How they got here: Lead actor

Eye on the Oscars: Oscar Wrap

There’s international flavor to the lead actor category this year, with newcomers from Mexico, France and the U.K. competing against two Oscar-seasoned American thesps.

In fact, many thought Irish-German actor Michael Fassbender would be part of the world summit after collecting numerous critics awards for “Shame,” but he was left out.

Jean Dujardin might have scarcely spoken in “The Artist,” but he made his presence felt with his disarmingly charming smile and empathetic acting. The surprise hit was Dujardin’s third go-round with director Michel Hazanavicius, after two “OSS 117” spy spoofs (which earned him a Cesar nom). For playing fading silent star George Valentin, the Frenchman has racked up kudos including BAFTA, SAG and Golden Globe wins, giving him a shot at getting to sing “La Marseillaise” on the Kodak stage.

This season’s other Globe-winning actor, George Clooney, has a supporting actor Oscar (for “Syriana”) on his shelf, but he has more recently been denied lead actor wins. His credible perf as disheveled dad to two wayward daughters in “The Descendants” also earned him National Board of Review and BFCA Critics Choice awards, plus SAG and BAFTA noms.

Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s unorthodox use of stats in player evaluation became a surprise Oscar role in “Moneyball,” thanks to Brad Pitt’s ability to play at once cocksure and unsure, calm and temperamental. Alongside his SAG, BAFTA and Globe noms, Pitt was honored with both National Society and New York Film Critics awards for his perfs in this and “The Tree of Life.” The actor is so far 0 for 2 in the Oscar batting cage.

Gary Oldman’s middle-aged MI6 agent in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” famously played by Alec Guinness in the vintage British TV adaptation, was a subtle but acute performance. Oldman, who astonishingly had never been nominated by the Acad before, also won the San Francisco Film Critics award and earned BIFA, London Critics Circle, Online Film Critics and Satellite noms.

Demian Bichir, most familiar to American auds for “Weeds” after a long career in Mexican film and TV, followed Spirit and SAG noms to his first Oscar recognition, coming in honor of his tender portrayal of an undocumented immigrant gardener in L.A. struggling to raise a teenage son in “A Better Life,” Chris Weitz’s return to smaller-scale film.

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