Oscars: Get to Know the First-Time Acting Nominees

10:00 AM 2/12/2016

by Meena Jang

Brie Larson, Alicia Vikander and Tom Hardy are among the nominees who starred in a series of commercial hits but had yet to land a spot on the Oscar ballot prior to this year.

brie larson, bryan cranston and rachel mcadams - H 2016
Dan MacMedan/WireImage; Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images for AARP; Dan MacMedan/WireImage

  1. 1

    Bryan Cranston

    Cranston had a prolific career with numerous noteworthy TV credits under his belt before he caught the Academy's attention for his portrayal of Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in Trumbo. The 59-year-old first appeared on the small screen as a cameo in One Life to Live in 1968 and subsequently played minor characters in popular series such as Raising Miranda and Seinfeld before nabbing his best known role as Hal in Malcolm in the Middle. He remained a recurring character on the show from 2000 to 2006, after which he landed the lead role of Walter White on AMC's Breaking Bad (he's won four Emmys for his six-year stint playing the chemistry teacher turned meth peddler).

    Cranston will appear primarily in feature films over the next year, including the James Franco-directed drama In Dubious Battle and Get a Job, a comedy starring Miles Teller and Anna Kendrick.

  2. 2

    Tom Hardy

    Hardy, 38, made his film debut in the Ridley Scott-directed war drama Black Hawk Down and has since found success starring in action-packed blockbusters such as 2010's Inception, 2012's The Dark Knight Rises (he played the new villian, Bane) and Mad Max: Fury Road. Throughout the course of his career, the English actor has also appeared in numerous British TV series, including Taboo, Peaky Blinders and Oliver Twist

    In 2015, Hardy re-teamed with Inception co-star Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant, which racked up 12 total Oscar nominations (the most of any film), including a supporting actor nod for Hardy. Though the actor himself didn't land an acting nom for his leading role in George Miller's Mad Max, the film is competing against Revenant with 10 Academy Awards.

  3. 3

    Brie Larson

    Larson, 26, got her start as a series regular on the short-lived sitcom Raising Dad, in which she starred as the youngest daughter of a widowed father (Bob Saget) until the show's cancellation in 2002. Shortly after, the actress dabbled in the music scene with the release her debut album at age 16. Titled Finally Out of P.E., the pop-rock record featured tracks such as "She Said," "Life After You" and "Falling Into History."

    Foregoing her music career for film (she never released a second album), Larson went on to score minor roles in mainstream hit such as 13 Going on 30 (she played a Six Chick), 21 Jump Street and The Spectacular Now before gaining critical attention her for dramatic turn in indie movie Short Term 12, where she played the role of a supervisor at a home for at-risk teens. She currently has three projects in the works: Free Fire, Basmati Blues and her first major tentpole, Kong: Skull Island.

  4. 4

    Jennifer Jason Leigh

    Leigh, 54, made brief TV appearances early in her career (The Waltons, Angel City) before breaking through in film by taking on mature roles in a series of dramas including a blind and deaf rape victim in 1981's Eyes of a Stranger (her big screen debut) and a young prostitute in 1989's Last Exit to Brooklyn, 1990's Miami Blues and 2004's The Machinist. The actress will revisit the thriller genre in the Weinstein Co.'s upcoming film Amityville: The Awakening, in which she's set to appear alongside Bella Thorne and Cameron Monaghan.

    Leigh, nominated for her performance in Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight, also had a voice role in Charlie Kaufman's Anomalisa, which is vying for best animated feature film this year.

  5. 5

    Rachel McAdams

    The 37-year-old actress got her start in 2001 with a minor role in The Famous Jett Jackson series and MTV's TV movie Shotgun Love Dolls just one year prior to making her Hollywood debut in the Rob Schneider-led comedy The Hot Chick. In 2004, McAdams had her breakout year, appearing in both teen comedy Mean Girls (she played the North Shore High School's queen bee Regina George) and the film adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' romance novel The Notebook (in which she starred opposite former flame Ryan Gosling). Post-Notebook fame, McAdams continued to play the leading lady in a string of popular romance films including The Time Traveler's Wife, The Vow and About Time before trying her hand in TV and landing the role of Detective Ani Bezzerides in HBO's True Detective. 

    The actress, who has garnered critical acclaim (including a Critics Choice Award win for best supporting actress) and an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of former Boston Globe journalist Sacha Pfeiffer in Spotlight, can be seen next in Doctor Strange, also starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton.

  6. 6

    Charlotte Rampling

    The 70-year-old actress started out in the fashion world as a model and jumpstarted her film career with supporting roles in successful foreign arthouse films. Following her breakout role in the 1966's Georgy Girl, Rampling starred in the critical hit The Damned, an Italian-German film, and gained widespread recognition for her role as a concentration camp survivor who engages in a sadomasochistic relationship with a former Nazi SS officer in the controversial 1974 film The Night Porter.

    The actress has since won an Emmy for her role in the TV movie Restless (2012) and had a recurring role on Dexter. Audiences can see Ramping next in Lian Lunson's Waiting for the Miracle to Come and the film adaptation of Julian Barnes' novel The Sense of an Ending.

  7. 7

    Alicia Vikander

    Vikander launched her acting career in 2002 by starring in Swedish TV shows and shorts (Andra Avenyn, En decemberdröm) and made her feature film debut in the Swedish film Pure (2009). In 2012, the 27-year-old became internationally known after appearing in Danish film A Royal Affair, in which she played a young queen caught in a love triangle between the King of Denmark and his German physician aid, and the Joe Wright-directed drama Anna Karenina (starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law).

    Relatively new to Hollywood, Vikander's breakthrough came when she took on the role of a humanoid in 2015's Ex Machina (nominated for best original screenplay and best visual effects at this year's Oscars) and the wife of transgender pioneer Lili Elbe in Tom Hooper's The Danish Girl (for which she's in the running for best supporting actress).

    Vikander, who also starred in Burnt and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. this past year, will appear next in Jason Bourne, the next installment in the Bourne franchise starring Matt Damon.