Emmy spotlight: Jim Broadbent steals scenes in epic ‘War and Peace’

The lavish production of “War and Peace” is sure to be an Emmy contender in a slew of below-the-line categories. And leads Paul Dano, Lily James and James Norton are strong contenders too. Among the supporting players, the standout is Jim Broadbent. He steals every scene in which he appears as Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky, an aristocrat who struggles to maintain his stature in tsarist Russia during the Napoleonic era.

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Broadbent won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar back in 2001 for his turn in “Iris” as writer John Bayley whose wife, author Iris Murdoch, was afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease.

And he is well-known to TV academy voters. He contended in this category in 2002 for his performance in “The Gathering Storm”; he lost to Michael Moriarty (“James Dean”). And in 2007, he was nominated up in lead for his BAFTA-winning role in “Longford”; he was bested by another Oscar winner, Robert Duvall (“Broken Trail”). 

Current frontrunners in the competitive TV Movie/Limited Series Supporting Actor race include: Oscar champ Chris Cooper (“11.22.63”), two-time Oscar nominee John Travolta (“The People v. O.J. Simpson”), two-time Emmy winner Ted Danson (“Fargo”), past category champ Martin Freeman (“Sherlock: The Abominable Bride”) and Tony winner Denis O’Hare (“American Horror Story: Hotel”) 

Lets review the pros and cons of this British character actor breaking into such a crowded field. 

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Prince Nikolai plays a pivotal part in key plot points throughout the six episodes. The tyrannical father of Andrei (Norton) and Maria (Jessie Buckley), he rules their lives with an iron-fist, making many decision for them that have far-reaching repercussions.

While he has many dramatic scenes, Broadbent also gets to show off his deft touch at comedy with memorable moments of tomfoolery. 

A rule change allows nominees to submit an episode. Broadbent is at his best in episode five, in which Prince Nikoai finally realizes that his way of life is over, 

Broadbent also has a supporting role in the limited series “London Spy” and could split his vote. 

He faces a rival among the large cast of “War and Peace” in Stephen Rea, who is delicioulsy devilish as the manipulative Prince Vassily Kuragin.

“Fargo” and “The People v. OJ Simpson” could dominate this category: “Fargo” has Danson, Bokeem Woodbine and Nick Offerman while “The People v. O.J. Simpson” has Travolta, Sterling K. Brown, Nathan Lane and David Schwimmer.

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Photo: “War and Peace” (The Weinstein Company)

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