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Actors ride the range

Nominees vary in age, experience

From 11-year-old Haley Joel Osment to 79-year-old Richard Farnsworth, and from first-time nominee Hilary Swank to 12-time Oscar contender Meryl Streep, this year’s crop of actors as as varied a field in range of age and experience as Oscar has ever served up. Of the 20 thesps competing, 11 are Oscar virgins, including all five supporting actresses. A look at those in the running:

Actor | Actress | Supporting Actor | Supporting Actress

Actor

Russell Crowe

Although most American audiences were introduced to Russell Crowe through his role as the brutal yet vulnerable cop Bud Stone in “L.A. Confidential” (1997), his impact as a film actor in his native Australia was rather immediate.

For his very first lead in “The Crossing” (1990) he was nominated for an Australian Film Critics Award (Down Under’s equivalent of the Oscar).

The following two years he won Australian Film Institute honors for his supporting role as a well-meaning restaurant worker who insinuates his way into the lives of a blind photographer and his housekeeper in “Proof” (1991) and his lead as a neo-Nazi skinhead in “Romper Stomper” (1992), showing a range not necessarily associated with the kind of movie star presence Crowe exudes onscreen.

For Michael Mann’s “The Insider,” the 35-year-old Crowe gained 35 pounds and donned a gray wig to play the tightly wound Jeffrey Wigand, who sacrifices his career and marriage when he cooperates with “60 Minutes” producer Lowell Bergman to blow the whistle on the tobacco companies. The role has earned Crowe best actor laurels from the National Board of Review, the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., the Broadcast Film Critics Assn. and the National Society of Film Critics.

As Wigand, Crowe inspired the L.A. Times to describe him as “a powerhouse actor who joins an old-fashioned masculine presence with an unnerving ability to completely disappear into a role.”

— Steve Chagollan

Richard Farnsworth

It certainly wasn’t a stretch to cast Richard Farnsworth as Alvin Straight, an elderly war vet who rides a lawnmower several hundred miles to see his ailing brother. A stunt man for 40 years before he began acting, Farnsworth is a rancher at heart and was excited about the role, especially because Straight’s persona was almost second nature to him.

“There was really no preparation for it,” he says from his ranch in Lincoln, N.M. “I just got off my tractor and got on his.”

Farnsworth — at 79 the oldest thesp to ever be nominated for best actor — found notoriety as an actor in 1978, co-starring as Dodger in “Comes a Horseman” in what he calls his “first real role” and one for which he was nominated for a supporting actor Oscar.

Talk of an Oscar for “Straight Story” has him both excited and nervous, wondering if what critics are saying about him getting a nom actually will come to pass.

“Naturally, I’m tickled to death,” says Farnsworth, whose plans include a Wyatt Earp project with fellow thesp and friend Wilford Brimley. “I’ve been in this business my whole life. I don’t believe in too many things until they happen. I’ll take it if it comes and take it any way I can get it.”

The straight-laced Farnsworth (“I don’t like four-letter words”) has already received the best actor laurel from the New York Film Critics Circle.

— Stuart Levine

Sean Penn

A perpetual risk-taker, Sean Penn again explores the dark undercurrents of human nature in Woody Allen’s “Sweet and Lowdown” as a talented but deluded and self-destructive jazz musician.

From his Oscar-nominated turn in “Dead Man Walking” (1995) to his other complex, unapologetic portrayals in “At Close Range” (1986), “Casualties of War” (1989), “Carlito’s Way” (1993) and last year’s “The Thin Red Line,” Penn’s ability to convey the less noble human traits is well-established.

This year, Penn may be given a leg-up in the Oscar derby from director Allen’s handling of actors: Allen has brought Oscar recognition to everyone from Diane Keaton (actress winner for 1977’s “Annie Hall”) to Michael Caine (supporting actor winner for “Hannah and Her Sisters,” 1986) to Mira Sorvino, supporting actress winner for “Mighty Aphrodite” (1995).

— Richard Natale

Kevin Spacey

In a town where the writer and his work can be considered disposable commodities, it’s refreshing to talk to a scribe who feels his work was not only treated with respect, but even improved.

But that’s how scripter Alan Ball talks about “American Beauty” star Kevin Spacey.

“I would hear him saying the lines and I’d think, ‘That is exactly how I wrote it in my head’ and other times he’d do something different and I’d think, ‘I never even thought of that’ and I was just so impressed,” says Ball. “American Beauty” co-star Annette Bening echoes Ball’s sentiments and admiringly notes Spacey’s ability to impersonate just about anybody. Simply, she says, “He was so much fun to work with.”

Spacey previously has been recognized by the Academy with a best supporting actor Oscar for his turn as Verbal Kint in 1995’s “The Usual Suspects.”

— Nancy Tartaglione

Denzel Washington

When it came time to shoot the scene of the young Lesra Martin meeting Rubin Carter in “The Hurricane,” director Norman Jewison didn’t have to try too hard to get things happening. It turns out that the young actor playing Lesra, Vicellous Reon Shannon, was as much in awe of scene partner Denzel Washington as Lesra had been of Carter.

As the wronged Carter, Washington has garnered the kind of reviews that greeted his his Oscar-nominated work in “Malcolm X” (1992), “Cry Freedom” (1987) and “Glory” (1989) — for which he won a supporting actor Oscar.

“Denzel was totally emotionally committed to the role,” director Norman Jewison says. “He desperately wanted to tell this story.”

Washington spent six months boxing two hours a day anD lost forty pounds to get ready for the film’s fight sequences.

For the actor, it has been another opportunity to play a man, who in Washington’s words, has “a concentrated dose of life.”

In January, Washington won the Golden Globe for best actor, and is considered a frontrunner for the Oscar.

“I’m not always looking for the next great guy to play, but I don’t shy away from them either,” Washington said in a recent magazine interview. “These are fascinating, great parts. And that’s cool.”

— Christopher Grove

Actress

Annette Bening

Annette Bening first turned heads as a sexy con artist in 1990’s “The Grifters,” for which she picked up a supporting actress Oscar bid. She’s also been nominated three times for Golden Globes: for “American Beauty’s” Carolyn Burnham, Virginia Hill in 1991’s “Bugsy” and Sydney Ellen Wade in 1995’s “The American President.”

Averaging roughly a film a year since becoming a wife and mother, Bening has stepped slightly out of the spotlight over the past few years. But, that’s allowed her to pick and choose her roles more carefully.

The decision to play Carolyn, a frantically rigid, driven real estate agent opposite Kevin Spacey’s Lester Burnham, was an easy one for Bening, though getting everything lined up took some maneuvering.

Bening says she “wanted to like” Alan Ball’s script, noting, “I knew Alan who started out in N.Y. at the same time I did … and I thought it was really original.”

Though she didn’t know helmer Sam Mendes prior to “Beauty,” Bening explains, “When I’m approaching a movie, if the material is good it’s really who the director is that matters. It needs to be the right kind of mix.”

When the film finally got rolling, Bening says, “It felt like everybody was doing it for the right reasons.”

The shoot “was emotionally hard work, but hilariously funny,” she says.

Bening shies from talking too much about herself or her own character, and instead crows about her co-workers.

When pressed, Bening says of herself, “I’m always biased, I can be critical. I’ve done enough now to know what I like and what I don’t but I’m not a good judge of what the public will like, nor of my own work. I can’t be objective.”

— Nancy Tartaglione

Janet McTeer

The screening of “Tumbleweeds” at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival was packed and the reaction enthusiastic. But the film’s star Janet McTeer had a surprise for the applauding crowd.

“I went up to the podium with the director, Gavin O’Connor,” McTeer says, “after the audience has seen me be this North Carolina woman. When I opened my mouth to say ‘Thank you,’ in my British accent, a gasp went up in the cinema. I was terrified they were all going to laugh, but I realized that they were shocked that this British actress had sort of fooled them, I suppose.”

O’Connor, who had written “Tumbleweeds” with partner and then-wife Angela Shelton, had seen McTeer being interviewed on PBS’ “The Charlie Rose Show” during her Tony-winning Broadway engagement as Nora in “A Doll’s House.”

“Gavin sent me the script,” McTeer recalls, “but I wasn’t sure how he had put me, this classically trained London actor, together with Mary Jo Walker — who’s bouncing around the States with her teenage daughter, getting in and out of bad relationships, just a step out of total poverty. He told me that when he saw me on television, he saw that I had Mary Jo’s free-spirited energy.”

So, like many British actors before her, McTeer applied her wealth of technical training to learning a specific American accent — in this case, western North Carolina.

“I learned like you learn the piano,” McTeer explains, “bit by bit, by rote, the technical side, and once I had that down, my only concern was Mary Jo’s character. You can have a good technical grasp, but the voice has to be linked to the character. We speak the way we do because of where we grow up, so the voice is like the behavior.”

For the role, McTeer won the National Board of Review and a Golden Globe as the year’s best actress.

— Robert Koehler

Julianne Moore

It’s been a busy two years for Julianne Moore, but the rewards are paying off for her. With smaller parts in “Magnolia,” “Cookie’s Fortune,” “A Map of the World” and “An Ideal Husband,” Moore has appeared in no less than five features that were up for Oscar consideration this year.

Although the Academy cited her for the lead in “The End of the Affair,” the National Board of Review awarded her its supporting actress laurel for the four aforementioned films.

Moore is no stranger to the Academy Awards, having garnered a supporting actress nomination in 1998 for “Boogie Nights.”

Her propensity to play quirky or edgy characters is not a coincidence. “I do really look for these type of roles,” she says, “because it’s what interests me. On the other hand, I’ve also had the great fortune of working with tremendous directors who deal with this kind of material.”

In Neil Jordan’s “The End of the Affair” she plays Sarah, the adulterous wife of a passionless civil servant (Stephen Rea) having an affair with his friend (Ralph Fiennes).

“It’s an extraordinary, beautiful story. She’s someone who goes from being a completely compromised individual to almost an exalted kind of ideology. Neil, as a director, is truly one of the more romantic ones I’ve ever worked with — he really has a sense of male/female relationships,” she says.

Moore’s aesthetic throughout all of her work is simple: truth. “The most important thing is to find the element that’s most truthful in the character. As an actor you should never believe that you understand more that a particular character does.”

— Paul Power

Meryl Streep

As the real-life violin-playing school teacher in “Music of the Heart,” Meryl Streep receive her 12th nomination, tying her with Katherine Hepburn for the most noms, although Hepburn remains way out in front with four best actress wins.

Streep has one as supporting actress, “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979), and in the lead category, “Sophie’s Choice” (1982).

Of her 12 noms, only the first two were in support (the other was 1978’s “The Deer Hunter”). The rest were as leading lady in “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), 1998’s “One True Thing” and the current “Music.”

Whereas it took Hepburn a lifetime to accrue 12 nominations, Streep, who is 50, has amassed her 12 citations in a little more than two decades.

As with many of her roles, in “Music of the Heart,” critics lauded Streep for avoiding all the obvious pitfalls in a role that might have tended toward the maudlin. Her Roberta Guaspari is yet another real-life character whom Streep has elevated to heroine onscreen, having worked similar magic with Karen Silkwood, Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) in “Out of Africa,” Lindy Chamberlain in “A Cry in the Dark” and, on the small screen, Lori Reimuller in “… First Do No Harm,” which brought her an Emmy nomination.

— Richard Natale

Hilary Swank

Few performances in 1999 drew the kind of attention and critical response as Hilary Swank’s work in “Boys Don’t Cry.” Little in the young actress’ performing experience prepared her for the role of gender-bending Brandon Teena-Teena Brandon, though she’s been acting since her teens.

She has appeared in several films going back to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1992) and “The Next Karate Kid” (1994) as well as the soon to be released independent film “The Way We Are” (1997). On television, she’s been a regular on “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Camp Wilder.”

While realistically passing as a boy may have been a challenge for her as an actress, Swank also felt pressure from playing a real person. “I felt an obligation to be as honest as I could in this story, to be truthful,” she says, “because this was someone’s life.”

When she was approached for the role, Swank decided “if I couldn’t pass for a boy on the street, then I wasn’t going to do it.” Having only four weeks to prepare for the role meant a rigorous — and fast — transformation, both physically and emotionally. The actress cut her long hair, worked at lowering her vocal register and then “packed a sock and taped my breasts.” She read books about transgendered people, transcripts from the Teena Brandon murder trial and worked with an acting coach.

Then came the all-important emotional change: “seeing what it feels like having people think you’re a boy but not really knowing what you are.” Walking the streets trying to pass, she says, “was a very intense experience. I learned a lot about myself and about humanity.”

The work and dedication paid off with best actress wins from the New York Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., the Broadcast Film Critics Assn., the Hollywood Foreign Press (Golden Globe) and a breakthrough-perf honor from the National Board of Review.

— Richard Natale

Supporting Actor

Michael Caine

“I inhabit a part, I don’t act it and I do that with varying degrees of success,” says Michael Caine. The 66-year-old British actor takes pride in his performance as Dr. Wilbur Larch, a compassionate orphanage caretaker and abortionist in “The Cider House Rules,” because “hopefully, you couldn’t see the wheels turning.”

He says the character is “a guy as far away from my real self as I’ve ever played … not that any are totally far away, because all human beings are very, very similar; it may be six degrees of separation in acquaintance but it’s only about one degree in emotion.”

Before signing on for the role, Caine worked with a voice coach for two weeks on his Maine accent, a very different American sound from the Southern voice he used years ago in 1967’s “Hurry Sundown.”

“Back then I asked Vivien Leigh what to do and she told me to say ‘Four-door Ford’ over and over. This time I practiced saying ‘Park the car in the car park.'”

Director Lasse Hallstrom says Caine’s accent sounded fine to his “Swedish ear,” and both he and producer Richard Gladstein speak enthusiastically of the actor’s combination of strength and sensitivity.

“Larch is a bit of a bully, but a compassionate bully and we needed softness within the strength, but without being sentimental and Michael has that,” says Gladstein.

They got that when Caine’s Golden Globe-winning performance as the sleazy manager in “Little Voice” (1998) inspired Miramax to suggest him for “Cider House.”

Caine won a supporting actor Oscar for “Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986) and has been nominated for best actor for “Alfie” (1966), “Sleuth” (1972) and “Educating Rita” (1983).

“My feeling about awards are they’re like the weather and you can’t control that and you should never worry about things you can’t control,” says Caine. “It’s long odds and always a surprise if you win one.”

— Bridget Byrne

Tom Cruise

If nice guys finish last, it’s no wonder Tom Cruise’s previous Oscar nominations have been for hard-bitten (yet ultimately sympathetic) characters in “Born on the Fourth of July” (1989) and “Jerry Maguire” (1996).

In 1999, he added two other dark, complex portrayals to his resume as the jealous doctor in Stanley Kubrick’s final film “Eyes Wide Shut” and, in a daring supporting turn, as the misogynist Frank T.J. Mackey in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia,” for which he won a Golden Globe and is in Oscar contention as supporting actor.

Academy voters are often impressed by above-the-title stars who tackle meaty supporting roles. Both Jack Nicholson and Gene Hackman have won in this category for, respectively, “Terms of Endearment” (1983) and “Unforgiven” (1992).

As with Hackman, in “Magnolia,” Cruise is freed from the constraints of having to carry the film, allowing him to delve deeper into his character’s dark side, which could win him points from Academy voters.

— Richard Natale

Michael Clarke Duncan

Michael Clarke Duncan might have to load up his wallet or abort his practice of giving $5 to anyone who recognizes him. Already conspicuous at 6-foot-5 with a mountainous build, Duncan had his recognition factor increased manyfold with his role opposite Tom Hanks in the period prison drama “The Green Mile.”

His nomination for best supporting actor for his role as prisoner John Coffey in that film nearly coincided with the release of his second picture in support of Bruce Willis, “The Whole Nine Yards.” He previously acted with Willis in “Armageddon.”

Duncan, who won the best supporting actor award from the Broadcast Film Critics Association for “The Green Mile,” was also nominated in the same category by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (Golden Globes) and the Screen Actors Guild, as well as a nomination for outstanding actor in a motion picture by the NAACP Image Awards.

Duncan, a Chicago native who played basketball for Kankakee, Ill., Community College and attended Alcorn State University in Lorman, Miss., was a ditch digger for a gas company, bouncer at clubs on the Windy City’s South Side, then a bodyguard for Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Reel life played off real experience when he played bouncers in “Married … with Children” on television and in the movies “The Players Club,” “Bulworth” and “A Night at the Roxbury.” His other movies include “Back in Business,” “Caught Up” and “Breakfast of Champions.”

Jude Law

Ever since he copped a Tony nomination for his Broadway debut in the 1995 “Indiscretions” (a role he originated in London), Jude Law has been in search of the right film role to separate him from the pack of other twentysomething hopefuls.

He found a start in 1997. His turn in the British film “Wilde” opposite Stephen Fry earned him a London Film Critics award and he managed quietly to steal all his scenes in the futuristic “Gattaca.” He also earned notices for his brief appearance in Clint Eastwood’s “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

As the rich, charismatic and hopelessly spoiled Dickie Greenleaf in Anthony Minghella’s 1999 “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” however, he finally got a turn in the spotlight. It’s a pivotal and showy role in the suspense drama based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel about the relationship between an expatriate dilettante and a cunning, remorseless social climber (Matt Damon in the title role) who yearns to assume his identity.

As Greenleaf, Law plays the enticing tunes to which the other characters are forced to dance.

“Dickie leads his life as he wants to live it and assumes everyone else is doing the same,” Law says. “There’s a great line in the script where he says, ‘My father builds boats, I sail them.’ The thing I like so much about him is that he has an incredible lust for life. I think that is what people find so attractive about him and why they want to cling to him.”

Though best supporting actor is a highly competitive category this year, being one of this year’s “finds” may stand him in good stead when the votes are all in.

— Richard Natale

Haley Joel Osment

M. Night Shyamalan’s summer hit “The Sixth Sense” proved a surprise mega-hit at the box office, and much of the praise for the pic focused on the performance of first-time Oscar nominee Haley Joel Osment, as the gifted Cole Sear.

The 11-year-old’s work isn’t the result of chance or good luck. “He’s superintelligent,” says Shyamalan. “He understands the craft of it because of his father (actor Eugene Osment). He’s learned the discipline involved. He takes it very seriously: He studies the script and asks questions about each line, what the character’s feeling. You don’t have to talk down to him in any way.”

Osment has TV and screen credits that stretch back to 1992 (including Forrest Jr. in the 1994 “Forrest Gump”), but nothing prepared him for Cole.

“Usually when I do a role I look for experiences in the character’s life that have occurred in my life,” Osment says. “So when I went to analyze the character and try and prepare to do the scenes, it was hard and I had to invent these feelings within myself, I had to bring out emotions that I’d never felt before, I had to feel what the character was doing at the time — I had to go deep into his heart and really understand what’s driving him to make the actions that he does in the scene.”

Osment, a big fan of Anthony Hopkins, adds that “whenever I read a script I always look not for how big the part is or if it’s exciting enough; I read for the story content and how rich it is.”

— Paul Power

Supporting Actress

Toni Collette

Although Toni Collette has forged an in-demand career as a lead and character actress through the 1990s, she had been best known as the plain-jane in an Australian seaside burg who embarks on a new life in Sydney in the 1994 art-house hit “Muriel’s Wedding.”

Her Academy Award nomination for the role of the distraught mother in “The Sixth Sense” has no doubt enhanced her standing on this side of the Pacific. She previously was nominated for best actress in a musical or comedy by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (Golden Globes) for “Muriel’s Wedding,” for which she famously gained 40 pounds with the aid of a dietician. She also won the Australian Film Institute’s equivalent of the Oscar for that film as well as for “Lillian’s Story” (best actress) in 1996 and “The Boys” (supporting) in 1998.

A native of Sydney, Collette gained stature on the Australian stage in such plays as “Uncle Vanya” and “Summer of the Aliens” before segueing to television work and eventually garnering her first Australian Film Institute nomination for best supporting actress in “Spotswood” (released in the U.S. as “The Efficiency Expert”).

Collette’s notable supporting roles include those in “Cosi,” “The Pallbearer,” “Emma,” “Clockwatchers” and “The Velvet Goldmine.” She will next be seen in Peter Greenaway’s “Eight and a Half Women” and “Shaft Returns.” Currently, she is in rehearsals for the April 13 opening of the Public Theater’s musical, “Wild Party.”

— Jerry Roberts

Angelina Jolie

It’s hard to imagine a more schizophrenic year for an actor. From chasing sociopaths in “The Bone Collector” to portraying one in “Girl, Interrupted,” Angelina Jolie has drawn on every raw nerve in her repertoire.

Her portrayal of the dangerous and charming Lisa in “Girl” opposite Winona Ryder’s tautly tormented Susanna, tapped into her acting ability and quirky persona.

The fact that exec producer Winona Ryder and co-writer-director James Mangold pegged her for the part of a charismatic insane woman doesn’t bother the actress. She understood where Lisa was coming from.

“The part of me that identifies with her is that she needs everybody to be real with her,” Jolie says. “She needs so desperately to find somebody to tell her to shut up or to yell back at her. When she’s aggressive with people, it’s not being overly critical. She’s just saying to the others, there’s nothing wrong with you. There’s nothing bad about you. Don’t let them get you to kill yourself.”

Jolie read a lot of books to research the part. “When I went to a bookstore and asked for books on sociopaths, they said to go to the serial killer section. After doing ‘Bone Collector,’ it was a really frightening discovery that I had gone to the other side of my personality,” she says.

Along with supporting actress kudo from the Broadcast Film Critics Assn., Jolie copped her second Golden Globe for the performance, following last year’s win as the troubled model in “Gia.”

— Jan Lindstrom

Catherine Keener

Catherine Keener’s manipulative ice princess in “Being John Malkovich” seems like a (non)spiritual sister of the hard-hearted two-timer she played in “Your Friends & Neighbors.”

The Academy Award nomination she received for “Malkovich” confers a bit of Hollywood luster on an actress whose career has existed largely outside the mainstream due to her alliance with independent writer/director Tom DiCillo via roles in “Johnny Suede,” “Living in Oblivion,” “Box of Moonlight” and “The Real Blonde.”

For “Malkovich,” York Film Critics Circle conferred its best supporting actress award to Keener, who was also nominated by the Screen Actors Guild and Hollywood Foreign Press Association (Golden Globes).

She previously was nominated for best female lead by the Independent Spirit Awards for her performances in “Johnny Suede” in 1993 and “Walking and Talking” in 1996.

A Miami native who grew up in Hialeah, Fla., Keener is a graduate of Wheaton College in Norton, Mass. She made her film debut as a cocktail waitress in “About Last Night …” in 1986. She has been married for nine years to actor Dermot Mulroney.

— Jerry Roberts

Samantha Morton

When Samantha Morton found out she would be co-starring in Woody Allen’s “Sweet and Lowdown,” her first reaction was, “So who’s Woody Allen?” Though that response might seem a bit far-fetched for the average American moviegoer, for a 22-year-old actress from rural England, it’s not as surprising.

“I’m from a small town and had not seen any of his films,” says Morton, who plays a mute in Allen’s latest opus. “People told me, ‘Look, this guy has made 50 films. He’s a legend.'”

But Morton didn’t go directly to the video store and rent “Annie Hall” (1977) or “Sleeper” (1973) to get a handle on the director’s body of work; rather she let the filmmaking experience speak for itself.

“People’s work fluctuates,” she says. “I don’t like to be opinionated in that way. I didn’t want to see any of his stuff.”

Allen spotted Morton in the 1997 pic “Under the Skin” and wanted her for the role as Hattie, Sean Penn’s eager girlfriend. Though she doesn’t speak, Hattie is as communicative as any role she’s undertaken, Morton says.

“I don’t feel she’s bottling up any emotion at all. She’s an incredibly kind and wonderful person, almost pure and angelic. She’s not a quiet person. She just doesn’t have the ability to speak,” Morton says. “When I first met Woody he told me that she was a mute and I thought that was amazing. I think he wanted to see what I would do with the role. He gave me such freedom with it.”

In 1999, Morton also starred in “Dreaming of Joseph Lees,” set in 1950s rural England. Morton plays Eva, a woman torn between obligations and unbridled passion.

“I’m very fussy about what I do and what I put my heart into,” she concedes. “Life isn’t a rehearsal. If I don’t get any heart or soul from a script, I won’t do it.”

— Stuart Levine

Chloe Sevigny

Even moreso than indie queens Lili Taylor and Parker Posey, Chloe Sevigny has spent her film career acting in risk-taking films in the low-to-medium budget range. Her role as Lana, the love interest of Brandon Teena (the Oscar-nominated Hillary Swank) in “Boys Don’t Cry” is no exception.

The L.A. Times described her limning of Lana as “played with haunting immediacy by the versatile Chloe Sevigny,” while the New York Times called her performance “on a par with Ms. Swank’s work.”

The praise paid off in a spate of year-end kudos. In addition to her Oscar nomination for best supporting actress, Sevigny was nominated for a Golden Globe, an Independent Spirit Award and a Screen Actors Guild award, and took the top prize from the Boston Society of Film Critics, the Los Angeles Society of Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics.

Heretofore mostly associated with Harmony Korine, who wrote “Kids” and directed “Gummo” and “Julien Donkey Boy” — all of which Sevigny appeared in — the Connecticut-born actress is experiencing a relatively high profile year. In addition to “Boys,” she also played a vengeful young mother in 1999’s “Map of the World” and the put-upon assistant to Cristian Bale’s murderous Wall Street yuppie in “American Psycho,” which premiered at Sundance in January.

— Steve Chagollan

Actor | Actress | Supporting Actor | Supporting Actress

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    From 11-year-old Haley Joel Osment to 79-year-old Richard Farnsworth, and from first-time nominee Hilary Swank to 12-time Oscar contender Meryl Streep, this year’s crop of actors as as varied a field in range of age and experience as Oscar has ever served up. Of the 20 thesps competing, 11 are Oscar virgins, including all five […]

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