Courtesy Cambridge Rindge and Latin Yearbook
  • Oscar Nominees: Before They Were Famous

    Matt Damon's big-screen debut was at age 18 in "Mystic Pizza." He had one line: "Do you want my green stuff, mom?" Damon, pictured here in a yearbook photo, is nominated for best supporting actor for playing Francois Pienaar, the captain of the South African rugby team, in "Invictus."
    Courtesy Cambridge Rindge and Latin Yearbook
  • Oscar Nominees: Before They Were Famous

    Actress Mo'Nique has worked as a bank teller, a chicken restaurant employee and even a supervisor at a phone sex line. In her early 20s, she discovered stand-up comedy, and she has been at home onstage ever since. Mo'Nique, pictured here in a yearbook photo, is nominated for best supporting actress for playing Mary, an abusive mother, in "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire."
    Courtesy Millford Mill Academy Yearbook
  • Oscar Nominees: Before They Were Famous

    While student head of drama at Woldingham School in London, Carey Mulligan met the British actor Julian Fellowes, who gave her some memorable advice: Forget acting. Marry a lawyer or an accountant. After graduation, Mulligan worked for a time in a pub. Mulligan, pictured at center in a Woldingham production of "Sweet Charity," is nominated for best actress for playing Jenny, an English schoolgirl who is seduced by the charms of an older man, in "An Education."
    Woldingham School of England
  • Oscar Nominees: Before They Were Famous

    Vera Farmiga was born in New Jersey to Ukrainian parents. She didn't speak English until she was 6 years old and toured as a teen in a Ukrainian dance troupe. Her slow road to fame included a 1997 TV series called "Roar," in which she acted alongside a then-unknown Australian, the late Heath Ledger. Farmiga, pictured here with Dan Cantor in a 1996 production of "The Tempest" at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, is nominated for best supporting actress for playing Alex Goran, a business traveler who begins a no-strings-attached affair with a man she meets in a hotel bar, in "Up in the Air."
    Ken Friedman
  • Oscar Nominees: Before They Were Famous

    Anna Kendrick, 24, caught the acting bug at age 5, when she participated in a community production on "Annie" in her hometown of Portland, Maine. She and her brother would take six-hour bus rides to New York City for castings -- and often come home rejected. Kendrick, pictured in a yearbook photo, is nominated for best supporting actress for playing Natalie Keener, an ambitious but inexperienced young woman who is sent on an eye-opening series of trips with a veteran colleague, in "Up in the Air."
    Courtesy Deering High School
  • Oscar Nominees: Before They Were Famous

    In high school, Stanley Tucci had the curly locks of a Roman god and was a star soccer player. Early in his film career he was typecast as the Italian bad guy, before he crept to fame with a movie he wrote and co-directed, "Big Night." Tucci is nominated for best supporting actor for playing George Harvey, a serial killer who murders his neighbor's 14-year-old daughter, in "The Lovely Bones."
    Courtesy John Jay High School Yearbook
  • Oscar Nominees: Before They Were Famous

    Christopher Plummer's breakthrough film role was, of course, as Captain Von Trapp in 1965's "The Sound of Music." Plummer, pictured in a 1956 production of "Henry V," is nominated for best supporting actor for playing Leo Tolstoy, the great Russian writer who finds himself torn in his final years between his wife and his devoted admirers, in "The Last Station."
    Stratford Shakespeare Festival Archives/Herb Nott and Co. Ltd.
  • Oscar Nominees: Before They Were Famous

    Before she was America's sweetheart, Sandra Bullock was a fun-loving cheerleader. Former classmates remember her as the perpetual class clown, the funniest girl at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Va.
    Arthur Bloch
  • Oscar Nominees: Before They Were Famous

    Sandra Bullock had her movie debut in the 1987 flop "Hangmen." Her first lead role came two years later in another bomb, "Who Shot Patakango?" It wasn't until she starred opposite Keanu Reeves in "Speed" that things really began to take off for her. Bullock, pictured in a yearbook photo, is nominated for best actress for playing Leigh Anne Tuohy, a suburban mom who takes in a homeless African-American teenager and encourages his talents as a football player, in "The Blind Side."
    Scott Sowers
  • Oscar Nominees: Before They Were Famous

    Forty years ago, Morgan Freeman was doing TV ads for mouthwash and Polaroid cameras. He had turned down a drama school scholarship to enlist in the Air Force, but when he had the chance to train as a fighter pilot toward the end of his enlistment period, he realized he wanted nothing to do with killing people. "I had this very clear epiphany," Freeman said. "I thought, 'You are not in love with this; you are in love with the idea of this.' So off I went to Hollywood." Freeman, pictured in a yearbook photo, is nominated for best actor for playing Nelson Mandela, the South African president, in "Invictus."
    Barbara Murrell
  • Oscar Nominees: Before They Were Famous

    "I never, never once thought I'd be an actress. Not ever," said Gabourey Sidibe, who has worked as a receptionist and planned on becoming a therapist. "I'd be in a classroom and the teacher would say to the other little girls around me, like other friends, 'You're so pretty, you can be a model,' and 'You're so pretty, you can be an actress,' and, 'Gabby, thank God you're so smart!'" Sidibe, pictured in a theater production at Lehman College in the Bronx, N.Y., is nominated for best actress for playing Precious, a pregnant teenager who struggles to overcome years of abuse at the hands of her parents, in "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire."
    Lehman College
  • Oscar Nominees: Before They Were Famous

    Before he was George Clooney, he was a kid trying to break into Hollywood. He was in multiple TV pilots that failed even to make it on the air. The big screen would be no kinder. Moviegoers avoided "Combat Academy." Ditto "Return to Horror High." Same for "Return of the Killer Tomatoes." At that point in his career, he told his mother, Nina, he could only get roles in movies with "Return" in the title. Dad Nick Clooney remembers when it all changed. "He said, 'I'm doing a pilot, something called ER,'" said Nick Clooney. Clooney, pictured in a yearbook photo, is nominated for best actor for playing Ryan Bingham, a man who makes his living firing people, in "Up in the Air."
    Courtesy Nick and Nina Clooney
  • Oscar Nominees: Before They Were Famous

    In high school Woody Harrelson wanted to be a preacher. He even volunteered in the school library. But by the time he left college in search of fame and fortune, he'd left those pure pursuits behind: "I really was a kind of balls-to-the-wall fanatic," he said. "I didn't think of anything other than partying, girls, alcohol, drugs…" Harrelson, pictured in a yearbook photo, is nominated for best supporting actor for playing Capt. Tony Stone, a military officer struggling to maintain his sobriety as he delivers news of soldiers' deaths to their families, in "The Messenger."
    Lebanon High School
  • Oscar Nominees: Before They Were Famous

    The sons of character actor Lloyd Bridges, Jeff Bridges and older brother Beau were born into Hollywood royalty. When they were teens, Beau gave Jeff a hand-me-down guitar – and discovered he was a natural musician. But the younger brother kept acting, winning his first Oscar nomination for "The Last Picture Show," in which he starred opposite Cybill Shepherd (pictured). Bridges is nominated for best actor for playing Bad Blake, a washed-up country-western singer, in "Crazy Heart."
    Cybill Shepherd
  • Oscar Nominees: Before They Were Famous

    Descended from Russian noblemen, Helen Mirren was born Ilyena Vasilievna Mironov. Her high school was a very strict convent. By 20 she was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company (pictured). But this button-down queen was also a silver screen siren, appearing naked at age 24 in "Age of Consent," the first of a long string of racy roles in R-rated films. Mirren is nominated for best actress for playing Sofya, wife of Leo Tolstoy, in "The Last Station."
    Royal Shakespeare Company
  • Oscar Nominees: Before They Were Famous

    Jeremy Renner made an early turn onstage in a junior college production of "The Wizard of Oz" in Modesto, Calif. (pictured). Renner is nominated for best actor for playing Staff Sgt. William James, a bomb defuser in Iraq, in "The Hurt Locker."
    Wes Page
  • Oscar Nominees: Before They Were Famous

    At Bernards High School in New Jersey, Meryl Streep was a cheerleader, class treasurer, choir member and homecoming queen. She attended the Yale School of Drama, and since then has stacked up 16 Oscar nominations. Here, she is pictured in a yearbook photo.
    Bernardsville Library
  • Oscar Nominees: Before They Were Famous

    Meryl Streep as a high school cheerleader. "She was very outgoing. She had a great personality. Extremely funny," said Susan Castrilli, a friend of Streep's at Bernards High School in Bernardsville, N.J. "She was -- you know, I think the Meryl that you see now is the Meryl that was 14 years old. I don't think she's really changed all that much." Streep is nominated for best actress for portraying Julia Child in "Julia & Julia."
    Bernardsville Library
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