Oscars: Best actress nominees

A look at the best actress nominees for the 84th Academy Awards on 26 February 2012.

Glenn Close

Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs Close also co-produced and co-wrote the screenplay

Age: 64

Nominated for: Albert Nobbs

The character: A 19th Century Irishwoman who disguises herself as a man and works as a butler for 20 years.

Oscar record: Close has been nominated for an Oscar five times but has never won. Two of those nominations were for best actress - Fatal Attraction (1987) and Dangerous Liaisons (1988). Three were for best supporting actress - The World According to Garp (1982), The Big Chill (1983) and The Natural (1984).

The critics said: "Glenn Close plays Albert with transcendent restraint... Her range, energy, originality, humour and intelligence merit serious Oscar attention" - Peter Travers, Rolling Stone.

Viola Davis

Viola Davis in The Help Davis has also been nominated for a Golden Globe

Age: 46

Nominated for: The Help

The character: Aibileen Clark, a housekeeper in Mississippi during the 1960s, who forms an unlikely friendship with a white woman, Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Emma Stone).

Oscar record: One nomination for best supporting actress in Doubt (2008).

The critics said: "Davis, as Aibeleen, gives the often-broad dialogue some serious emotional purchase: the last time she tells an unloved, chubby, white two-year-old in her care: 'You is kind, you is smart, you is important,' my bottom lip was wobbling even more than the toddler's" - Robbie Collin, the Telegraph.

Rooney Mara

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Age: 26

Nominated for: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

The character: Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker who joins journalist Mikael Blomkvist in the search for a woman who has been missing for 40 years.

Oscar record: None

The critics said: "When it comes down to it, this is Rooney Mara's movie, and I don't care if the second and third stories are any good as long as they are full of Lisbeth Salander" - Mark Rabinowitz, CNN.com.

Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher

Age: 62

Nominated for: The Iron Lady

The character: Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first and only female prime minister, spanning her life from her first appearances in Parliament to her present struggles with dementia.

Oscar record: Streep has had a record 16 nominations, including two wins. Her first nomination, for best supporting actress, was for The Deer Hunter (1978). The following year, she won that category for her role in Kramer vs Kramer (1979). Her last supporting actress nomination was for Adaptation (2002). The remaining 13 nominations are all for best actress - The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981), Sophie's Choice (1982) - for which she won - Silkwood (1983), Out of Africa (1985), Ironweed (1987), A Cry in the Dark (1988), Postcards from the Edge (1990), The Bridges of Madison County (1995), One True Thing (1998), Music of the Heart (1999), The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Doubt (2008) and Julia & Julia (2009).

The critics said: "Streep is simply brilliant as Thatcher in every way: her voice, her posture, her movements and facial expressions, her frightening and sudden imperiousness" - David Sexton, Evening Standard.

Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn

Age: 31

Nominated for: My Week With Marilyn

The character: Marilyn Monroe - the film focuses on the week in which the actress spent time being escorted and supported by young writer and film-maker Colin Clark while making the film The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier.

Oscar record: Two nominations - one for actress in a supporting role for Brokeback Mountain (2005) and one for best actress for Blue Valentine (2010).

The critics said: "The saving grace is Williams... it's pedestrian in most ways, but Williams - with a little help from friends in the lighting, camera, hair and make-up departments - lends it a touch of magic amid the nonsense" - Dave Calhoun, Time Out.

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