Best actor nominees

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Jeff Bridges
"Crazy Heart"

Bridges gained 25 pounds for the role by eating foods like ice cream and pasta. "It changed the way he moved, the way he walked, the way he sat down, the way he breathed and the way he held a guitar, because he never had that girth before," director Scott Cooper says. During the shoot, Bridges "would open up a bottle of whiskey, dip it on his finger like it was cologne and put it on his temples, his neck and his tongue so that he always had that smell."

 
Morgan Freeman
"Invictus"

If Freeman's hand looks a little stiff in "Invictus," it's for a reason: The actor was still recuperating from a serious car crash. But the gravity of the accident didn't deter Clint Eastwood from spoofing him. Every time Freeman would tease Eastwood by imitating his famous walk, Eastwood would shoot up his hand, Dr. Strangelove-style.

 
George Clooney
"Up in the Air"

"The most impressive and generous thing about George as an actor is how much harder he works on everybody else's close-ups than he does on his own," co-star Anna Kendrick says. "He is aware of your performance and is so concerned with it that he goes out if his way to give you whatever you need to make it great. If you're having trouble getting to a certain place emotionally, he'll alter his performance so that it's easier for you -- even if it wouldn't have been appropriate for his own close-up."

 
Colin Firth
"A Single Man"

When Firth read the script, he saw how sparse it was and understood that "there was a lot left to be colored in." That didn't phase him. "It was really all on my shoulders, but there's something compelling about being given that much trust. You're tempted to reciprocate." When shooting wrapped, leaving his character behind and moving on from the grieving teacher was not easy for Firth. "The whole thing was difficult to shake," he says. "A part of me didn't want to shake it, actually. There's something about this character."

 
Jeremy Renner
"The Hurt Locker"

Renner spent a year preparing for his role, which involved creating a specific gait for his character, Sgt. William James. "It was impossible to replicate," producer Mark Boal says. "When it was time to use a stunt guy for the bomb suit, we couldn't find anyone that could walk that way." The filmmakers made tapes of Renner walking to show not only stunt men, but also stand-ins and extras -- but nobody could pull it off. Because of that, Renner had to do it himself, which was no small task. "The suit was 80 pounds and some of those sets were 200 meters long," Boal says.
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