Al Pacino ("You Don't Know Jack") and Maggie Smith ("Capturing Mary") are the only two Emmy champs among the 10 nominees for lead performances in telefilms and mini-series. Both are also among the 17 performers to win the triple crown of acting.
Pacino joined this exclusive club in 2004 when he won in this same category with his first Emmy nomination for "Angels in America." The veteran stage actor is batting a thousand with the Tonys, winning both of his bids for "Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie" (featured, 1969) and "The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel" (lead, 1977). However, the patient Pacino had to wait till nomination No. 8 in 1993 before finally taking home an Oscar for "Scent of a Woman."
Smith had two unsuccessful Emmy bids -- one in this race in 1993 for "Suddenly Last Summer" and another in the supporting category for "David Copperfield" -- before prevailing in 2003 for her lead performance in "My House in Umbria." By then, Smith already had two Oscars -- "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" (lead, 1969) and "California Suite" (supporting, 1978) -- and a Tony Award -- "Lettice and Lovage" (lead, 1990) -- on her mantle.
One of Smith's longtime friends and frequent co-star is Judi Dench ("Return to Cranford"). While she has an Oscar -- "Shakespeare in Love" (supporting, 1998) -- and a Tony -- "Amy's View" (lead, 1999) -- Dench does not have an Emmy. She has lost this race twice before: in 2001 for "Last of the Blonde Bombshells" and in 2008 for the original "Cranford."
The other three actresses contending are all one-time past nominees. Joan Allen ("Georgia O'Keeffe") lost her 2002 supporting actress bid for the miniseries "The Mists of Avalon." Back in 1995, Claire Danes ("Temple Grandin") lost the lead actress in a drama series race for "My So-Called Life." And last year, Hope Davis ("The Special Relationship") was bested in the supporting actress in a drama series race for "In Treatment."
Ian McKellen ("The Prisoner") is a four-time Emmy also-ran. Last year, he lost this same category with "King Lear." Prior to that he lost two supporting actor in a movie or miniseries races -- "And the Band Played On" (1994) and "Rasputin" (1996) – as well as a guest actor in a comedy series bid for "Extras" in 2007.
The other three actors in contention -- Jeff Bridges ("A Dog Year") and both Dennis Quaid and Michael Sheen ("The Special Relationship") -- are all first-time Emmy nominees.
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Left photo: "You Don't Know Jack" poster. Credit: HBO
Right photo: "Capturing Mary" DVD cover. Credit: BBC