has mostly remained in the regions, although Steppenwolf's The Grapes of Wrath brought him to Broadway for the first time. He and co-star Hoffman were awarded the Outer Critics Circle Special Achievement Award for their performances.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, in True West
The movies love Hoffman, showering him with great press, nominations (including a nod for the IFP/West Spirit Award) and awards (Best Supporting Actor, National Board of Review) for his roles in "The Talented Mr. Ripley," "Magnolia," "Flawless," "Boogie Nights" and "Happiness." Seen only Off-Broadway until now, Hoffman's credits include Shopping and Fucking, Defying Gravity, Food and Shelter and The Skriker. Co artistic director of the LABrynth Theatre Company, he recently directed their In Arabia We'd All Be Kings. Hoffman is Drama Desk nominated and won, alongside co-nominee Reilly, the Outer Critics Circle Special Achievement Award.

David Suchet, in Amadeus
Americans probably recognize him as Hercule Poirot from the PBS "Mystery!" series, but Suchet has an extensive and lauded theatrical past in England. For starters, he was nominated for the 1999 Olivier Award for playing Salieri in Amadeus' highly successful London run (he lost to none other than Kevin Spacey, tackling O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh). He has won or been nominated for Best Actor accolades for a dizzying range of parts from Shakespeare (Iago in Othello, Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Caliban in The Tempest) to Mamet (Oleanna) and Albee (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?). He is an associate artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Analysis: Byrne, although recognized in his movie career, surprised a lot of theatergoers with his quiet portrayal of Jamie Tyrone (including that 20-minute monologue about his mother's death). Dillane has the reviews to match Byrne's -- and he also had an Olivier Award nomination for his Real Thing effort. Suchet is, as of May 14, without a show, a fact that doesn't help his chances. As for those True West boys, one of the unwritten Tony rules is actors from the same show in the same category will cancel each other out, so don't expect Hoffman (even with sympathy votes for his 2000 Academy Award shut-out) or Reilly to win the prize. The contest may very well be between Byrne and Dillane, but who will take home the Tony is anybody's guess.

-- By Christine Ehren