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What's next for Oscar nominees? Theater for some

February 23, 2012 |  9:30 am

Lead2Receiving an Oscar nomination can be an actor's ticket to the big leagues -- goodbye (for the most part) to low-paying, thankless roles and hello (cross your fingers) to plum parts in prestige pictures. But sometimes the lure of a good stage role can be more powerful than anything Hollywood has to offer. Such is the case with a handful of this year's Academy Award nominees.

Jessica Chastain was arguably the breakout actress of 2011, appearing in six films and receiving a supporting actress Oscar nomination for "The Help." She has already lined up a number of projects, including the new Kathryn Bigelow movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden. In the fall, she is scheduled to head to Broadway to star in a revival of "The Heiress," in which she will play the rather plain-looking daughter of a successful New York doctor.

"The Heiress" will be Chastain's Broadway debut, but the actress is no stranger to the stage, having performed at the Public Theater and Playwrights Horizons in New York. She also appeared opposite Al Pacino in an L.A. stage production of Oscar Wilde's "Salome" in 2006.

Demián Bichir surprised many this year by receiving a lead actor Oscar nomination for the indie film "A Better Life," in which he plays an undocumented gardener working in L.A. For the last few weeks, the actor has been starring in a stage production of "Swimming With Sharks" at the Teatro de los Insurgentes in Mexico City.

The Spanish-language production features Bichir as a ruthless movie producer who terrorizes his young assistant with abusive behavior. The play, adapted from the 1994 Kevin Spacey movie of the same title, is directed by the actor's brother, Bruno Bichir. (Scenes from the play are viewable online.)

The company said on its website that the show will break temporarily starting this week  -- coinciding with the Oscars ceremony -- and is expected to resume on March 1.

In 2008, Bichir appeared at the Geffen Playhouse in "By the Waters of Babylon" by Robert Schenkkan, in which he played a gardener (again) who falls into a relationship with a wealthy widow.

Christopher Plummer, who is nominated for supporting actor in "Beginners," is widely expected to take home his first Oscar statuette on Sunday. The 82-year-old actor has been on a cinematic roll in recent years -- he's also in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" -- but he has regularly returned to the stage in his native Canada.

In July, Plummer will star in his autobiographical one-man play "A Word or Two" at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Directed by Des McAnuff, the show will explore Plummer's love of literature, including works by Ben Jonson, A.A. Milne and even the Bible.

After Sunday's ceremony, George Clooney will head almost immediately into the play "8," which is having its L.A. debut on March 3 in a one-night benefit reading at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. Clooney received two Oscar nominations this year -- for lead actor in "The Descendants" and for co-writing the adapted screenplay for "The Ides of March."

The play "8," by Dustin Lance Black, is based on the court trial Perry vs. Schwarzenegger, which sought to overturn Prop. 8, the California ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage. Clooney will play the role of David Boies, an attorney for the plaintiffs seeking to overturn the measure.

Writer John Logan is up for an Oscar this year for his screenplay for Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," adapted from the Brian Selznick book. In August, Logan's "Red" will make its L.A. debut at the Mark Taper Forum. The play, about artist Mark Rothko (Alfred Molina), has already been performed in London and New York, winning the Tony Award for best play in 2010.

Fans of "The Artist" -- the favorite for the best-picture award -- can catch actor James Cromwell in a revival of Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" at the Taper starting in March. The actor plays the loyal chauffeur to the Jean Dujardin character in "The Artist." Cromwell didn't receive a nomination for his role, but he did in 1996 for "Babe."

RELATED:

George Clooney joins L.A. cast of Prop. 8 play

Jessica Chastain heading to Broadway in 'The Heiress'

Oscar nominee Christopher Plummer, 'Beginners' and LACMA

-- David Ng

Photos, clockwise from top left: Christopher Plummer, left, with Ewan McGregor in "Beginners," credit: Andrew Tepper / Focus Features; George Clooney in "The Descendants"/Fox Searchlight; Jessica Chastain in "The Help"/Dale Robinette / EPA; Demián Bichir in "A Better Life"/Merrick Morton / Summit Entertainment.

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