Melissa Leo
© 2010 Paramount Pictures
No matter how many nods an actress receives in her career, getting an Academy Award nomination is a wild ride every time.

Actress Melissa Leo—nominated for Best Supporting Actress—is a contender for Oscar gold. In The Fighter, the two-time Oscar nominee disappears into the role of Alice, an overbearing matriarch desperate to turn her sons' boxing careers into the family's meal ticket. "[It's an] out-of-body experience," Melissa says of her Oscar nod. "I am so relieved I have [co-stars] Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, David O. Russell going to the party with me."

When Melissa was first offered the role, she wasn't sure if she could play the mother of Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale's characters. "I'm only 10 years older than the boys," she says.

Melissa credits filming in the actual location of this true-life story and meeting the real people behind it with helping her truly inhabit the role. Hair and makeup also helped. "I'd walk out of the trailers in Lowell, Massachusetts, and the entire town would say, 'Hey, Nana. Alice.' So I had the confidence to walk on the set then."

Geoffrey Rush
© 2010 The Weinstein Company
With 12 total Oscar nods, The King's Speech is reigning supreme at this year's awards. Set in 1930s England, the film is based on the remarkable real-life story of King George VI, the father of Britain's current Queen Elizabeth. After his father dies and his brother abdicates the throne, King George, played by Colin Firth, reluctantly steps into the spotlight and reveals a humiliating family secret—his life-long stammer.

Geoffrey Rush is nominated for Best Supporting Actor in his role as Lionel Logue, a speech therapist who helps the king find his voice just as the country is on the brink of World War II. This is Geoffrey's fourth nomination. He won Best Actor in 1997 for his work in Shine. "Everyone's been talking about the out-of-body experience," he says. "I think it's closer to being zombified."
Geoffrey Rush
When preparing to play Lionel, Geoffrey says he was fortunate to meet the real Lionel's grandson two months before filming started. "He said, 'Oh, look, I've got all of these amazing papers and letters and diagnostic charts and photographs,'" he says. "I read letters from patients that he'd worked with who were shell-shocked victims. And to read the letters that they had written to him—even as long after the First World War into the 1930s—I got a real sense of the decency of the man. When you read what someone's written into their own diaries, you get a sense of their inner life."

Geoffrey also credits co-star Colin Firth with part of his nomination. "Colin is the most diligent, hard-working and very playful and extremely funny actor," he says. "In those very [first] one-on-one scenes, I'm sitting two meters away from a guy who's delivering very nuanced, very detailed, very awe-inspiring work. So you hope somehow that rubs off on you."
The Social Network
Photo: Getty Images
Winner of Best Drama at the Golden Globes and a nominee for Best Picture, The Social Network is based on a controversial book about the invention of Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. The timeless story about the personal price of success was masterfully woven together by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.

Aaron is a six-time Emmy winner, the genius behind the television hit The West Wing and has already won a Golden Globe for The Social Network. He's now nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. "I'm supposed to be nonchalanting it. I'm supposed to be cool. I can't be cool," Aaron says of his nomination. "I just remember saying—it wasn't even quite under my breath, it was out loud—'Oh my God, you're an Academy Award nominee.'"

During his Golden Globes speech, Aaron sent a special message to his 10-year-old daughter: "Smart girls have more fun." Aaron says he wants his daughter to know anything is possible. "I'm nuts about fatherhood. It lives up to the hype," he says. "Doing well in school is the thing that is going to open all the doors to all the fun that you can have. I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by a lot of incredibly smart, incredibly accomplished women, and they lead very enviable lives."

How Aaron used Oscar nomination morning to teach his daughter a lesson about time zones
Aaron Sorkin
In researching the film, Aaron learned two separate lawsuits were brought against Facebook at the same time. "The defendant, the witnesses, the plaintiffs, they all walked into a deposition room, they all swore an oath, and they all came out telling three very different versions of the story," he says. "Instead of picking one and deciding 'I think that's the truth' ... I decided to tell the story of three conflicting stories."

The film caused some controversy when it was released. "I don't think any of us would want a movie made about the things we did when we were 19 years old. And if that movie absolutely positively had to be made, I know that I would want it made only from my point of view," he says. "I wouldn't want to include the points of view of people who were suing me for hundreds of millions of dollars and really had an emotional hatred for me. And those points of view have been included too."

Aaron says the movie is non-fiction. "Anything in the movie that's presented as a fact is a fact in that somebody testified to it in those deposition," he says. "I would say to anyone who goes to see a movie that starts with the words, 'The following is a true story,' I would look at that the way you would look at a painting, and not a photograph."

Catch up with Oscar legends Susan Sarandon, Holly Hunter and Sissy Spacek 

Meet all the 2011 Academy Awards nominees!


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