EMMYS 2017: Before He Played an American Film Director, Alfred Molina Started as a British Stage Actor

Special Features   EMMYS 2017: Before He Played an American Film Director, Alfred Molina Started as a British Stage Actor
Feud marks Molina’s second Emmy nomination, but he’s already got three Tony nominations in the bank.
Alfred Molina Kurt Iswarienko/FX

When the Primetime Emmy Award nominations were announced July 13, Feud: Bette and Joan raked in 19 nominations, seven of those for its actors. Three-time Tony nominee Alfred Molina earned recognition for his portrayal of Robert Aldrich, the director-producer who fueled the fight between What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? co-stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

Born in Britain, Molina joined the National Youth Theatre in 1969 before studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1977. As a member of the Company, he appeared in productions of Troilus and Cressida and King Lear and started generating buzz after his performance as the Maniac in a London production of Accidental Death of an Anarchist.

The following year, Molina made his West End debut at the age of 27 when he bowed in Oklahoma! as loner Jud Fry. He appeared in the Donmar Warehouse’s production of Destry Rides Again in 1982.

By then, Molina had appeared in Raiders of the Lost Ark—his first American film—and his movie career took off, varying from indie films like Prick Up Your Ears to playing opposite big names like Sally Field and Marisa Tomei. But Molina soon discovered the American theatre scene, as well, and made his Off-Broadway debut in the Public Theater’s Henry IV in 1991. He made his Roundabout Theatre Company debut Off-Broadway in Brian Friel’s Molly Sweeney in 1995, for which he earned a Drama Desk nomination, and three years later made it to the Main Stem.

Molina originated the role of Yvan in Broadway’s Art, which garnered the actor a Theatre World Award, Drama Desk Award, and his first Tony nomination. Off doing movies like The Imposters, Chocolat, and Frida, Molina waited until 2004 to make his Broadway return, this time in the iconic role of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. The actor was nominated for the Drama Desk and Tony Awards for his performance as the hard-headed and soft-hearted dairyman.

In 2006, he starred alongside Annette Benning in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard at Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum—keeping his foot in the theatre even while working in Hollywood. New York wooed him back in 2007 when he appeared as the title character in Howard Katz Off-Broadway alongside Jessica Hecht and Euan Morton, directed by Doug Hughes.

Molina’s most recent Broadway outing came in 2010, when he originated the role of Mark Rothko in John Logan’s Red. Molina and co-star Eddie Redmayne began with the show’s initial run at London’s Donmar Warehouse and then transferred to Broadway. The show won the Tony Award for Best Play and Redmayne, too, took home a trophy. Molina was nominated for a Tony and a Drama Desk for his portrayal of the artist struggling to reconcile true art and commercialism.

Just this year, Molina starred oppostie Jane Kaczmarek in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.

Despite the fact that Molina has not been back to Broadway since Red, he’s continued to merge his passion for stage and screen. In 2014, he appeared in the HBO film version of the Tony-winning play The Normal Heart and earned his first Emmy nomination as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie.

Tune in to the 69th Annual Grammy Awards September 17 on CBS.


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