Originally created 05/12/05

Tony nominees meet the press, say they're honored



NEW YORK - Alan Alda was no where in sight. Kathleen Turner ducked out before she could be interviewed.

But Billy Crystal was around Wednesday to press the flesh with reporters at the annual Tony Awards nominees meet and greet, as were James Earl Jones and Hank Azaria.

Crystal, whose autobiographical "700 Sundays" was nominated Tuesday for best special theatrical event, said he was having separation anxiety now that the show has just 13 performances left.

"I promised my family that I'd be home for the summer," he said. "I've got this granddaughter who I've seen five days since Christmas, and they live in California. If they lived here I just would keep going till I just couldn't stand any more."

Jones, nominated for best leading actor in a play for the revival of "On Golden Pond," said it was serendipity to return to the Cort Theatre, where he appeared in his first Broadway play, "Sunrise at Campobello," in 1954.

"I got cast as the house boy on the Roosevelt estate up in Campobello," he said. "I had about three lines. One of them was, 'Mrs. Roosevelt, dinner is served.' And that was my beginning."

"Monty Python's Spamalot," an irreverent musical spoof inspired by those quirky British cutups and their film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," led all shows with 14 Tony nominations, including best musical. Azaria, who plays Lancelot and other characters, was nominated for best leading actor in a musical. He's a huge Monty Python fan.

"That's why this job was a double dream come true for me," he said. "Triple. Quadruple. You never grow up imagining you're going to debut on Broadway in a Monty Python show. You'd be carted away as insane."

In a ritual meant to stimulate interest in the Tonys, which will be broadcast June 5 on CBS, actors and producers were paraded before the media at the Marriott Marquis Hotel on Broadway.

Some stars were absent or elusive. There was no Alda, nominated for best featured actor in a play for the revival of David Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross." Turner - nominated as best leading actress in a play for playing the boozy, shrewish Martha in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" - left her co-stars and playwright Edward Albee to cover for her after sliding away.

"We run through the fight sequences every day well before the curtain," said Bill Irwin, nominated for best leading actor for his portrayal of Martha's husband, George. "We run lines together. And then there's a long story to tell the audience. We do it twice today. The irony is you have to go to the gym and work out and stay in top physical shape to portray these people who are kind of epically dissipated hard drinkers."

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Albee, who wrote "Virginia Woolf" in 1962, will receive a lifetime achievement award.

"I thought you were supposed to be dead when you got that," he said. "But I'm happy to have it anyway."