Oscar nominee profiles

A look at the best actress nominees for the 85th Academy Awards.

JESSICA CHASTAIN

Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty

Age: 35

Nominated for: Zero Dark Thirty

The character: Maya, a determined CIA agent who has spent her whole career on the trail of Osama bin Laden.

Oscar record: Chastain was up for best supporting actress last year for her role as wannabe socialite Celia Foote in The Help (2011).

The critics said: "Chastain carries the film in a way she's never been asked to do before. Denied the opportunity to provide psychological and emotional details for Maya, she nonetheless creates a character that proves indelible and deeply felt." - Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

JENNIFER LAWRENCE

Jennifer Lawrence

Age: 22

Nominated for: Silver Linings Playbook

The character: Tiffany, a disturbed young widow - recently fired from her job - who enters a community dance competition.

Oscar record: Nominated for best actress at the 2010 Oscars for her role as Ree in Winter's Bone.

The critics said: "Jennifer Lawrence is the standout in a tonally uneven, eccentric romantic comedy that fuses The Fisher King with Romy And Michele's High School Reunion." - Damon Wise, Empire

EMMANUELLE RIVA

Emmanuelle Riva

Age: 85

Nominated for: Amour

The character: Anne, a retired music teacher in her 80s living in Paris, who suffers a stroke and is cared for by her husband Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant).

Oscar record: None. But a win for Riva would make her the oldest best actress award recipient. The record is held by Jessica Tandy who was 80 when she won for Driving Miss Daisy (1989). Riva's birthday is on 24 February - which means she will turn 86 on the day of this year's Oscars ceremony.

The critics said: "Riva's channelling of a woman who has lost memory and emotion - lost what some would call her soul - is a thrilling, draining emotional insight." - Mary Corliss, Time

QUVENZHANE WALLIS

Quvenzhane Wallis

Age: 9

Nominated for: Beasts of the Southern Wild

The character: Hushpuppy, a young girl living in squalor with her father, finds her world changed forever when a Katrina-style storm raises the waters around her ramshackle community.

Oscar record: None. But this nomination does make Quvenzhane Wallis the youngest best actress nominee in Oscar history. The record had been held by Keisha Castle-Hughes for Whale Rider in 2003. She was 13 years, 309 days when her nomination was announced.

The critics said: "[Hushpuppy] is played by a force of nature named Quvenzhane Wallis, who was five years old when the movie was cast, seven when it was finished, and like many of the cast members had never acted before. She is so uniquely and particularly herself that I wonder if the movie would have been possible without her." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

NAOMI WATTS

Naomi Watts in The Impossible

Age: 44

Nominated for: The Impossible

The character: Maria, a married mother of three, whose family is separated by the catastrophic Boxing Day tsunami of 2004.

Oscar record: Nominated for best actress for her role as Cristina Peck in 21 Grams (2003).

The critics said: "As Maria, Watts is both brave and vulnerable, and her scenes with the young Lucas (the excellent Tom Holland) are among the film's best, with adult and child now unexpected equals, the mother humbled, the son rising to the challenge." - Damon Wise, The Guardian

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