The nominations

Maria Bello
“A History of Violence”

How she got here: As the wife in a seemingly perfect marriage who suddenly discovers she may not know who her husband really is, Bello delivers a strong and memorable supporing performance to match her 2003 Globe-nommed role in “The Cooler.” At least that’s what New Line Cinema thought in promoting her in ads for the secondary actress category, especially since she had already won the New York Film Critics supporting award. The HFPA, which determines where performances are placed, had other ideas and handed Bello her first lead nod, much to everyone’s surprise. “This came out of left field,” says one consultant. “It was Viggo (Mortensen) they were talking about most after the screening, so you never know.”

Felicity Huffman
“Transamerica”

How she got here: Although she’s been here before in the TV categories (“Sports Night,” “Desperate Housewives,” which also won her the Emmy in September), Huffman’s decision to take the challenging lead role of a man transitioning to become a woman in the indie “Transamerica” has brought her unexpected recognition on the other side of the aisle. “I think she’s the favorite now. She’s getting all these critics awards. She’s on a real roll,” says a veteran awards consultant.

Gwyneth Paltrow
“Proof”

How she got here: Slated at one time for release in 2004, the yearlong delay of “Proof” did not seem to affect the HFPA’s affection for Paltrow, who won the Globe for actress in a musical or comedy in 1999 for “Shakespeare in Love” (as well as the actress Oscar) and now shows her dramatic chops as the daughter of a brilliant but troubled mathematician in the film adaptation of the acclaimed play. Despite the film being released in early fall, the org remembered her and felt she nailed the role. “Gwyneth is a true professional. She’s always good,” says one HFPA voter.

Charlize Theron
“North Country”

How she got here: Just two years after winning the drama actress Globe and just about everything else, including an Oscar, for her searing role as Aileen Wuornos in “Monster,” and one year after being nommed for her TV role as Britt Eklund in “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” Theron continues her Globe streak with another meaty part in the sexual harassment drama “North Country.” Despite the movie’s box office belly flop, Globe voters admired her enough to put her once again in the race for gold.

Ziyi Zhang
“Memoirs of a Geisha”

How she got here: The Asian superstar of such films as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “House of Flying Daggers” and “Hero,” Zhang Ziyi reversed the order of her name and as Ziyi Zhang nailed her first Globe nomination for her first big American picture, “Memoirs of a Geisha.” Sidestepping the controversy of being a Chinese woman cast as a Japanese geisha, her performance overcame a mixed reception for the film to become “Geisha’s” only major contender (pic also received a music nod). “She was probably the token nomination for a movie that they didn’t seem to love,” says an awards consultant.

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