Javier Bardem, Colin Farrell, James Franco, Brendan Gleeson, Dustin Hoffman

Javier Bardem

‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’

How he got here: Perhaps it’s the overseas locations instead of Manhattan, or that his films no longer star his real-life partners, or maybe the real reason for Woody Allen’s reinvigorated filmmaking is because he stopped using himself and Tony Roberts as leading men. Javier Bardem, in particular, is both sexy and age appropriate when bedding Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall and Penelope Cruz, his offscreen love. The role is a far cry from the psycho with bad hair the Spanish actor played to a Globe win in last year’s “No Country for Old Men,” and a tease at what might come in next year’s musical “Nine.”

Colin Farrell

‘In Bruges’

How he got here: In recent years with stuff like “Miami Vice” and “Alexander” doing little to showcase the early promise he showed in films like “Tigerland” and “Minority Report,” it seemed that Colin Farrell had become better known for his constant partying and steady stream of arm candy (Britney Spears, really?) than for any of his movies. But time spent away from Hollywood and out of the paparazzi’s eye has put the Irish actor back on track, as evidenced by his redemptive turn as an excitable hitman who mistakenly murders a child in this black-humored gem written and directed by acclaimed playwright Martin McDonagh.

 

James Franco

‘Pineapple Express’

How he got here: Although he first won a Globe for his title role in 2001’s TV movie “James Dean,” James Franco’s chance to become a bona fide Hollywood contender seemed questionable. Playing the hero’s nemesis in the “Spider Man” movies kept him in the mix, but the films he toplined (“Tristan + Isolde,” “Annapolis,” etc.) sunk without a trace. But his hilarious drug dealer in “Pineapple Express” showed an altogether different side to the actor’s repertoire, and combined with a stellar turn in “Milk” — not to mention his status as the hot new face of Gucci men’s fragrance — has reignited the buzz.

 

Brendan Gleeson

‘In Bruges’

How he got here: The only surprising thing about the Irish actor’s nomination is that it’s his first from the HFPA. After all, Gleeson may be Ireland’s most employed man in movies, whose prolific body of work includes a few films every year. He’s the actor whom directors as varied as Steven Spielberg and Wolfgang Petersen call on to make a supporting part pop, as his work in wide-ranging movies like “Gangs of New York,” “Cold Mountain” and the “Harry Potter” series show. As a hitman hiding out after a job gone awry, the journeyman proves his mettle by stirring up sympathy for his devil.

 

Dustin Hoffman

‘Last Chance Harvey’

How he got here: A mainstream romance for grown-ups is rare enough these days, but when you consider that leading man Dustin Hoffman is now 71 (yes, “Tootsie” was released over a quarter of a century ago!), that sort of puts “Last Chance Harvey” at the top of an endangered-species list. With a whopping five Globes in his possession and an additional seven noms (going back to “Midnight Cowboy”), it may seem like all the actor, who has earned national treasure status, has to do is show up in order to pile up awards, but the unlucky-in-love loser he plays here would have wobbled under less steady skills.

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