James Corden was crowned the king of Broadway amid speculation a career in Hollywood could be next after he was named best actor at the Tony Awards.
The British actor beat heavyweight rivals including Philip Seymour Hoffman and James Earl Jones. It was the culmination of a recovery for an actor who admitted he had once lost his way.
Corden gave a heartfelt speech at the 66th Tony Awards at the Beacon Theatre in New York on Sunday night, saying he was "overwhelmed" after winning best actor in a play for his lead role in One Man, Two Guvnors.
Sir Nicholas Hytner, the artistic director of the National Theatre and the show's director, said: "I'm sure he will get American movie opportunities, but his talent does not need validation. James is smart enough not to place himself at the mercy of an entertainment machine."
The 33-year-old, from High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, spoke about his competition for the prize, which also included veteran actors Frank Langella and John Lithgow.
"To be on a list with you was enough and holding this, it honestly just reminds me that there is no such thing as best," he said.
Corden said it had been a risk to bring a "ridiculously silly play" to the US but "the audiences here have embraced our show like we never ever imagined they could. Each night is a joy".
Sir Nicholas added: "Unlike most comics of his generation, he's completely without malice. He can tease the audience collectively and individuals mercilessly, but you don't feel he's getting a rise out of them."
Corden has been acting since the age of 18, when he was in the musical Martin Guerre. He went on to take a series of minor roles and make guest appearances in television shows and films.
He came to prominence in 2006 as one of the precocious schoolboys in Alan Bennett's The History Boys. Next he co-wrote and starred in the hit BBC comedy Gavin & Stacey. At this high point of his celebrity, Corden later admitted he lost his way. He was criticised for his high-profile lifestyle and several projects met with critical disdain.
Sir Nicholas, who directed The History Boys play and film, believed it was time he returned to the National Theatre and approached Corden to star in One Man, Two Guvnors before it had even been completed. He said: "I thought it was time he was rescued from that penumbra of quiz shows." He added: "I don't think he lost himself that badly. It happens to everyone; he just made a couple of bad choices."
The play, written by Richard Bean, premiered at the National Theatre in 2011 before transferring to the West End. It came to Broadway in April.
Corden continues to present the sporting quiz show A League Of Their Own on Sky. He is engaged to Julia Carey, a former TV producer.
In his emotional speech on Sunday night, he said: "She's my baby mama and I can't wait to marry her. I would not be holding this if it was not for her."
The Brit pack Tony winners
2011 Mark Rylance won best performance by a leading actor in a play for his role as Johnny "Rooster" Byron in Jerusalem. This came three years after his award for Boeing Boeing.
2006 The History Boys brought Richard Griffiths the award for leading actor in a play, beating fellow Brit Ralph Fiennes, who was in Faith Healer.
2003 Vanessa Redgrave's portrayal of Mary Tyrone in Long Day's Journey Into Night won her the Tony in 2003.
2002 Alan Bates played AE Houseman in The Invention of Love, which won the best leading actor in a play a year before his death and almost two decades after winning the same award for his role in Buntley.
2002 The same year, Lindsay Duncan won best performance by a leading actress in a play for her portrayal of Amanda Prynne in Private Lives.
1999 Judi Dench picked up the award for leading actress in a play for Amy's View in which she played Esme Allen.
Here is the full list of 2012 Tony winners:
Choreography: Christopher Gattelli, Newsies.
Orchestration: Martin Lowe, Once.
Book of a Musical: Enda Walsh, Once
Sound Design of a Musical: Clive Goodwin, Once.
Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: Michael McGrath, Nice Work If You Can Get It.
Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Judy Kaye, Nice Work If You Can Get It.
Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: Christian Borle, Peter And The Starcatcher.
Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Judith Light, Other Desert Cities.
Sound Design of a Play: Darron L West, Peter And The Starcatcher.
Direction of a Musical: John Tiffany, Once.
Direction of Play: Mike Nichols, Death Of A Salesman.
Costume Design of a Play: Paloma Young, Peter And The Starcatcher.
Costume Design of a Musical: Gregg Barnes, Follies.
Scenic Design Play: Donyale Werle, Peter And The Starcatcher.
Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre: Newsies.
Scenic Design of a Musical: Bob Crowley, Once.
Revival of a Play: Death Of A Salesman.
Lighting Design of a Musical: Natasha Katz, Once.
Best Play: Clybourne Park.
Lighting Design of a Play: Jeff Croiter, Peter And The Starcatcher.
Revival of a Musical: The Gershwins' Porgy And Bess.
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Steve Kazee, Once.
Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Audra McDonald, The Gershwins' Porgy And Bess.
Best Musical: Once.
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: James Corden, One Man, Two Guvnors.
Performance by an Actress in Leading Role in a Play: Nina Arianda, Venus In Fur.