Paul Bettany (‘A Very British Scandal’): Emmys redemption following last year’s ‘WandaVision’ loss?

In 2021, “WandaVision” star Paul Bettany made history as the first man to be Emmy-nominated for a lead performance on a Marvel TV series, thus laying the groundwork for 2022 hopefuls Tom Hiddleston (“Loki”), Oscar Isaac (“Moon Knight”) and Jeremy Renner (“Hawkeye”). Although he lost the last Best TV Movie/Limited Series Actor race to Ewan McGregor (“Halston”), he may now get an immediate second shot at the same prize based on his work on “A Very British Scandal.” Luckily for him, there is ample precedent for back-to-back bids in this category.

The first man recognized twice in a row for TV movie and/or limited series roles was Mickey Rooney (“The Comedian,” 1958 and “Eddie,” 1959). His example has been followed by 16 others, beginning with George C. Scott (“The Price,” 1971 and “Jane Eyre,” 1972). Next came Hal Holbrook (“That Certain Summer,” 1973 and “Pueblo,” 1974) and Laurence Olivier (“Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” 1973 and “The Merchant of Venice,” 1974), the latter of whom then became the category’s first three-time consecutive nominee with his 1975 bid for “Love Among the Ruins.”

Peter Falk (“Columbo”) and Dennis Weaver (“McCloud”) both added their names to the list in 1975 after facing each other in the 1974 lineup as stars of the same series (“Columbo” was thereafter reclassified as a continuing drama). Then came William Devane (“The Missiles of October,” 1975 and “Fear on Trial,” 1976) and Edward Herrmann (“Eleanor and Franklin,” 1976 and “Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years,” 1977).

The next four entrants were Anthony Hopkins (“The Bunker,” 1981 and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” 1982), James Garner (“Barbarians at the Gate,” 1993 and “Breathing Lessons,” 1994), Beau Bridges (“Kissinger and Nixon,” 1996 and “Hidden in America,” 1997) and Laurence Fishburne (“The Tuskegee Airmen,” 1996 and “Miss Evers’ Boys,” 1997). Jack Lemmon then emulated Olivier by scoring three bids in a row for “12 Angry Men” (1998), “Inherit the Wind” (1999) and “Tuesdays with Morrie” (2000).

Kenneth Branagh (“Conspiracy,” 2001 and “Shackleton,” 2002) was the first to join the club during the 21st century. Next came Ian McKellen (“King Lear,” 2009 and “The Prisoner,” 2010), Idris Elba (“Luther,” 2011-2012) and newest member Benedict Cumberbatch, who enjoyed a pair of three-year streaks from 2012 to 2014 (“Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia,” “Parade’s End” and “Sherlock: His Last Vow”) and 2016 to 2018 (“Sherlock: The Abominable Bride,” “Sherlock: The Lying Detective” and “Patrick Melrose”).

Bettany’s chance at becoming the 18th member of this group is bolstered by the fact that Emmy voters already showed favor toward his series’ similarly titled predecessor, “A Very English Scandal,” in 2019. That three-part show, which focused on the supposedly sordid relationship between politician Jeremy Thorpe (Hugh Grant) and model Norman Josiffe (Ben Whishaw), received nominations in four major categories, including Best Actor (Grant, who lost to Jharrel Jerome, “When They See Us”) and Best Supporting Actor (Whishaw, who took the gold).

“A Very British Scandal,” which originally aired on BBC One and was subsequently released on Amazon Prime Video, stars Bettany as Ian Campbell, a Scottish duke who is regrettably best remembered for his highly publicized 1963 divorce from his adulterous wife, Margaret. Costarring as the duchess is Claire Foy, who made Emmys history last year as the first person to earn lead (2018) and guest (2021) prizes for the same role, namely Queen Elizabeth II on the drama series “The Crown.”

Critics have heaped heavy praise on both leads’ performances, with Kristen Baldwin (Entertainment Weekly) saying they “make for a brilliantly broken couple.” The Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Fienberg singles out Bettany, calling him “a withering marvel, steering into Ian’s most damaged and damaging sides,” while Variety’s Amber Dowling refers to his performance as “delicately layered” and one that will “undoubtedly garner attention [this] awards season.”

According to Gold Derby’s current odds, Bettany stands the sixth best chance of winning at the 2022 Emmys in Best TV Movie/Limited Series Actor. Michael Keaton (“Dopesick”) is running in first place, followed in order by Andrew Garfield (“Under the Banner of Heaven”), Ben Foster (“The Survivor”), Oscar Isaac (“Scenes from a Marriage”) and Colin Firth (“The Staircase”).

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