Golden Globes Countdown: Drama Actor/Actress

The 69th Golden Globes’ lead acting drama nominees were a mix of business-as-usual — think A-list star power — and a few surprise names that potentially set the stage for an interesting competition and some possible upsets.

The lead actor drama category sported such heavyweight and predictable contenders as George Clooney (playing vulnerable and lost in “The Descendants”), Leonardo DiCaprio (playing young and old in “J. Edgar”) and Brad Pitt (playing charming and headstrong in “Moneyball”).

Perennial Globe faves Clooney (oft-nominated and winner for “Syriana” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”), DiCaprio (six noms and winner for “The Aviator”) and Pitt (four noms and winner for “Twelve Monkeys”) are joined by newer Globe fave Ryan Gosling (nommed for “Blue Valentine” and “Lars and the Real Girl”) for his role as the decent but opportunistic press secretary opposite Clooney’s winning but deeply flawed presidential candidate in “The Ides of March.”

The real surprise is the inclusion of Michael Fassbender, notching up his first Globe nom for his performance as a lonely sex addict, in Brit director Steve McQueen’s “Shame.” While some American critics dismissed the film as arthouse soft-core porn, the HFPA — with its Euro-centric membership — happily embraced the film, with its explicit sex and nudity, and ignored the actor’s other high-profile turn as Carl Jung in David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method.”

Fassbender’s nom meant that several other potential nominees in widely-admired performances, including Gary Oldman (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”), Ralph Fiennes (“Coriolanus”), Woody Harrelson (“Rampart”) and Daniel Craig (“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”) were shut out.

For lead actress drama, the list of nominees was also a mix of Globe regulars and a surprise name. Meryl Streep, oft-nominated and a previous winner (most recently for “Julie and Julia” and “The Devil Wears Prada”), scored another nom for her turn (and impeccable accent) as former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.” She was joined by Glenn Close, also oft-nominated and a previous winner (most recently for “Damages”), for her gender-bending perf as a butler in 19th century Ireland in “Albert Nobbs.”

The two titans face off against each other and two more Globe faves — Tilda Swinton, nommed for “Michael Clayton” and “The Deep End,” and Viola Davis, previously nommed for “Doubt.” While the HFPA ignored Swinton’s turn in last year’s “I Am Love,” her perf in “We Need to Talk About Kevin” was widely admired. Davis, as the dignified center of “The Help,” is riding the wave of acclaim for the drama, which scored five noms overall.

The big surprise is the inclusion of newcomer Rooney Mara. After a small role in David Fincher’s “The Social Network,” the actress is drawing praise for her turn as the messed-up but brilliant hacker Lisbeth Salander in Fincher’s version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” That role also secured international stardom for Sweden’s Noomi Rapace.

Shut out were “The Help’s” Emma Stone (nommed last year for “Easy A”), Kirsten Dunst (“Melancholia”) and Keira Knightley (“A Dangerous Method”).

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