"I went to Juilliard, I trained, I did a lot of theater, I did some guest spots on TV," the Zero Dark Thirty Best Actress nominee has said of starting out. Nearly a decade before the 35-year-old was a candidate for best actress, she played a pregnant girl who goes missing on the Kristen Bell drama Veronica Mars.
The Silver Linings Playbook Best Actor nominee, 38, missed his graduation from New York City's Actors Studio to film a small role as an uptight camp counselor (with Amy Poehler) in the 2001 cult comedy Wet Hot American Summer. In one surprising scene, Cooper's onscreen alter-ego hooked up with Michael Ian Black's character in an equipment closet!
She dreamed a dream of TV fame! Les Miserables' Best Supporting Actress nominee, 30, was a high-schooler on the 1999-2002 FOX dramedy Get Real, costarring Eric Christian Olsen. "When I was younger I thought about becoming a nun for a while," Hathaway has said of her pre-fame days. "You know how it is when you're growing up and you're going to be a lot of different things, but I actually wanted to be an actress before I wanted to be a nun."
Who is Leaf Phoenix? That would be Joaquin, 38, who has a Best Actor nod for The Master. As a preteen, he used a stage name for the silly 1986 sci-fi adventure Space Camp, with Lea Thompson (standing beside him) and Kelly Preston (far right).