Corden scoops the top prize on Broadway


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The Independent Online

Actor and comedian James Corden was crowned the king of Broadway on Sunday night as he was named best actor at the Tony Awards – beating heavyweight Hollywood rivals including Philip Seymour Hoffman and James Earl Jones. It marks the culmination of a recovery for an actor who admitted he had lost his way.

Corden gave a heartfelt speech at the 66th Tony Awards held at the Beacon Theatre in New York, saying he was "overwhelmed" after winning the award for best actor in a play for his lead role in One Man, Two Guvnors.

The 33-year old from High Wycombe spoke of 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," he said, "it honestly just reminds me that there is no such thing as best. Honestly, I am overwhelmed."

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 Hytner, pictured below, the artistic director of the National Theatre and the director of One Man, Two Guvnors, said Corden's appeal lies in that he "cuts against the grain".

He said: "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, and went on to take a series of minor roles and 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, which saw his fame grow wider.

At this supposed high point of his celebrity Corden later said he lost his way. During that period he received some criticism 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 Corden returned to the stage.

"I thought it was time he was rescued from that penumbra of quiz shows," he said.

Sir Nicholas added: "I don't think he lost himself that badly, he was told he had lost himself by the press. 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, earning huge critical and commercial success before transferring to the West End, where it is still running with an alternate cast. The Broadway production was mounted in April.

Corden wasn't the only export across the Atlantic to be celebrated at the prestigious awards. Once, the stage production of the independent Irish film released in 2006, won an impressive eight Tony Awards from 11 nominations.

It took the gong for Best Musical as well as awards for acting, directing and writing in the musical category, withstanding competition from the hotly-tipped Disney production Newsies.