Best Actor nominee Tom Hiddleston walks the red carpet at the Olivier Awards 2014 with MasterCard (Photo: Pamela Raith)
Best Actor nominee Tom Hiddleston walks the red carpet at the Olivier Awards 2014 with MasterCard (Photo: Pamela Raith)

10 superstar Olivier Award winners

Published March 15, 2017

Since the Laurence Olivier Awards were established in 1976 (back then known as the Society of West End Theatre Awards), the UK’s finest theatre artists have been nominated for, and won, hundreds of statuettes. Many of these winners are stage legends, but some have split time with the screen or moved on to Hollywood almost completely.

Check out these 10 famous faces who’ve won Oliviers, and get ready for the 2017 Olivier Award winners to be announced at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday 9 April!

Helen Mirren

Best Actress winner Helen Mirren (Photo: Dan Wooller)

Best Actress winner Helen Mirren at the Olivier Awards 2013 with Mastercard (Photo: Dan Wooller)

Although she made her professional stage debut in 1966, and though she became the Internet’s dream girlfriend after her Oscar-winning turn as Her Majesty in the 2006 film “The Queen”, Dame Helen Mirren(‘s first!) Olivier Award didn’t come along until 2013. That award, for Best Actress, was again bestowed upon her for playing Elizabeth II, this time in Peter Morgan’s “The Audience”, a role she reprised in 2015 on Broadway, where she won the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Play.

Chiwetel Ejiofor

Chiwetel Ejiofor presents at the Olivier Awards 2015 with MasterCard (Photo: Alastair Muir)

Chiwetel Ejiofor presents at the Olivier Awards 2015 with MasterCard (Photo: Alastair Muir)

Ejiofor first landed on the theatrical map in 2001, with his Olivier-nominated performance for Best Supporting Actor for Blue/Orange. As the “aughties” progressed, he appeared in films beloved (Love Actually) and acclaimed (Kinky Boots) while occasionally returning to the stage. In 2008, he finally took home an Olivier for Best Actor as the title role in Othello at the Donmar Warehouse. And of course, since then, he’s been in hit films like Doctor Strange and 12 Years A Slave, for which he won a BAFTA Award, and back on the West End in Everyman at the National Theatre in 2015.

Julie Walters

Julie Walters

What hasn’t Julie Walters done, exactly? She’s starred in four decades of TV, film, and stage favourites, including seven of the eight Harry Potter films and Mamma Mia!; she’s taken home eight BAFTA Awards for films like Educating Rita and Billy Elliot and numerous TV roles; she’s written a novel and an autobiography; she’s been awarded a CBE; and oh yes, she won a 2001 Olivier Award for Best Actress for her performance in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons.

Tamsin Greig

Tamsin Greig at the Olivier Awards 2007 ceremony (Photo: Charlie Hopkinson)

Tamsin Greig at the Olivier Awards 2007 ceremony (Photo: Charlie Hopkinson)

This audience favourite of The Archers made her West End debut in 2006, as Beatrice in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Much Ado About Nothing. While Greig was hardly a theatrical rookie, the West End first-timer took home the Best Actress Olivier for this star turn. Since then, she’s trod the boards in God Of Carnage, Gethsemane, The Little Dog Laughed, and Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown, among others.

Benedict Cumberbatch

Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch at the Olivier Awards 2011, Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London (Photo: Richard Young)

Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch at the Olivier Awards 2011, Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London (Photo: Richard Young)

It’s no news to theatre lovers that the ‘Batch’s stage career long predates his big- and small-screen fame. The one-time drama student performed all over London before making his West End debut (and earning his first Olivier nomination) in 2005 in Hedda Gabler. After dropping in on some TV series (including shooting a little thing called Sherlock) and films like Atonement, he returned to the West End, and in 2011 shared the roles of Victor Frankenstein and the Creature with Jonny Lee Miller in the National’s production of Frankenstein. Both men won the Best Actor Olivier for their portrayals that year.

Iwan Rheon

Iwan Rheon, winner of Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical at the Olivier Awards 2010 (Photo: Charlie Hopkinson)

Iwan Rheon, winner of Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical at the Olivier Awards 2010 (Photo: Charlie Hopkinson)

Iwan Rheon may not be a household name yet, but the villain he’s best known for playing certainly is. For four seasons, Rheon played Game Of Thrones uber-baddie Ramsay Bolton, fuelling millions of nightmares. But before playing a torturer on the telly, he played a tortured soul onstage, as Moritz Stiefel in the 2009 production of Spring Awakening at the Lyric Hammersmith and Novello theatres, and took home the Olivier for Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical.

Tom Hiddleston

Best Actor nominee Tom Hiddleston walks the red carpet at the Olivier Awards 2014 with MasterCard (Photo: Pamela Raith)

Best Actor nominee Tom Hiddleston walks the red carpet at the Olivier Awards 2014 with MasterCard (Photo: Pamela Raith)

Long before he was Loki in the Marvel universe, and even longer before he dated (?) Taylor Swift last summer, Tom Hiddleston was just another promising young actor. So promising, in fact, that he won the Olivier Award for Best Newcomer in a Play way back in 2007, for his work in Cymbeline at the Barbican. Since then, he’s made a few returns to the boards, most recently at the Donmar Warehouse in the title role in Coriolanus, for which he was also Olivier-nominated.

Jane Krakowski

Jane Krakowski, winner of Best Actress in a Musical for Guys And Dolls at the Olivier Awards 2006

Jane Krakowski, winner of Best Actress in a Musical for Guys And Dolls at the Olivier Awards 2006

This Broadway mainstay, 2003 Tony Award winner (for Nine),  and star of Ally McBeal and 30 Rock came across the pond in 2005 to star alongside Douglas Hodge, Ewan McGregor, and Jenna Russell in Guys And Dolls at the Piccadilly Theatre. Her Miss Adelaide earned her an Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical before she returned stateside to play Jena Maroney.

Eddie Redmayne

Eddie Redmayne

Redmayne’s stage career began––and garnered him plenty of notice and acclaim––in 2002, when he starred as Viola in Twelfth Night at Shakespeare’s Globe. Though his film career swept him away a few years later, the future New Scamander returned to the West End in the 2009 production of Red, the role that won him both Olivier and Tony Awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Judi Dench

Judi Dench accepts her award at the Olivier Awards 2016 with MasterCard (Photo: Matt Humphrey)

Judi Dench accepts her award at the Olivier Awards 2016 with MasterCard (Photo: Matt Humphrey)

The winningest actress rounds out this list: Dame Judy has seven Larrys on her mantle, more than any other theatre artist. She won for Best Actress in a Supporting Role most recently, for 2015’s The Winter’s Tale. Her first trophy came in 1977, for what was then called Best Actress of the Year in a Revival, as Lady Macbeth in Trevor Nunn’s RSC production of the Scottish Play. She was also nominated for Best Director of a Musical in 1992 for The Boys From Syracuse, though all of the awards she’s taken home are for acting.

Guest post by Abby Dan