Johansson, Finneran take different paths to a Tony

Reporting from New York -- One is a movie vixen and theater novice who can currently be seen in the superhero blockbuster "Iron Man 2" — and splashed across the glossy pages of tabloid magazines. The other is a respected theater veteran little known outside the insular world of Broadway.

But Sunday night, Scarlett Johansson and Katie Finneran were linked together as Tony winners basking in the achievement of holding the gold statuette as winners of the best featured actress category — Johansson for her role in the play "A View From a Bridge," Finneran for the musical "Promises, Promises." The Tony is a breakthrough for both actresses in very different ways; for Johansson, it's a validation of her desire to be a serious actress, not just a celebrity, for Finneran it offers the possibility of wider recognition to American audiences.

Johansson made her Broadway debut in this season's revival of Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge," holding her own alongside Liev Schreiber and Jessica Hecht.

The actress — who told The Times earlier this year that her last stage performance was in an elementary school production of "Oliver!" — gave an emotional acceptance speech in which she offered a nod to her agents for suggesting a break from filming "Iron Man 2" with a sojourn on the stage, something she's had her eye on since she was child, and thanked the New York theater community for its acceptance.

"Thank you to the Broadway community [for] opening their arms and welcoming me. By welcoming me into this community, it has been an absolute dream. Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be on Broadway, and here I am. It's unbelievable."

And in a gesture sure to endear her to playwrights everywhere, she dedicated her award to Miller himself.

Finneran, however, is the type of actress well known in the theater community, but virtually unknown outside of it. Her comic performance in the revival of "Promises, Promises" nearly steals the show from costars Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes.

Finneran told reporters backstage that she thinks she started dreaming about being an actress "watching the Tony awards. I liked Julie Andrews and anything theatrical. I knew that I belonged in that world, and I had that yearning, that artistic wanting."

Getlin, a correspondent, reported from New York; Villareal, a Times staff writer, wrote from Los Angeles.