Lead actor insights

LEONARDO DICAPRIO
“Blood Diamond”

  • Two previous nominations: “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” (1993), “The Aviator” (2004)
  • A committed environmentalist, his foundation works to raise awareness about the issues of global warming and the development of alternative and renewable energy sources
  • “The Departed” is DiCaprio’s third collaboration with director Martin Scorsese

WILL SMITH
“The Pursuit of Happyness”

  • One previous nom: “Ali” (2001)
  • Real-life son Jaden plays his onscreen son in “The Pursuit of Happyness”
  • Plays a real person, Christopher Gardner, in “Happyness”; this is his second biopic, after “Ali”
  • Production shingle Overbrook Entertainment is named after the high school he attended in Philadelphia, which also boasts NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain

NICOLAS CAGE
“World Trade Center”

  • Two previous noms: “Adaptation” (2002); won for “Leaving Las Vegas” (1995)
  • Born Nicolas Coppola (nephew of Francis Ford Coppola), changed his name to Cage after comicbook character Luke Cage
  • Along with cousin Sofia Coppola, Cage represents the third generation of Coppola Oscar winners, after his uncle Francis and grandfather Carmine Coppola

PETER O’TOOLE
“Venus”

  • Seven previous noms: “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), “Beckett” (1964), “The Lion in Winter” (1968), “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (1969), “The Ruling Class” (1972), “The Stunt Man” (1980), “My Favorite Year” (1982)
  • Received honorary Academy Award at 2003 Oscar ceremony
  • Was a classmate of Albert Finney and Richard Harris at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in the mid-1950s

GEORGE CLOONEY
“The Good German”

  • Three previous noms: “Good Night, and Good Luck” (2005) for writing, directing; win for “Syriana” (2005)
  • As in “Good Night, and Good Luck,” plays a journalist in “The Good German”
  • “The Good German” is the sixth film Clooney has acted in that was directed by his former Section Eight producing partner Steven Soderbergh

FOREST WHITAKER
“The Last King of Scotland”

  • Seeking first nomination
  • Screen debut was in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”
  • Has worked with an impressive list of directors: Martin Scorsese (“The Color of Money”), Oliver Stone (“Platoon”), Barry Levinson (“Good Morning, Vietnam”), Clint Eastwood (“Bird”), Neil Jordan (“The Crying Game”), Robert Altman (“Pret-a-Porter”), Wayne Wang (“Smoke”) and David Fincher (“Panic Room”)

MATT DAMON
“The Good Shepherd”

  • Two previous noms: “Good Will Hunting” (1997) for supporting actor; win for “Good Will Hunting” (1997) for original screenplay
  • First credit was a one-line part in the Julia Roberts starrer “Mystic Pizza”
  • Worked with Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Departed” and took the role DiCaprio was going to play in “The Good Shepherd”

DEREK LUKE
“Catch a Fire”

  • Seeking first nomination
  • Made feature film debut in “Antwone Fisher” (2002)
  • Often portrays real people, including Patrick Chamusso in “Catch a Fire,” Bobby Joe Hill in “Glory Road,” Boobie Miles in “Friday Night Lights” and title character in “Antwone Fisher”

RYAN GOSLING
“Half Nelson”

  • Seeking first nomination
  • Born in London, Ontario, Canadian hometown of Gosling’s “The Notebook” co-star (and current companion) Rachel McAdams and “Crash” writer-director Paul Haggis
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