This year's races for the Academy Awards' acting prizes are
remarkably crowded with stirring performances, some by veterans who have
consistently shined on screen, as well as newcomers making their film debuts.
Check out CBS News' interviews and profiles of the actors up for Best Supporting Actor, and then vote in our poll below for whom you think should take home the Oscar.
The Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, March 2.
- Complete CBSNews.com coverage: The Academy Awards
- Downloadable nominees ballot for your Oscar party or office pool (pdf)
Barkhad Abdi, "Captain Phillips"
Barkhad Abdi made a most impressive entrance in "Captain Phillips," as Muse, the leader of a band of Somali pirates storming the bridge of the Maersk Alabama. Stealing control (and the scene), Muse confronts the cargo ship's captain played by Tom Hanks:
"Look at me. Look at me. I am the captain now."
Coming out of nowhere, like Abdi himself. He nabbed Best Supporting Actor nominations from the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globes, and won the BAFTA Award for his performance. Not bad for a first-time actor.
An emigrant from Somalia who settled in Minneapolis as a teenager, Abdi answered a casting call for "Captain Phillips" seeking African-born actors and non-actors. He underwent four months of training (including learning to swim, handle guns, and maneuver a skiff in rough waters), but Abdi wasn't even introduced to Hanks until they came face-to-face in that first confrontational scene.
"I was so nervous that day," Abdi told "Sunday Morning" correspondent Mo Rocca. "That was the first time I'd met Tom Hanks, so I met him in character, yeah. And it was really nerve-wracking."
But Abdi's ad-libbed line did the trick. Director Paul Greengrass told CBS News' national security correspondent David Martin, "I remember seeing Tom's expression, and I could see in it thinking, 'Oh, I've got a worthy antagonist here.' A real pirate, and a real actor."
- Barkhad Abdi's incredible journey
- "Captain Phillips": The movie, and the captain himself (Video)
- "Captain Phillips" (Official site)
Bradley Cooper, "American Hustle"
Bradley Cooper received his first Academy Award nomination last year for his lead performance in director David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" He teamed up again with Russell and his "Playbook" co-stars for the comedy "American Hustle," playing FBI agent Richie DiMaso, who coerces two con artists to assist him in an undercover sting operation.
He also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting actor, and with his co-stars won the SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
Cooper told CBSNews.com's Ken Lombardi he was drawn to the real-life story on which the film was based, and the fact that many of the events depicted were not inventions.
"There was a call from an FBI officer to another FBI officer at one in the morning, drunk, threatening to kill him. So, you know, crazy things happen," Cooper said.
What was it like on the set, just as crazy?
"As people threatening to kill people? No," he laughed. "But there was a lot of energy. Like all of David's movies, it's high-octane stuff."
Russell told "CBS This Morning" that his actors brought an "operatic" tone to the film.
“We're in a zone," Russell said, "such as Bradley Cooper going from dancing with Amy Adams to getting hit over the head by her, to Jennifer (Lawrence) singing 'Live and Let Die.' … I wanted them to do big moments of emotion that are sort of spell-binding and exhilarating, too."
- Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper do the "American Hustle" (Video)
- "American Hustle" director David O. Russell on collaborating with his actors (Video)
- "American Hustle" wins top SAG Awards honor
- "American Hustle" named best of 2013 by N.Y. film critics
- "American Hustle" (Official site)
Michael Fassbender, "12 Years a Slave"
A SAG Award and Golden Globe nominee, Michael Fassbender earned his first Oscar nomination for "12 Years a Slave," his third collaboration with British director Steve McQueen (he previously starred in "Hunger" and "Shame").
Fassbender is startlingly good as plantation owner Edwin Epps, a man of supreme arrogance and cruelty who waves scripture as a rationale for his sin.
When asked by CBSNews.com's Ken Lombardi if he found it difficult playing a man who appeared to lack morals, Fassbender replied that he felt tremendous responsibility to the true-life story.
"The difficulty for me was making sure that I gave it all the attention that I possibly could give it, and all the care and the detail," he told Lombardi. "You could feel that you were sort of dancing amongst ghosts on the plantation," where filming took place.
- "12 Years a Slave" cast on "extraordinary story" (Video)
- Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" already generating Oscar buzz (Video)
- "12 Years a Slave" takes top prize at British Oscars
- "12 Years a Slave" win Toronto Film Festival Audience Award
- Review: "12 Years a Slave" a wrenching odyssey
- "12 Years a Slave" (Official site)
Jonah Hill, "The Wolf of Wall Street"
As both sidekick and star, Jonah Hill earned laughs for his comedic timing (in "Superbad") and an Oscar nod for his more serious turn in the 2011 baseball film, "Moneyball."
In "The Wolf of Wall Street," Hill finds himself a sidekick of a different sort: a partner-in-crime in a story about a real-life Long Island brokerage firm that defrauded stockholders of millions. He earned his second nomination for Best Supporting Actor playing Donnie Azoff, the first employee of stock swindler Jordan Belfort, played by Leonardo DiCaprio.
"It's a rise-and-fall film," Hill told "Sunday Morning" correspondent Michelle Miller. "You see the repercussions for excess and treating people badly."
Hill called the character "invasive," one who "goes up to Jordan, basically demands that he's going to work with him.
"I think a lot of the movie's about that kind of persuasiveness and that kind of -- refusing to take no for an answer, is really what these guys did. And they use that for evil instead of good, you know?"
- Jonah Hill charms audiences and muggers
- Jonah Hill on working with Martin Scorsese (Video)
- "The Wolf of Wall Street" (Official site)
Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club"
Jared Leto rose to fame on TV's "My So Called Life," and spent much of the late '90s and early 2000s pursuing acting, with roles in "Girl, Interrupted," "Fight Club," "American Psycho," "Requiem for a Dream," and "Panic Room." But in more recent years, he's focused his efforts on his band, Thirty Seconds to Mars, something he said helped with his return to acting in “Dallas Buyers Club.”
Letop plays Rayon, a transgender AIDS patient with a drug habit, who partners with Matthew McConaughey's Ron Woodroof to set up a business making drugs available to HIV-positive patients whose prospects were otherwise thwarted by the FDA approval process. The 42-year-old actor had to lose a lot of weight, shedding a whopping 30 to 40 pounds. Leto also waxed his body, changed his voice pitch, and used a different dialect.
About the weight loss, Leto told CBSNews.com editor Lauren Moraski, "It was the only way that I could do what I had to do. I mean it's not a good thing to do. It's certainly not a good thing to keep doing. Your body is not a rubber band. It doesn't always bounce back or snap back. It's something that you should be very careful about. I would never recommend anyone doing it."
And it wasn't the first time Leto underwent drastic weight changes for a role. He packed on pounds for 2007's "Chapter 27" to portray Mark David Chapman, the man who killed John Lennon.
Leto's performance has already won him the Screen Actors Guild Award and the Golden Globe, as well as a slew of critics' group prizes, and si a front-runner for the Oscar.
“I think it's great,” Leto told Moraski about the critical acclaim surrounding "Dallas Buyers Club." "I've been part of a lot of films that haven't turned out as well as you [would have] hoped. You go in with good intentions. But when you make small independent films most of the time, they break your heart. So when they do survive, it's a wonderful thing to celebrate -- a film, a performance, a director."
- Jared Leto calls "Dallas Buyers Club" nominations "wonderful"
- Stars step out for "Dallas Buyers Club" (Video)
- "Dallas Buyers Club" (Official site)