Lead actress insights

MERYL STREEP
“The Devil Wears Prada”

  • Thirteen previous nominations: “The Deer Hunter” (1978), “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” (1981), “Silkwood” (1983), “Out of Africa” (1985), “Ironweed” (1987), “A Cry in the Dark” (1988), “Postcards From the Edge” (1990), “The Bridges of Madison County” (1995), “One True Thing” (1998), “Music of the Heart” (1999), “Adaptation” (2002); won for “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979), “Sophie’s Choice” (1982)

PENELOPE CRUZ
“Volver”

  • Seeking first nomination
  • “Volver” is the third film Cruz has done with director Pedro Almodovar, after “All About My Mother” and “Live Flesh”
  • Starred in Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar’s “Abre los ojos” (Open Your Eyes) and its English-language remake, Cameron Crowe’s “Vanilla Sky”
  • Speaks three languages (French, Italian and English) in addition to her native Spanish

JUDI DENCH
“Notes on a Scandal”

  • Five nominations: “Mrs. Brown” (1997), “Chocolat” (2000), “Iris” (2001), “Mrs. Henderson Presents” (2005); won for “Shakespeare in Love” (1998)
  • Her performance in “Shakespeare” was less than 10 minutes long, one of the shortest ever to win an Oscar
  • Created the role of Sally Bowles in “Cabaret” in 1968 in London
  • Attended the Central School of Speech & Drama in London, where one of her classmates was Vanessa Redgrave

KATE WINSLET
“Little Children”

  • Four previous nominations: “Sense and Sensibility” (1995), “Titanic” (1997), “Iris” (2001), “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004)
  • All her noms were earned before the age of 30, the youngest actress ever to do so
  • Twice in Oscar history have two performers been nominated for portraying the same character in the same film, and both involve Winslet: “Titanic,” with Gloria Stuart, and “Iris,” with Judi Dench

ANNETTE BENING
“Running With Scissors”

  • Three previous nominations: “The Grifters” (1990), “American Beauty” (1999), “Being Julia” (1994)
  • Born in Topeka, Kan., but grew up in Southern California
  • Has played a real estate agent three times: “Regarding Henry” (1991), “American Beauty” and “What Planet Are You From?” (2000)
  • Earned a Tony nomination for 1987 play “Coastal Disturbances”

MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL
“Sherrybaby”

  • Seeking first nomination
  • Like Winslet, comes from a family of performers and artists — father is director Stephen Gyllenhaal, mother is screenwriter Naomi Foner and her brother is Oscar-nominated actor Jake Gyllenhaal
  • Graduated from New York City’s Columbia U. and, later, studied briefly at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in England

CATE BLANCHETT
“The Good German”

  • Two previous nominations: “Elizabeth” (1998); won for “The Aviator” (2004)
  • Her win in “The Aviator,” playing former Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn, marked the first time someone won an Academy Award for playing another Oscar winner
  • Graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Australia

HELEN MIRREN
“The Queen”

  • Two previous nominations: “The Madness of King George” (1994), “Gosford Park” (2001)
  • Name at birth was Ilyena Vasilievna Mironov
  • She is the only actress to play both Queen Elizabeth I (in the HBO film “Elizabeth,” for which she won an Emmy Award) and Elizabeth II (in “The Queen”)

NAOMI WATTS
“The Painted Veil”

  • One previous nomination: “21 Grams” (2003)
  • Born in Shoreham, England, but moved to Australia when she was 14
  • Breakout role was in David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” in 2001
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