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Larson became an Oscar frontrunner after her career-defining performance in Room, but she didn't just pop out of nowhere: the 26-year-old actress had memorable roles in United States of Tara, 21 Jump Street (as Jonah Hill's love interest, remember?) and Trainwreck.
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After decades of thriving in the relative obscurity of stage acting, Rylance got to bask in the Hollywood-sized spotlight after his celebrated performance in Bridge of Spies, which earned the 56-year-old his first Oscar nomination. Rylance has previously garnered acclaim for his performances in Richard III and Twelfth Night at Shakespeare's Globe and in London's West End, where he had served as artistic director between 1995 and 2005.
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JENNIFER JASON LEIGH
One of the most beloved film actresses, with memorable roles in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Last Exit to Brooklyn and Margot at the Wedding, 54-year-old Leigh has been long overdue for an Oscar nom. The actress is up for her role as an Old West criminal in The Hateful Eight. "I did not expect, at this time of my life, to make a film with Quentin Tarantino and make a film that was that revelatory for me as an actor," she told Entertainment Weekly.
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Before she was a first-time Academy Award nominee, she worked at a flower shop and a Levi's store, grappling with the uncertainty of an acting career. Vikander, 27, who also starred in Ex Machina, earned her first Oscar nomination for her performance in The Danish Girl, which got her wins from the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Critics' Choice Awards this year.
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It's been a massive year for Hardy, 38, who received his first-ever Oscar nomination for his performance alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant. What's more: Hardy's two latest films, The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road, are up for a combined 22 Academy Awards.
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That's right – McAdams, 37, had never been nominated for an Oscar until this year, for her performance in Spotlight, playing Boston Globe journalist Sacha Pfeiffer. McAdams credits her first big break to Rob Schneider, who helped her land her first American movie, The Hot Chick, in which having to switch bodies with Schneider was "one of the hardest jobs I've had to date," she tells PEOPLE.
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The 59-year-old actor, who has been in the industry since the 1980s and appeared on more than 60 television shows, never thought he would be up for an Oscar at the 88th Academy Awards for his performance in Trumbo. "I was not raised with the idea that you could achieve that," he told ABC. "My dad was an actor, and he made his living getting a job here, getting a job there, sometimes doing fairly well and other times, not so well."
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The Weeknd's song "Earned It" from the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack is up for Best Original Song. The "Can't Feel My Face" singer is competing in a high-powered pool, which includes Sam Smith's "Writing's On the Wall" (Spectre) and Lady Gaga and Diane Warren's "Till It Happens to You" (The Hunting Ground).
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Best Actress nominee Rampling's performance as Kate Mercer in the British drama 45 Years earned the 70-year-old her first nod from the Academy.
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