By Lee Alan Hill
Special to TelevisionWeek
All eyes will be on Helen Mirren Jan. 15 when the 64th annual Golden Globe winners are announced, and not just because she’s expected to garner an Academy Award nomination for her Globe-nominated performance in the feature film “The Queen.”
Ms. Mirren has three Globe nominations this year, including being recognized twice for best actress in a miniseries or TV movie for her Emmy-winning performance in HBO’s “Elizabeth I” and for her work in “Prime Suspect: The Final Act,” a U.K./U.S. co-production broadcast on PBS.
“It does seem like all, say, Meryl Streep or Helen Mirren has to do is breathe to get a nomination,” said Elisabeth Sereda, a longtime Hollywood-based Austrian journalist who is on the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Television Committee.
“But no one can say that Mirren has not been giving yet more brilliant performances,” Ms. Sereda said. “Normally when someone has two nominations in the same category I say they won’t win, they’ll knock themselves off. Predicting Golden Globe winners is a foolish thing to do because there are so many surprises, but in this case, how can you not predict Mirren?”
The three Globe nominations this year give Ms. Mirren a total of nine in her much-honored career, blending both small-screen and big-screen roles. But she has won only once, in 1997, in the TV category for “Losing Chase,” about a mentally unstable woman and her relationship with a caregiver.
Ms. Mirren does face stiff competition, which includes Annette Bening for her work in the HBO movie “Mrs. Harris”; Gillian Anderson for PBS’s “Bleak House”; and Sophie Okonedo for HBO’s “Tsunami, The Aftermath.”
“Elizabeth I,” in which Ms. Mirren had the title role, won nine Emmy Awards last year, and is also Globe-nominated as best miniseries or TV movie.
Jeff Ford, director of acquisitions and Film4 for Channel 4, the U.K. network which co-produced the miniseries, sees both Ms. Mirren’s and the program’s nominations as proof that British shows are making a huge impact in the States. “To win awards in America, where drama is so inventive and strong, is a great reflection of what is going on in the U.K. production community and its strength.”
Certainly Ms. Mirren’s competition can’t be counted out. Annette Bening is also nominated as best actress in a comedy or musical feature film for her work in “Running With Scissors,” playing an entirely different sort of character than her TV work as Jean Harris, an obsessed woman driven to murder the man she loves.
After three nominations with no award, Ms. Bening did win the Globe two years ago for her work in the feature film “Being Julia.”
If the smart money is on Ms. Mirren to win as best actress in a miniseries or TV movie, Globe watchers are far more reticent to suggest a clear favorite on the best actor side.
Those nominees are Andre Braugher for FX’s “Thief,” Robert Duvall for AMC’s “Broken Trail,” Michael Ealy for Showtime’s “Sleeper Cell: American Terror,” Chiwetel Ejiofor for HBO’s “Tsunami, The Aftermath,” Ben Kingsley for HBO’s “Mrs. Harris,” Bill Nighy for BBC America’s “Gideon’s Daughter” and Matthew Perry for TNT’s “The Ron Clark Story.”
Mr. Ejiofor is also a feature film nominee for his work in “Kinky Boots,” but for the most part he, Mr. Ealy and even Mr. Nighy are not well known to American audiences.
On the other hand, Matthew Perry certainly is well known for his decade on the NBC sitcom “Friends.” But despite the success of that series and his continuing popularity with the public, this is the first time he has been nominated for a Golden Globe.
In “The Ron Clark Story” he portrayed a small-town public school teacher who relocates to a rough city school and uses his unjaded spirit to try to turn his students around.
“This is the kind of project we have not seen Matthew Perry in before,” said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz Media Television. “He’s known for sitcoms and comedy. In some ways he’s in this category with bigger names-Duvall and Kingsley, for example. On the other hand, he was successful with the critics with his performance and it may be sort of a breakthrough for him in his career.
“It’s the kind of surprise that Golden Globe voters often respond to.”
Sentiment may play in favor of Ms. Okonedo and Mr. Ejiofor, although their work in “Tsunami” was not seen by the general public until just a few weeks before the Globe nominations were announced-the HFPA members having received DVDs or attended HBO’s press screenings well in advance.
“The subject matter made it a powerful TV event, hard to ignore,” said Jenny Cooney Carrillo, the co-chair of the HFPA’s TV Committee and a contributor to Australia’s Television Week and New Zealand’s TV Guide.
“Our organization gave a lot of money for Tsunami relief,” she noted. “That horrific event affected the countries of many of our members and people from every country. It was a powerful and very current story, and every performance in it rose to the occasion. Many members felt a strong connection, though whether that will affect the voting, I cannot say.”