Because I made the torturous decision to watch Game 5 of the NBA Finals last night instead of the Tonys (forgive me Sean Hayes) I had to wait for my morning paper to get the award results. Let’s just say it was a sleepless night.
When I saw the list of the winners, one thing jumped into my mind… EGOT! The greatest legacy of Philip Michael Thomas, the acronym signifies a winner of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. It is also the grandest ambition of Tracy Jordan.
The winners last night included Denzel Washington (already has two Oscars), Catherine Zeta-Jones (already has an Oscar), Scarlett Johansson (seems a mortal lock for at least a Supporting Oscar down the line and has released two albums), and writer John Logan (nominated twice for Oscars).
The reason this is so significant is that the Tony is clearly the hardest of the four to achieve. While all of the above undoubtedly won at least partly because they are already famous, this happens with all of the component awards. In the other three disciplines, mistakes and flaws can be covered up with production tricks. But even if you’re famous, to win a Tony you need to do 8 shows a week for several months, risking your reputation in front of crowds that paid top dollar to see you in person. And if there’s anything Broadway loves more than giving famous people awards, it’s watching them fail embarrassingly (see: Jeremy Piven).
The second hardest is the Oscar, which is a delicate balance of performance and politics. Then comes the Grammy, which loves to give awards to well-known people who do spoken word albums (although more to politicians than actors), produce soundtracks, or perform guest spots on singles, so can be gamed with a little strategy. Once you get the other three, the Emmy is a cake-walk. Guest-performance Emmys always go to famous nominees, so if you’re willing to put in a day’s work for a few years in a row doing spots on “very special episodes”, you’re golden.
Obviously, the whole idea of the EGOT (and judging artists by awards at all, really) is super-ridiculous. At the same time, it’s undeniably interesting. The EGOT is made up of the major awards in the four popular modes of artistic performance. Some might argue for the inclusion of the Golden Globes, but they overlap the Oscars and Emmys and are way too star-fucking/crooked/whorish to be included (and that’s saying something). To win the EGOT, you have to be talented, versatile and respected. While it may not signify that you’re a great artist, it does mean that the artistic community likes you, it really likes you.
So who will be breaking Ricardo Tubbs heart in the future? Let’s look at the people who have already attained the EGOT and make some predictions. EGOT winners fall into three categories:
In Da Club: Richard Rodgers, Marvin Hamlisch, Jonathan Tunick.
Whose Next?: I can’t claim much knowledge about soundtrack composers (Jonathan Tunick?), so can’t comment too much on this subgroup. I was shocked that John Williams wasn’t on the list and thought he was a shoo-in. However, the one he’s missing is the Tony and he’s never done theatre work, plus he’s 78, so he probably doesn’t get there. Burt Bacharach is also only missing the Tony, and I could easily see somebody turning his oeuvre into a Mamma-Mia-type revue. Throw in a couple of new songs and he’s got a good shot. But he’s 82, so the odds are against it. Stephen Sondheim is only an Emmy away and the EGOT would be crazy easy for him to get; however, he’s 80. A borderline no.
Randy Newman: Only missing the Tony and has done some theatre work. A close call, but a yes … I see him penning a popular, whimsical musical.
Elton John/Tim Rice; Andrew Lloyd Webber: All of them only need the Emmy. Elton and Andrew seem like the type of guys who might secretly care about the EGOT. Tim Rice will ride Elton’s sequined coattails as usual.
Marc Shaiman: Only needs the Oscar, has five nominations and many memorable scores under his belt (South Park, Broadcast News, The American President, Beaches, etc.), and is only 50. By far the surest bet, plus he’s well-deserving.
Directors & Writers:
In Da Club: Mike Nichols (Directing), Mel Brooks (Writing)
Who’s Next: The hardest subset in which to nail an EGOT. Both the winners are fluky… Brooks got his because The Producers musical hit big, and Nichols is the rare true theatre director who has had solid success in film. Both are also former stand-up comedians who won their Grammys for comedy albums, which don’t exist in the same way anymore. While divergent skills are required to have success composing and acting in both recordings and live performances, directing and writing between the genres is REALLY different. So it’s possible nobody else gets added to this list… no writer or director has three out of the four already. There are a few that might have a chance, but I wouldn’t bet much money on them.
Quentin Tarantino: Already has an Oscar and will undoubtedly get more. Likes to do high-profile directing cameos on popular television shows (ER, Jimmy Kimmel Live, etc.) and was nominated for an Emmy for CSI. In 2000, the Grammys introduced an award for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for which he’s been nominated twice… he’s a shoo-in as long as the Grammys don’t realize what a retarded category it is (they won’t). The Tony is obviously the bitch of the bunch. However, Tarantino loves the risky/ballsy/stupid P.R. move… there’s nothing I would put past him trying at some point. Plus, he could get the Tony as either a writer or director. His sole Broadway experience is acting in the play Wait Until Dark, but the only way he wins it for his acting is if he dies saving a theatre full of people by throwing himself on a live grenade during a performance.
Wes Anderson: Only has one Oscar nomination so far, but he’s definitely in the game for that one in both writing and directing, and should be as big a shoo-in for the Compilation Soundtrack Grammy as Tarantino. He hasn’t done much TV but has directed a ton of commercials, so it isn’t as if he’s against whoring himself out. The reason he’s on this list is that he has such an obvious connection/soft-spot for the theater that the odds are good he does some sort of high-profile Broadway show down the line.
Scott Rudin: The Hollywood studio heavyweight could be the first producer to get an EGOT… he’s only missing the Grammy. Given that he has a reputation for being a total douchebag, I’m betting that he forces his name on some high-profile soundtracks as a producer to finish it off.
Rob Marshall: He already has two Emmys for Outstanding Choreography (who knew?), plus six Tony nominations and an Oscar nod for Chicago. Hard to see where that Grammy is coming from though… maybe in some soundtrack producer capacity.
Baz Luhrmann: Doesn’t have any of the awards yet (his only nomination was for a Tony), but still might be the best bet. Assuming the horribleness of Australia was a fluke, the Oscar’s in play; he’s an HBO project away from an Emmy; he’s directed several high profile theatre pieces, such as La Boheme on Broadway; and he put together “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”, which was a number-one single in England. Like Marshall, he’s one of the few big directors whose milieu is musicals, which is the best way to bridge all four awards.
In Da Club: Helen Hayes, Rita Moreno, John Gielgud, Audrey Hepburn, Whoopi Goldberg (?!?)… some also count Barbara Streisand and Liza Minelli, but Babs’ Tony and Liza’s Grammy are “Special” Honorary awards, so I call bullshit… I’d still bet Liza gets a real Grammy at some point though, depending on the results of her most recent physical.
Who’s Next?: The most visible of the EGOT subsets also has the most members. Because the film musical, while having a recent resurgence, isn’t as strong as it once was, it may seem as if it’s harder for performers to get an EGOT these days. But more stars are willing to do television and are recording music, so the odds of hitting the Grand Slam might actually be better than ever. Julie Andrews, Cher, and Robin Williams are only a Tony away, but there’s little chance that they put themselves through the rigors of a Broadway schedule. Ellen Burstyn, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, and Geoffrey Rush are all only missing Grammys… none will get one, as much as I’d love to hear Pacino scream his way through a children’s book. Glenn Close has three Emmys, three Tonys and five Oscar nominations… Grammy aside, she’s missed her Oscar window. Marcia Gay Harden has the Oscar and Tony, plus an Emmy nomination… but again, there’s no real Grammy possibility. The hardest call might be Jaime Foxx: he’s got the Oscar and the Grammy, and the Emmy would be no problem. I think he’d be exposed by a Broadway turn… he either wouldn’t do it or would fall on his face. But I’ve been wrong about people seeing him for the hack that he is many times before. However, there are several high-profile actors that I do think will get there.
Hugh Jackman: He seems like the textbook example of an EGOT performer. He’s won a Tony, and an Emmy for hosting the Tonys. No matter how irritating he gets, his peers find him charming. He’s able to do both musicals and serious roles. He’ll end up with a Supporting Actor Oscar and some bullshit Grammy for a song from a musical at some point.
Cynthia Nixon: This one will be Whoopi-esque, but she’s another example of an annoying performer beloved by actors. She’s 44 and only a Supporting Actress Oscar away… I say she gets it.
Scarlett Johansson/ Zooey Daschanel: Both are young (25 and 30); both record albums with popular indie rockers (Pete Yorn and M. Ward); both have healthy film careers. Scarlett just got a Tony, which gives her a serious leg up. She also seems more likely to win an Oscar. Zooey has better odds to get a Grammy. Either could get an Emmy at will. I say Scarlett gets there, but Zooey misses the Oscar and Tony.
Catherine Zeta-Jones: She’s youngish (although I need some independent verification to believe her stated age of 40 is anywhere near correct) and already has the Tony and Oscar. She’s starred in musicals and television commercials. Plus, she seems like the type who would definitely care about getting the EGOT. Given that she’ll have decades on her hands after Michael Douglas drops dead, I think that she’ll find a way.
Denzel Washington: If only he’d tried harder on St. Elsewhere. He’s got two Oscars and a Tony. Plus, he’s got a voice that was made for spoken word recordings. He’ll get a Grammy for the reading of some “important” work, and an Emmy for a TV movie or guest spot… but it won’t happen for a decade or more. My best bet of this subset, but maybe I just want a truly great actor to reach it.
By the way, Philip Michael Thomas is still four legs away from his dream. But he’s only 61, so there’s still hope.