The reason we love the Oscars isn’t just the competition. It’s the stories that captivate us, and not just those on the screen.
Every year, a new group of artists get their first Oscar recognition for their screen work — and not just performers, but directors, writers, cinematographers and others. And they all have their stories, from the longtime professional finally getting noticed to the up-and-comer announcing his or her arrival. Just look at the Best Actress race, which this year includes the youngest and oldest nominees ever in the category: force of nature Quvenzhané Wallis (in her screen debut) and French cinema legend Emmanuelle Riva. That they are both first-time nominees only adds to the story.
Here are a few takes from the first-timer files: film professionals getting their first Oscar nomination, stars and relative unknowns alike. Meet the freshman Class of 2012!
Hugh Jackman, up for Best Actor (“Les Misérables”)
“Having hosted the show, I have seen so many different sides of the Oscars, but to be an actual nominee is something I never would have dreamed possible.” — Hugh Jackman
Anne Hathaway wasn’t the only member of the “Les Misérables” cast to dream a dream. While Wolverine, the feral, hirsute, reluctant hero of the “X-Men” movies, made Australian actor Hugh Jackman a Hollywood star, his first love was the stage musical. He made his name as all-American cowboy Curly in the 1998 West End revival of “Oklahoma!” and he leapt from his second “X-Men” film to Broadway (and a Tony Award) for the musical “The Boy From Oz.” The role of Jean Valjean, the tormented hero of “Les Misérables,” was a natural for Jackman, a veteran of both musicals and dark, tortured screen heroes. “Weirdly, this was almost more physical than an “X-Men” movie,” he remarked to Vulture. He starved himself to get that gaunt look in the opening scenes and worked out to keep the muscle on between vocal exercises and rehearsals. A challenge even for Wolverine.