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.
_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.
_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.
_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_.
_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.
_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.
_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.
_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_.
_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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