Sean Penn is one of Hollywood's most passionate and dedicated actors with a wealth of memorable film roles to his credit, including his iconic portrayal of burnout Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and his work in I Am Sam as a mentally handicapped father struggling to raise his child on his own. It's been five years since Sean won the Best Actor trophy for his performance in Mystic River as an angry ex-con who looks to avenge his daughter's brutal death. Sean earns his fifth Oscar® nomination with his role in Milk as gay rights activist Harvey Milk, California's first self-identified gay man to be elected to public office. Sean immerses himself in the role, which tells story of Harvey's political life up to its tragic end in November 1978 when he was shot by a former colleague.
Photo: Overture Films
Though Richard Jenkins is best known for his role as Nathanial Fisher, the deceased head of the Fisher family in the HBO series Six Feet Under, he's been a constant presence in Hollywood for years. Earlier credits in movies such as Hannah and Her Sisters and The Witches of Eastwick gave way to roles in the Farrelly brothers' hit There's Something About Mary as well as the Coen brothers' Burn After Reading.
It's Richard's work in The Visitor that has earned him his first Oscar® nomination. Richard plays a college economics professor who returns to his New York apartment only to find a young couple, who are illegal immigrants, living there without his knowledge.
Photo: Imagine Entertainment
Frank Langella won a Tony® for his portrayal of former President Richard Nixon in the stage version of Frost/Nixon, and now he's reprised the role in the film adaptation of the same name. While Frank has primarily focused his energies on theater, his ability to sink himself into character roles in movies has earned him great acclaim.
The movie is a dramatization of the 1977 interviews between British TV journalist David Frost and former President Nixon, during which President Nixon famously admitted that he "'let the American people down." Frank plays the beleaguered ex-president sympathetically and has been praised for his spot-on portrayal.
With a career peppered with hits such as Fight Club, the Ocean's series and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Brad Pitt is known for talent, good looks and philanthropy. His performance in the Coen brothers' Burn After Reading earned him his first round of accolades in 2008, but it's his role as a man who ages in reverse in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button that's got the Academy buzzing.
Brad's work in this movie, based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, gives him his second Oscar® nod but his first for Best Actor. The first was in the Best Supporting Actor category for his role in Twelve Monkeys in 1996.
Considered one of the best actors of his generation, Mickey Rourke began his career in films such as 1941, 9 1/2 Weeks, Diner and cult favorite The Pope of Greenwich Village. But a subsequent series of eccentric roles and a tumultuous personal life seemed to threaten Mickey's legacy for good.
With his gritty turn as Randy "The Ram" Robinson in The Wrestler, Mickey signals his return from Hollywood exile with a Golden Globe® win and his first Oscar® nomination. Mickey's performance as Ram, a broken-down former professional wrestling star desperate for one last shot both in and out of the ring, has been heralded as one of the most surprising in years.