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How they got here: Lead actress

Eye on the Oscars: Nomination Wrap

Although talked about in some circles as if a latecomer, Viola Davis isn’t new to awards season or even the Oscars. Only three years ago, she received a supporting actress nom for “Doubt,” and has two Tonys to her name as well.

But stalwart Southern maid Aibileen Clark in “The Help” is her breakout role, and Davis — who was also Golden Globe-nommed — now has a SAG award to give her some momentum in the lead actress competish. Of the past 17 SAG-winning actresses, 12 went on to win the Oscar.

The new kid on the block is really Rooney Mara, whose smaller role in “The Social Network” led to another David Fincher project: “The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo,” American-style. As loner hacker Lisbeth Salander, the Globe-nominated Mara managed to make a name for herself despite the rep for Noomi Rapace in the original Swedish version, and was named breakthrough performer by the National Board of Review.

The SAG-, Satellite- and Globe-nominated Glenn Close plays a woman pretending to be a man in “Albert Nobbs” — for which she co-wrote the script and co-produced — and became part of the history of Oscar nominating transgendered roles, with Hilary Swank the most notable winner. This is Close’s sixth Oscar nomination, and she’s yet to win, but she’s been a contender all winter with several critics’ circle noms.

Meryl Streep’s been here so often she might need to rent an office at the Kodak Theater, but even with 17 Oscar noms, she’s only won twice — and the last was remarkably 29 years ago (“Sophie’s Choice”). As British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady,” Streep won the most recent Globe for drama actress, while picking up BAFTA, London and New York Film Critics Circle awards and a SAG nom.

Like Streep, Michelle Williams grabbed a Globe this year (for comedy/musical actress) thanks to her glowing performance in “My Week With Marilyn,” which marks her third Oscar try. Transforming herself into the sultry but insecure Marilyn Monroe, Williams not only received BAFTA, SAG and Spirit noms, she captured quite a few film critics circle awards — including Boston, Chicago, Dallas and Toronto.

One actress who seemed to have the same late-year momentum as Williams was critical darling Tilda Swinton, as the mother of a disturbed son in “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” but she was ultimately left out by the Acad.

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