Oscar Nominees Before They Were Stars

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Currently laying low after her 1996 Oscar nod for "Afterglow," the British actress got her big break as the love interest of "Billy Liar" in the 1963 film directed by John Scheslinger. Christie found critical success quickly and in 1965 she won the best actress Oscar for her role in "Darling." But Christie will forever be remembered for a different role that same year: Lara Antipova in "Dr. Zhivago."

Viggo Mortenson

Mortenson's acting career began on the stage, though a string of supporting film roles led to Oscar-worthy opportunities. In addition to small parts in 1995's "Crimson Tide" and 1997's "G.I. Jane," Mortenson seduced actress Gwyneth Paltrow on screen in "A Perfect Murder," the 1998 remake of an Alfred Hitchcock classic.

After gaining popularity as Aragon in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, Mortenson has a shot at academy acknowledgement for his acting prowess as a Russian mobster in "Eastern Promises."

Laura Linney

Linney snuck onto the Hollywood scene as well with minor roles in the mid-'90s in "Dave" and "Searching for Bobby Fischer." She flirted with box office success when she took on the role of Dr. Karen Ross in "Congo," but has drifted to many independent films since. Her low profile roles in "You Can Count on Me" and "Kinsey" both garnered Oscar nods for the actress who is nominated this year for "The Savages."

Javier Bardem

Bardem's first major film, "The Ages of Lulu," came to him at the very young age of 20. However, Bardem truly gained recognition for his 1992 film "Jamon," which also starred Spanish beauty Penelope Cruz, whom he recently started dating, 15 years later.

His prolific career in Spanish films even breached the American borders: His performance as Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas in 2000's "Before Night Falls" earned him an Oscar nod. However, American audiences have gotten to know him for his turn as a psychopathic assassin in last year's "No Country for Old Men," for which he is the Oscar favorite.

Cate Blanchett

The Australian actress had a little help from Hollywood female heavyweights Glenn Close and Frances McDormand when she starred in her first international film, 1997's "Paradise Road."

A year later, she proved she could carry a film when she portrayed the virgin queen in "Elizabeth." Although she lost the Oscar to Gwyneth Paltrow for "Shakespeare in Love," Blanchett has a second chance at winning an Oscar for playing the queen after starring in the film's sequel.

However, Blanchett, who won in 2004 for portraying Katherine Hepburn in "The Aviator," is predicted to have a better chance at snagging the award for "I'm Not There."

Tommy Lee Jones

It's been a big year for Jones, who scored his third Oscar nomination for "In the Valley Elah" and co-starred in another Oscar-nominated film "No Country for Old Men."

The Texas native graduated in 1969 from Harvard, where he was a star football player and a top student, graduating cum laude with a degree in English. He also roomed with future Vice President Al Gore.

After college, Jones moved to New York City and started acting on Broadway and television. In one of his first roles, he he played Dr. Mark Toland on the soap opera "One Life to Live."

Amy Ryan

Ryan has already won or been nominated for about two dozen critics awards for her portrayal of a drug-using South Boston mother whose daughter disappears in "Gone Baby Gone."

Though not a household name, Ryan is a versatile and busy actress, with two Tony award nominations under her belt and roles in several feature film and television shows, including the critically acclaimed HBO series "The Wire."

Like Jones, Ryan did a short stint on a soap opera, playing a teenage runaway in "As the World Turns."

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