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Actor: Drama

Golden Globe nominations

JAVIER BARDEM
in “The Sea Inside”
How he got here: The foreign press is historically reluctant to nominate performances in foreign-language pics. Oscar winners Sophia Loren and Roberto Begnini weren’t even up for a Globe the years they won their Academy Awards. And since Marcello Mastroianni was nominated for “A Special Day” in 1977, only one other foreign-film actor has been able to duplicate that — Javier Bardem, in 2000 for “Before Night Falls” and again this year.

DON CHEADLE
in “Hotel Rwanda”
How he got here: Eight of the 10 nominees for male leads in this year’s Globes derby play real people, an unprecedented situation. But only Paul Rusesabagina, the quietly heroic figure in the Rwandan genocide that Cheadle portrays, is still alive. Besides giving a critically praised performance, Cheadle has been consistently lauded in interviews
and joint appearances by the man he plays. That’s an advantage that wasn’t lost on Globe voters, many of whom had the opportunity to
meet both men.

JOHNNY DEPP
in “Finding Neverland”
How he got here: Voters say they loved the film and everything about it — including Depp’s understated turn as Scottish writer J.M. Barrie. Previously nominated for eccentric roles such as “Benny and Joon,” “Ed Wood” and last year’s “Pirates of the Caribbean,” he certainly impressed at least one HFPA member with his versatility: “It wasn’t a Depp I had seen before, and he moved me to tears by the end.”

LEONARDO DiCAPRIO
in “The Aviator”
How he got here: No one really could see Leonardo DiCaprio as a believable Howard Hughes except, perhaps, DiCaprio himself. He spent 10 years obsessing about this role and willed it into being where other actors such as Warren Beatty and John Travolta failed. Once the HFPA saw the result, they were astounded. “He transforms himself in this film,” says one voter. “He really went into the character all the way.” DiCaprio is a Globe regular with previous noms for “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?,” “Titanic” and “Catch Me If You Can” and he’s everywhere promoting the film, a plus for Globe voters who love the personal touch.

LIAM NEESON
in “Kinsey”
How he got here: Adopting a spiked hairstyle and midwestern dialect, Neeson seemed to become controversial sex researcher Alfred Kinsey with ease. But it was a role he researched extensively to get right. His daring turn and dominating presence helped him stand out from a crowded field of dramatic actors this year in a smaller film that Globe voters embraced. Plus, he’s a foreigner playing an American, and what better combo can there be for the HFPA?

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