For years, the Oscars have catapulted actors and actresses to movie stardom, and this year there are many fresh faces among the nominees who could be poised for a big break out of the pack.
Adrien Brody’s best actor Oscar for 2002’s “The Pianist” put him in Hollywood’s spotlight. A year later, Charlize Theron became a movie marquee queen after her role in “Monster” won her the best actor trophy.
Oscar experts say one category loaded with potential for new talent to emerge is the race for best supporting actress, and two favorites have much to gain from an Oscar win.
One, Amy Adams in “Junebug,” has raised her profile simply by being nominated — because she was virtually unknown.
Britain’s Rachel Weisz is the odds-on favorite for her portrayal of a social activist in “The Constant Gardener.” She faces her toughest competition from Michelle Williams as a spurned wife in “Brokeback Mountain.”
Weisz, 34, is an established actress in England, but an Oscar could make her a star in the United States. Williams, 25, gained some fame on TV’s “Dawson’s Creek,” but her role in “Brokeback” has made her a movie star.
The 30-year-old Adams, who portrays a sweet-minded pregnant girl in “Junebug,” boosted her career with the nomination because she had previously had only small roles on television and in one major movie, “Catch Me if You Can.”
Oscar’s ups and downsEven so, the Oscar category for best supporting actress has seen stardom fade almost as quickly as it rose, according to film critic Richard Roeper of the “Ebert & Roeper” movie review TV show.
“That’s always the category when you get the crazy moment early on when someone wins, then they are kind of never heard from again,” said Roeper.
He cited Mira Sorvino, who after winning supporting actress honors for 1995’s “Mighty Aphrodite,” has worked a lot but failed to become a superstar.
Another actress who could see a career change is Reese Witherspoon. At 29 she already is a global box office draw after her $100 million-plus “Legally Blonde” movies. But a best actress Oscar for playing singer June Carter in “Walk the Line” would gain her recognition as a dramatic actress, too.
Roeper said if Witherspoon wins, it could be like Julia Roberts’ triumph for 2000’s “Erin Brockovich.” Before that, Roberts had been an “American sweetheart” whose work was mostly in fluffy romantic comedies like “Pretty Woman.” The Oscar gave her credibility for dramas.
In the best actor race, Philip Seymour Hoffman, 38, who plays author Truman Capote in “Capote.” has built a career as a character actor in films like “Boogie Nights” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”
He is an actor whose face people recognize but whose name they don’t know. An Oscar victory would change all that, the experts said.
Hoffman faces a strong rival in Terrence Howard, 36, who has elevated his status from supporting player to leading man in big-budget films simply by being nominated.
Howard has enjoyed a solid career but never broken away from character actor roles in major studio movies. His part as a pimp in the low-budget “Hustle & Flow,” for which he is nominated for best actor, has earned him many industry fans.
“He wins no matter what because he really gets on the Hollywood radar this year,” said Tom O’Neil, a veteran Oscar watcher and writer for TheEnvelope.com.