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Five Oscar fillies (humbly) leap into the Emmy derby: Holly Hunter, Glenn Close, Sally Field, Mary McDonnell and Minnie Driver

July 10, 2008 |  9:01 pm

Goodbye, silver screen. Hello, boob tube. The fact that lots of film stars suddenly think it's smart to develop a TV career is dramatically evidenced in the Emmy race for best drama actress. Half of the top 10 vote-getters Emmy are past Oscar nominees, if not winners.

Leading the pack is five-time Academy Award also-ran Glenn Close, who is devilishly good as a barracuda of a barrister on the new series "Damages." Three years ago, Close was a nominee in this category for her one-season stint on "The Shield." Although she lost that race to Patricia Arquette, Close has one Emmy to show Sally_field_oscar_emmyfor her six nods as lead actress in a miniseries or movie (for 1995's "Serving in Silence"). And now Close, who picked up a Golden Globe in January, is apparently far ahead of Arquette, whose show is flagging even with the addition of Oscar winner Angelica Huston.

While Glenn Close lost all five of her Oscar races, Sally Field won both of her best actress bids ("Norma Rae," 1979, and "Places in the Heart," 1984). Following her start in silly 1960s sitcoms ("Gidget," "The Flying Nun"), Field gained the respect of her TV brethren with an Emmy-winning performance in "Sybil" in 1976. When her movie career stalled in the mid-1990s, Field came back to television, starring in, and exec-producing, the miniseries "A Woman of Independent Means" in 1995.

Although Glenn Close beat her for the Emmy that year, Field would win her second one in 2001 for her guest turn as the bipolar mother of Maura Tierney on "ER." When her first drama series, "The Court," was canceled after only three episodes in 2002, Field felt done with TV and turned her attention to the stage. That is, until the summer of 2006 when the producers of "Brothers & Sisters" came calling, asking her to replace Tony Award winner Betty Buckley as the matriarch of this dysfunctional family. As Nora Walker, Field ruled the roost and feathered her nest with her third Emmy last year, delivering yet another (ahem) memorable acceptance speech, which got bleeped from the U.S. telecast, of course.

Both of those 61-year-old gals clash with 50-year-old Oscar champ Holly Hunter ("The Piano"), who was so kudos-hot in 1993 that she scored an additional bid for supporting actress ("The Firm"). In 2003, she was back in the supporting racetrack for "Thirteen." None of those was her best career performance, though — that was in "Broadcast News" (best actress nomination, 1987), which earned her best-actress laurels from the New York and L.A. film critics in addition to the National Board of Review, all of which rewarded her role in "The Piano" as well. Hunter has scored six Golden Globe noms, including in the TV race last January for "Saving Grace." She won two Emmys in TV movie category: "The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom" (1993) and "Roe vs. Wade" (1989).


Minnie Driver ("The Riches") was nominated in the supporting slot at the Oscars for "Good Will Hunting" in 1997. Having reaped an Emmy nom in this category last year for this same role, it's a good bet that she'll be back.

It's been a long time since Mary McDonnell ("Battlestar Galactica") was in the Oscar derby, but she ran two races there and at the Golden Globes too: best actress ("Passion Fish," 1992) and supporting ("Dances With Wolves," 1990). She was nommed for an Emmy in 2002 for a guest turn on "E.R."

(Photo: AMPAS)