Broadway Stars to Hollywood Stars: Hollywood’s Leading Men

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Maximilian Bühn, vagueonthehow, Dick Thomas Johnson

Welcome back to this beautiful corner of the internet where Hollywood and Broadway coexist, where we celebrate celebrities who have transcended from the stage to the screen! Since we had so much fun exploring the Broadway/Hollywood overlap with Hollywood stars who got their start on Broadway: the OGs and the Next Generation, today we’re highlighting even more screen actors who cut their teeth on the Great White Way (or equivalent places abroad). Keep your eyes peeled, there are a few surprises on this list that you may not have been aware were theater actors before their on-screen stardom!

Broadway Stars turned Hollywood’s leading men: Hugh Jackman

Let’s start with a Broadway-to-Hollywood switch hitter, the thespian-turned-superstar from Down Under, Mr. Hugh Jackman. As the only Aussie on this list, Hugh’s theatrical talent was not cultivated in New York City or on Broadway, but rather in the theater district of Melbourne after graduating from drama school in 1994. Hugh Jackman began his musical stage career in Australia and made his West End debut in 1998 as Curly in Oklahoma. He won an Olivier Award (the UK’s version of a Tony Award) for Best Actor in a Musical for his role.

The dawn of the 21st century began a new era in Hugh Jackman’s professional career and sealed his fate as a Hollywood force to be reckoned with. I’m talking about Wolverine, arguably Jackman’s breakthrough role in 2000’s X-Men, alongside other Hollywood A-listers including James Marsden, Halle Berry, and Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan (©BFFS).

After the release of X-Men, Hugh reprised his role as Wolverine for over 15 years in numerous installments in the 20th Century Fox/Marvel Comics franchise including sequels X2 (2002) and X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), the prequel film X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), X-Men: First Class (2011), and standalone origin film, The Wolverine (2013). He played the role of Wolverine 3 more times, ending his run as the superhero character in 2017 with Logan. 

Did you know that Hugh Jackman currently holds the Guinness World Record for having the longest career as a live-action superhero? Along with fellow X-Men OG, Sir Patrick Stewart, the 2 tie for their 16-year, 228-day roles as Wolverine and Professor X.

But did you also know that Hugh Jackman was a superhero and a song and dance man at the same time? During his entire X-Men reign, Hugh was all over Broadway. In 2003, he originated the role of Australian singer/songwriter Peter Allen in the Broadway revival of jukebox musical The Boy from Oz. For his performance, Hugh won a 2004 Tony Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical and in 2006, months after the release of X Men: The Last Stand, he reprised his role in the musical for sold-out arenas in a touring production throughout Australia.

During this era of his fame, Hugh Jackman hosted the Tony Awards 3 years in a row, from 2004-2006, and again in 2014. He remains one of the most beloved Tony hosts in recent history. Hugh even won an Emmy Award for hosting the 58th Annual Tony Awards (which is like a meta ‘check-mate’ of an award, if you ask me). Anyway, after a few more blockbuster movies like The Prestige (2006), the animated blockbuster Happy Feet (2006), The Fountain (2006), and Baz Luhrmann’s epic adventure drama Australia (2008) opposite Nicole Kidman, he bounced back to the stage in 2009, starring in a Broadway production of A Steady Rain opposite Daniel Craig (one of Hugh Jackman’s few Broadway performances in a non-musical role).

In 2012, Hugh starred in 2 super blockbusters released a month apart: Rise of the Guardians in November of 2012, and the Tom Hooper-directed film adaptation of Les Miserables on Christmas 2012, in which Hugh starred in the lead role of Jean Valjean. He earned his first Academy Award nomination for the role and also won a Golden Globe in 2013. (Wow, how have we not even mentioned Les Miserables until now? There is so much to say about this movie! Luckily, we wrote all about it in this article last month.)

In 2017, Hugh Jackman hit us with the cinematic delight that is The Greatest Showman, in which the triple-threat starred as circus master P.T. Barnum. It was a blockbuster musical drama, with an ensemble cast that included Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, and Zendaya. Not only did The Greatest Showman earn a staggering $435 million in global box office sales (making it the third highest-grossing musical film of all time), but Hugh’s lauded performance as P.T. Barnum earned him another Golden Globe Award and a Grammy Award in 2018.

What’s up next for Hugh Jackman, you may be wondering? He’s returning to Broadway, baby! Yes, indeed! In the starring role of Professor Harold Hill in Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man, co-starring with Tony Award winner Sutton Foster (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Anything Goes, Younger). The Music Man begins previews on December 20th and officially opens at the Winter Garden Theater on February 10, 2022.

Broadway Stars turned Hollywood’s leading men: Neil Patrick Harris

As a former child star, Neil Patrick Harris’s 5-decade career in television is nothing short of prolific. He’s widely known in ‘80’s pop culture for his lead role from 1989 to 1993 on ABC’s Doogie Howser, MD, where he played the title role of the teenage physician, Doogie Howser. While this marked his breakout role on television, NPH spent the rest of the ‘90s and early 2000’s bouncing between the stage and the screen.

In 2003, Neil Patrick Harris made his Broadway debut as the Emcee in Cabaret. The following year he starred as himself in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, along with the film’s subsequent sequels in 2008 and 2011. 2005 brought the debut of the hit sitcom series How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014), in which NPH plays the lovable cad, Barney Stinson, one of his longest and most culturally influential roles to date. During this Hollywood sprint, Neil Patrick Harris also starred in a number of animated and children’s movies including Justice League (2008), Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs (2009), The Smurfs (2011), and Smurfs 2 (2013).

Neil Patrick Harris originated the role of Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch in the Broadway revival production that premiered in April 2014. He won a Tony for Best Lead Actor in a Musical before going on to star in David Fincher’s hit thriller Gone Girl opposite Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck later that same year.

But his Tony win was hardly the only time NPH has graced the stage of Radio City Music Hall for the awards. Like Hugh Jackman, he’s hosted the Broadway award show 4 times (in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013!) NPH has also hosted the Emmys twice (in 2009 and 2013) and the Oscars once in 2015. Although, that one was an uncharacteristic flop for “the man who can host anything.”

NPH redeemed himself to many musical theater fans later that year when he directed the staged version of rock musical Rent at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. The production starred Vanessa Hudgens, Skylar Astin, Aaron Tveit, and Wayne Brady, among other A-list triple-threats.

Even just reading Neil Patrick Harris’s long list of theater, television, and film credits makes me want to take a nap. So, what could he be possibly working on next? Just a little indie film called… the 4th installment of The Matrix! That’s right! Written and directed by Lana Wachowski, The Matrix 4: Resurrections is currently in post-production and set to be released on December 22 of this year. While NPH is new to The Matrix franchise, he will be appearing in the ensemble cast alongside Keanu Reeves, playing Neo’s therapist. (A teaser trailer was JUST released and we could not be more excited!)

In addition to Matrix 4, NPH also stars in upcoming films, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, alongside Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal, and Anita, the biopic of beauty queen Anita Bryant, and starring opposite Ashley Judd. Both are currently slated for release in 2022.

Broadway Stars turned Hollywood’s leading men: Adam Driver

Not only is Adam Driver the only non-musical-theater member of this list, but he is the only one who served in the military before making it big in Hollywood or on Broadway! Hello, lived experience! If you weren’t aware, Adam enlisted in the Marines shortly after 9/11 and served for 2 years before being medically discharged after breaking his sternum in a mountain biking accident. (The more you know, right?)

After graduating from Juilliard in 2009, Adam Driver starred in a number of productions at esteemed off-Broadway houses like Playwrights Horizons and the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. He made his Broadway debut in 2010 in The Forest, a classic Alexander Ostrovsky play from 1871. He also starred in Broadway productions of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America (2010-2011), Man and Boy (2011), and Look Back in Anger (2012).

During this spree of Broadway roles, Adam made his film debut in Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar in 2011. He then very quickly became Sunday-primetime-HBO famous on Lena Dunham’s Girls, in which he played Lena’s character’s boyfriend, Adam. His character on that show deserves an entire article unto itself. Let’s just say, Adam Driver made an impact on Hollywood as well as the tortured romantic souls of many millennial women. And also John Oliver. 

During the early 2010s, he transitioned quite seamlessly to the big screen. In 2012 alone he starred in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, as well as the now-iconic indie flick, Francis Ha, opposite Greta Gerwig. Adam Driver went on to star in a whole bunch of movies since then and, long story short, now he’s Star Wars famous so… yeah. Definitely ‘Hollywood leading man’ material. We particularly love the fact that he starred in Spike Lee’s BlacKKlansman (2018), Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story (opposite Scarlett Johansson) (2019), and Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker (2019) in the span of 18 months.

Adam last starred on Broadway in 2019, in a production of Burn This at the Hudson Theater. His wide-ranging acting credits alone speak to his versatility as an actor.

Currently, Adam Driver is starring in Annette, the recently-released musical romance drama in which he appears opposite Marion Cotillard. In the film, Adam plays a provocative stand-up comedian married to a renowned opera singer (Marion). When the 2 have a child, their whole lives are changed… inarguably for the worse. We won’t give away any spoilers but we will say that Annette is already getting a ton of Oscar chatter and has received widely positive reviews from critics. The film is now available to watch on Amazon Prime.

Broadway Stars turned Hollywood’s leading men: Andrew Rannells

It just felt right to include one of my other favorite actors from Girls. Unlike Adam Driver, Andrew Rannells is definitely a song-and-dance man. Andrew made his Broadway debut in 2002 as the TV teen icon Link Larkin in Hairspray. He continued his Broadway career with multiple productions of Jersey Boys (2007-2009) and then had his breakthrough role in 2011, originating the role of Elder Price in The Book of Mormon, written by South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone, along with EGOT winner Robert Lopez. Andrew was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for his performance and he won a Grammy Award that year for Best Musical Theater Album.

In 2012, Andrew Rannells transitioned to the small screen with lead roles on NBC’s New Normal and HBO’s Girls. On Girls, he played the role of Elijah Krantz, best friend and former boyfriend of Lena Dunham’s Hannah Horvath (and quite a foil to Adam Driver’s character). On the side, Adam also temporarily filled in for Jonathan Groff as King George III in Broadway’s Hamilton for a month in November 2015. Nbd. Just doing a favor for a friend!

Andrew Rannells was again nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical in 2017 for his performance in James Lapine’s Falsettos before starring as Larry in the 2018 Broadway revival of Boys in the Band, alongside Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer, and Zachary Quinto.

Boys in the Band not only won a Tony Award for Best Revival in 2018 but it was also adapted into a Netflix original film with the entire original Broadway cast, and was released in September of 2020.

Currently, Andrew Rannells is very busy as he stars in Showtime’s Black Monday, the Netflix animated series Big Mouth, created by Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg, and Amazon’s adult superhero animated series, Invincible. The third season of Black Monday just concluded last month. Andrew Rannells’ stunning performance aside, we think it’s a perfect show to start binging if you haven’t had the chance to dive in yet.

Broadway Stars turned Hollywood’s leading men: Leslie Odom Jr.

Hamilton fans are well aware of the many talents of Leslie Odom Jr. but for those of you who may not be familiar, we figured we’d fill you in. (We wouldn’t want you to feel left out. And this actor/musician is definitely worth knowing!)

Leslie Odom Jr. made his Broadway debut in 1998 at the age of 17, when he appeared as ensemble member Paul in Rent. Despite a robust regional and Broadway resume throughout the early 2000s, Leslie didn’t have his breakout part until 2015, when he originated the role of Aaron Burr in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. If you’ve been living under a rock for 6 years, Hamilton was a huuuuuuuuuuuge success. Leslie quickly became contemporary musical theater royalty in 2016 after winning a Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical and a Grammy Award that same year for Best Musical Theater Album.

Since his smashing success in Hamilton, Leslie Odom Jr. has starred in a slew of Hollywood blockbusters, including Murder on the Orient Express (2017), Only (2019), and Harriet (2019) opposite fellow thespian-turned-movie star, Cynthia Erivo. Hollywood fans and Broadway fans alike got to experience Leslie’s on-screen reprisal of his role of Aaron Burr in the film adaptation of Hamilton, released in December 2020 on Disney+.

Leslie Odom Jr. sure had a better (and more productive) 2020 than we did because, also in December of last year, he starred as singer-songwriter Sam Cooke in the critically-acclaimed drama, One Night in Miami, directed by Regina King (in her feature directorial debut). The film was nominated for 3 Academy Awards this year, with Leslie being nominated twice for Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Song. “Speak Now,” which Leslie co-wrote for the film, was released in January of this year. His next starring role is in The Sopranos prequel feature film, The Many Saints of Newark. The movie, which premieres in less than a month, will be available to watch in theaters or on HBO Max starting October 1st. 

Keep your eyes on Leslie Odom Jr., Hollywooders. We have a feeling he too may join the EGOT circle one day.

Broadway Stars turned Hollywood’s leading men: Daveed Diggs

Let’s wrap up this illustrious list with Leslie Odom Jr.’s Hamilton co-star Daveed Diggs. 

After graduating from Brown University in 2004 and moving back to the San Francisco area, Daveed raked up a sizable amount of experimental theater credits at San Francisco’s Custom Made Theatre Company and the San Francisco Playhouse, among others. He also performed in several Shakespeare productions during the mid-2000s, including The Tempest in 2006 at the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival and Troilus and Cressida at the Pacific Repertory Theatre in 2008.

Daveed met Lin-Manuel Miranda in 2012, while performing with the improvisational rap group Freestyle Love Supreme. Soon after, Lin-Manuel shared his idea for Hamilton with Daveed, who was in on the musical’s development from the ground floor. Daveed Diggs originated the dual roles of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton’s Off-Broadway run at The Public Theater and then continued in his roles when the show premiered at Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theater in January 2015. Like Leslie Odom, Jr., Daveed also earned a Tony Award in 2016. He won for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. Additionally, he took home a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album that year.

Following the performer’s departure from Hamilton in July of 2016, Daveed has starred in films like Wonder (2017) with Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, the animated comedy Ferdinand (2017), Velvet Buzzsaw (2019) with Jake Gyllenhaal, and the animated Pixar musical Soul (2020). Like Lin-Manuel Miranda and Leslie Odom Jr., Daveed Diggs also reprised his roles in the Disney+ on-screen adaptation of Hamilton, much to the delight of audiences around the globe.

In 2018, Daveed Diggs made his first foray into filmmaking, with the release of Blindspotting. He co-wrote, co-produced, and co-starred in the movie with his longtime friend and creative partner, Rafael Casal. Daveed and Rafael wrote Blindspotting, a comedy-drama set in their home city of Oakland, California, over the course of 9 years. They documented the city’s gentrification through the story of a Black Oakland resident, played by Daveed, who is trying to complete his last few days of parole without incident. The film was a hit among critics. It also has a score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, and President Barack Obama even named Blindspotting on his 2018 list of favorite films.

As far as upcoming projects go, Daveed Diggs is making Disney money, baby! Next, he will be starring as Sebastian in a live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid. The upcoming film also stars Chloe x Halle’s Halle Bailey as Ariel, Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, and Javier Bardem as King Triton. While The Little Mermaid wrapped its production in Sardinia in July of this year (cool!), there’s been no word yet from Disney about a potential release date. Keep your eyes peeled on 2022, this movie is going to be a big fish (mermaid?) in the Hollywood pond!

Ah, and there you have it. Six superstars who honed their craft as thespians on the stage and skyrocketed to Hollywood fame. But keep in mind Hollywood stans, these are just a curated selection of some of the leading Broadway-to-Hollywood male superstars. This list could go on and on and on and on. Keep your eyes peeled, we’ll be back soon with the female version of this list. Like your last cue for curtain call, you won’t want to miss it!

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