​Oscars 2016: Take our Best Actor poll

Nominees for this year's Best Actor Oscar, from left: Bryan Cranston, "Trumbo"; Michael Fassbender, "Steve Jobs"; Matt Damon, "The Martian"; Eddie Redmayne, "The Danish Girl"; and Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Revenant."

CBS News

Which of this year's nominees for the Best Actor Academy Award do you think should take home the Oscar?

Check out below the interviews and clips of each nominated performance; then, vote in our poll at the end of this article!

Bryan Cranston, "Trumbo"

The star of "Breaking Bad" earned his first Academy Award nomination for his performance as screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was blacklisted by Hollywood studios in the 1950s for having refused to name names to the House Un-American Activities Committee's hunt for Communists in the film industry. He continued to work anonymously, and even saw two of his scripts, credited to his pseudonyms, win Academy Awards.

"It was a dark, dark period in not just Hollywood history but in American history," Cranston told Variety in explaining why he decided to play "such a flamboyant, dramatic man.

"The story was just so big and so great. The jeopardy of losing your First Amendment rights under the pressure and penalty of imprisonment for no crime committed, and these men went to prison for years, it was so compelling to me and I had to do it.

"John McNamara's script then backed up that story with such nuance and beautiful language and crafting ... For us whenever we read something that really resonates, that really leaves an impression on you, it's the same as when you read a great novel that you want to get back to and [re-read] chapter by chapter."

Watch a clip of Cranston, Alan Tudyk and Madison Wolfe in "Trumbo":

Matt Damon, "The Martian"

"The Martian," featuring Damon's earnest and funny performance as an astronaut stranded on Mars, is science-fiction with the emphasis on science. The botanist must grow food and protect himself from a deadly environment for two years while awaiting a rescue mission.

How accurate is the science behind "The Martian"?

"I mean, it's not a superhero movie," Damon told Rolling Stone magazine. "It's a guy-trying-to-survive movie, and done really intelligently. [Screenwriter] Drew Goddard kept calling it 'a love letter to science' -- it's all about using ingenuity and knowledge to adapt to your environment. That, to me, was the key."

Without the benefit of costars for much of the film's running time, Damon must hold his own on the 3D screen against a vista of Martian landscapes. His monologues -- staged as video diary entries recorded by a bevy of GoPro cameras -- help pull the audience right up onto the lonely Red Planet with him.

Damon, who shared a Best Original Screenplay Oscar with Ben Affleck for "Good Will Hunting," had two previous acting nominations, for "Good Will Hunting" and "Invictus." He won the Golden Globe for Best Actor/Musical or Comedy for "The Martian."

Watch a clip of Damon from "The Martian":

Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Revenant"

DiCaprio won the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA Awards for his physically and emotionally demanding performance as a frontiersman who, after being mauled by a bear and left for dead, crawls 200 miles to get revenge against the man who killed his son.

Leonardo DiCaprio on grueling challenges for "The Revenant"

The actor called it was one of the "toughest films I've ever been a part of."

"There for nine months in subzero temperatures in Calgary, real locations, far-off locations, we looked at this as a grand sort of artistic experiment," DiCaprio told CBS News' Charlie Rose. "We rehearsed meticulously all day long with [cinematographer] Chivo [Lubezki] and [director] Alejandro [Iñárritu] to pull of some very crucial and hard-to-do shots. And then we'd have an hour-and-a-half of natural light, and it became like live theater at the end of the day, this frenetic pace and intensity that we needed to keep up with."

This is DiCaprio's fifth acting nomination, after "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," "The Aviator," "Blood Diamond" and "The Wolf of Wall Street."

Watch a trailer of "The Revenant":

Michael Fassbender, "Steve Jobs"

Playing a character as challenging as the brilliant but strident founder of Apple, the man most credited with technological innovations that have revolutionized modern life, was "the hardest thing I've ever done," Fassbender told "60 Minutes."

But he did not find Jobs to be unsympathetic, even though the character as written by Aaron Sorkin had a reality distortion field that was perhaps greater than anyone's.

"When you have such strong convictions and a lack of patience that goes with it, and a sharp tongue and, you know, elements of cruelty perhaps, it can come across as maybe a bit harsh for people to take on board. I think he was an extraordinary person. And he changed the way we lived our lives. I never looked at him or approached him as an unsavory character. Unsociable, I would say, yeah.

"Approaching it as actor, 'unpleasant' isn't really something that I want to set out to play, you know? I can't really play unpleasant. But if somebody said, 'Play somebody who's got a lack of patience, who's got a very strong vision, is unrelenting in that vision, has a problem perhaps with emotional connection,' now I'm going somewhere. Now I can start putting together something."

Fassbender was previously nominated for Best Supporting Actor for "12 Years a Slave."

Watch a clip of Fassbender and Seth Rogen in "Steve Jobs":

Eddie Redmayne, "The Danish Girl"

Redmayne, last year's Best Actor Oscar-winner for his portrayal of physicist Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything," received his second Academy Award nomination for his performance as the early 20th century artist Einar Wegener, who underwent gender reassignment surgery in order to become a woman, Lili.

Eddie Redmayne hopes "The Danish Girl" is "continuing the conversation" about transgender issues

"One of the interesting things for me was trying to relate moments in the script to contemporary experience," Redmayne told NPR. "And there's one moment in the film when Lili and Gerda [his wife] go to the ball. Lili is going out [for] the first time, and she meets a man and it's a complicated scene."

Redmayne described the experience of a trans woman from Los Angeles who described her favorite night as Halloween, when she went to a bar dressed as a woman, and encountered a man who started hitting on her. "She described this extraordinary mixture of adrenaline pumping through her veins and excitement at being accepted for who she was, mixed with this utter fear that this man may not know who she is. And that mixture of excitement and thrill with the constant fear was something that I tried to take into that scene when we shot it."

Watch a clip of Redmayne and Vikander in "The Danish Girl":

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Winners of this year's Academy Awards will be announced on Sunday, February 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood. The show will be hosted by Chris Rock.

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  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.