Colin Firth in A Single Man
Photo: The Weinstein Company
There are a number of first-time nominees in the 2010 Oscar® races—Mo'Nique, Sandra Bullock, Christopher Plummer and Stanley Tucci, to name a few. Another veteran actor who's up for a statue for the first time is Colin Firth, whose portrayal of a gay college professor grieving the sudden death of his partner in A Single Man is being called a career-defining performance.

Directed by fashion designer Tom Ford, A Single Man is set over the course of a single day in 1962 Los Angeles—the day Colin's character, George, decides to kill himself.

Colin says one of the best parts of his experience on this film was working under Tom's direction. "This was a lonely experience for an actor in a way, especially in my department because a lot of the film is spent alone," he says. "But of course then you become very intimate with your director because this is a very, very personal story. It's very personal to Tom and one of the great gifts he has. I don't know how he does it. You don't see him working really—he just sets the magic in motion and suddenly it's as important to you as it was to him."