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Melissa Leo: Will a 'Mildred Pierce' Emmy follow 'Fighter' Oscar?

August 31, 2011 |  1:00 pm

Melissa Leo in "Mildred Pierce"

Could Melissa Leo's Oscar victory this year for "The Fighter" give her a fighting chance at the Emmy Awards for her role in "Mildred Pierce"?

In looking back at Emmy history, Leo should be mighty proud even to have the double opportunity, because it doesn't happen often. The reason: Actors and actresses at the peak of their film careers generally don't lower themselves to do television work.

Can she win, though? Yes, according to two recent examples. In 2007, Helen Mirren took home the Academy Award for "The Queen" and also won an Emmy Award for her lead role in "Prime Suspect: The Final Act." Another Helen -- Helen Hunt -- prevailed at the Oscars in 1998 for "As Good as It Gets" and then won her third consecutive Emmy later that year for her comedy work on "Mad About You."

On every other recent occasion, however, Oscar-winning stars have gone home empty-handed at the Emmys a few months later:

2010 -- Jeff Bridges wins Oscar for "Crazy Heart," loses Emmy for "A Dog Year" to Al Pacino ("You Don't Know Jack").

2007 -- Forest Whitaker wins Oscar for "The Last King of Scotland," loses Emmy for "E.R." to John Goodman ("Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip").

2003 -- Chris Cooper wins Oscar for "Adaptation," loses Emmy for "My Life in Umbria" to Ben Gazzara ("Hysterical Blindness").

2002 -- Jim Broadbent wins Oscar for "Iris," loses Emmy for "The Gathering Storm" to Michael Moriarty ("James Dean").

1997 -- Frances McDormand wins Oscar for "Fargo," loses Emmy for "Hidden in America" to Diana Rigg ("Rebecca").

1996 -- Mira Sorvino wins Oscar for "Mighty Aphrodite," loses Emmy for "Norma Jean and Marilyn" to Helen Mirren ("Prime Suspect 4").

1991 -- Whoopi Goldberg wins Oscar for "Ghost," loses Emmy for "A Different World" to Colleen Dewhurst ("Murphy Brown").

1982 -- John Gielgud wins Oscar for "Arthur," loses Emmy for "Brideshead Revisited" to Laurence Olivier ("Brideshead Revisited").

1978 -- Jason Robards wins Oscar for "Julia," loses Emmy for "Washington: Behind Closed Doors" to Michael Moriarty ("Holocaust").

Comparisons between the Emmys and Oscars are tricky because of their different eligibility periods. Oscars are bestowed according to the calendar year of a movie's release. Programs win Emmys for airing on TV between June 1 of one year and May 31 of the next. Holly Hunter won an Oscar and an Emmy for a film that was released and a TV show that aired in 1993, but she claimed the statuettes in different calendar years. In September 1993, she bagged the Emmy for starring in "The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom." Five months later she received an Academy Award as lead actress in "The Piano." She was also nominated in Oscar's supporting race for "The Firm," losing to her "The Piano" costar Anna Paquin.

At the upcoming Emmys, Melissa Leo squares off in the race for supporting actress in a TV movie/miniseries against Eileen Atkins ("Upstairs, Downstairs"), Maggie Smith ("Downton Abbey"),
Mare Winningham ("Mildred Pierce") and "Mildred Pierce" costar Evan Rachel Wood. Smith and Wood are considered to be her closest rivals.

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-- Tom O'Neil

Photo: Melissa Leo in "Mildred Pierce." Credit: HBO

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