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Nine Actors to Know This Award Season

The Streeps and Clooneys and DiCaprios of Hollywood need no introduction, but 2011 saw so many breakout stars, there are sure to be a few unfamiliar faces accepting awards this year. Well, you won’t be very much fun at the office water cooler if your response to every Oscar- or Globes-related discussion is a meek, “I don’t know who that is.” Even if you never ventured into a multiplex in 2011, here’s everyone you need to know this awards season.
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Viola Davis
Jessica Chastain
Michael Fassbender
Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo
Octavia Spencer
Rooney Mara
Noomi Rapace
John Hawkes
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Viola Davis

Why you should know her: She’s up for a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award for her lead role as Aibileen in The Help, and she’s on every critic’s short list for an Oscar.

Where else you’ve seen her: She was nominated for an Academy Award in 2009 for her role in Doubt, and she’s appeared in Traffic, Antwone Fisher, Solaris, and Syriana. She has also won two Tony Awards for her work as a stage actress, so she’s seriously legit.

Jessica Chastain

Why you should know her: She’s nominated for a Globe and a SAG award for her portrayal of sweet-natured Celia in The Help, along with an Independent Spirit Award for Take Shelter.

Where else you’ve seen her: It was hard to see a movie in 2011 and not see her—2011 could be called “The Year of the Chastain” because of her appearances in The Debt, The Tree of Life, Coriolanus, and Texas Killing Fields, and each performance is nominated for some award or other.

Michael Fassbender

Why you should know him: He’s rushed to the top of Hollywood’s A-List with his performance as a sex addict in Shame, for which he’s also nominated for a Golden Globe. He’s also brutally attractive.

Where else you’ve seen him: As the ill-fated British spy in Inglourious Basterds, and as young Magneto in X-Men: First Class.

Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo

Why you should know them: They’re both nominated for SAG and Golden Globe Awards for the silent film The Artist, and the Oscar buzz around them is strong.

Where else you’ve seen them: Probably nowhere. Bejo had a bit part in 2001’s A Knight’s Tale, but both Bejo and Dujardin have primarily worked in France.

Octavia Spencer

Why you should know her: Given awards shows’ fondness for “feisty” actresses of color, Spencer is all but a shoo-in for a Globe, SAG Award, and possibly an Oscar for her portrayal of “feisty” Minny Jackson in The Help.

Where else you’ve seen her: Everywhere! Spencer is a ubiquitous comedic character actress who was a regular on Ugly Betty and appeared in films like Never Been Kissed, Being John Malkovich, Spider-Man, Bad Santa, Coach Carter, and countless others.

Rooney Mara

Why you should know her: She plays Lisbeth Salander in the new adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Where else you’ve seen her: She had small parts in Youth in Revolt and The Social Network, and starred in the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. What’s more notable is that her great-grandfathers Art Rooney, Sr. and Tim Mara founded the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Giants football teams.

Noomi Rapace

Why you should know her: She starred as Lisbeth Salander in the original Swedish film versions of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy.

Where else you’ve seen her: Unless you fancy Swedish cinema, probably nowhere else other than her current co-starring role in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

John Hawkes

Why you should know him: His performance as a charismatic cult leader in Martha Marcy May Marlene has earned him an Independent Spirit Award nomination and sparked Oscar buzz.

Where else you’ve seen him: He was nominated for an Oscar last year for playing Jennifer Lawrence’s meth-addicted uncle in Winter’s Bone. He was also a regular on Deadwood and Eastbound & Down, and has played various character parts in dozens of movies, perfecting the art of playing both consummate nice guys and creepy villains.

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