We’ve all heard the buzz surrounding this year’s Oscar nominations—but here are a few fun facts about the nominees you probably haven’t heard yet.
1. Steve Carell almost chose law school over acting.
Nomination: Best Actor, Foxcatcher
Carell studied pre-law at Dennison University, but when it came time to fill out his law school applications, he couldn’t think of a single answer to the question “Why do you want to be an attorney?” So instead of attending law school, Carell chose to pursue his passion, moved to Chicago, and became a member of the Second City comedy troupe. We definitely think he made the right decision!
2. Robert Duvall was roommates with Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman in the 60s.
Nomination: Best Supporting Actor, The Judge
Robert Duvall, Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman all lived together in the 1960s in what was essentially an oversized closet (that’s New York City real estate for ya). All three men worked menial jobs, each chasing his dream of becoming an actor while trying to make ends meet. None of them ever believed that they would ever make it in Hollywood, but somehow each roomie managed to stumble into multiple Academy Award nominations. What are the odds?
3. Emma Stone used a Powerpoint presentation to start her career.
Nomination: Best Supporting Actress, Birdman
When she was 14, Stone convinced her parents to let her move to LA and pursue acting by making a Powerpoint presentation set to Madonna’s song “Hollywood.” Somehow her plan worked, and she managed to land several television roles soon after her arrival. Recently, the actress admitted that she prefers using presentations to talk about things she’s passionate about because otherwise she’ll start crying. No need for tears, Emma—you’ve made it.
4. Keira Knightley is dyslexic.
Nomination: Best Supporting Actress, The Imitation Game
Diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of six, Knightley struggled with reading as a child. In fact, the only way her parents could get her to practice was with a juicy incentive: if she could learn to read, they would get her an acting agent. She used the script for Sense and Sensibility as practice material, reading through it every day for months, and… well, the rest is history.
5. Julianne Moore writes children’s books.
Nomination: Best Actress, Still Alice
Moore’s first book, Freckleface Strawberry, was published in 2007 and quickly became a New York Times Bestseller. The book is based on her own childhood, during which she was teased for her appearance and called “freckleface strawberry” by other kids. It—along with her other two follow-up books—carries a message of self-acceptance for children with self-esteem issues.
6. Bradley Cooper hasn’t had a drink in over 10 years.
Nomination: Best Actor, American Sniper
Though it may come as a surprise, the Hangover star is a well-known teetotaler. Cooper once struggled with serious alcohol and substance abuse problems, particularly during the beginning of his acting career. In an interview with GQ, he explained, “If I continued it, I was really going to sabotage my whole life.” Acknowledging his problem, Cooper stopped drinking at age 29 and hasn’t had a drop of alcohol since.
7. Rosamund Pike went to Oxford, earning a degree in English literature.
Nomination: Best Actress, Gone Girl
Despite starting her acting career with a role as a Bond girl in Die Another Day, Pike is no blond bimbo. The Gone Girl star graduated at the top of her class with an upper second class honors degree from Oxford University’s Wadham College.
8. Reese Witherspoon’s actual name is “Laura Jean.”
Nomination: Best Actress, Wild
A true Southern girl at heart, Witherspoon was born Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon. Reese is her mother’s maiden name, and she adopted it for herself because she felt it better suited her career.
9. Michael Keaton’s first big break was on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
Nomination: Best Actor, Birdman
“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood!” Though most people now know him as Batman, Keaton first worked as a trolley operator and production assistant on the beloved children’s series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. He fondly remembers the job, saying, “[Fred Rogers] was one of the nicest, most authentically good people you’ve ever met.”
10. Benedict Cumberbatch was once kidnapped by armed robbers in South Africa.
Nomination: Best Actor, The Imitation Game
Cumberbatch had a serious scare back in 2005 while filming the miniseries To the Ends of the Earth. He and two co-stars got a flat tire on the way back to set, and before they knew it, they were being forced on the ground by six men with guns. He and his companions were stuffed into the trunk, but Cumberbatch argued his way out, telling the criminals he had numerous heart and brain problems and would die if they left him in the enclosed space. Thankfully, his quick wit caused them to question the robbery and flee the scene.
11. Marion Cotillard sometimes performs using the name “Simone” with the musician Yodelice.
Nomination: Best Actress, Two Days, One Night
Despite her elite status as an Academy Award-winning actress, Cotillard (The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, Contagion) considers herself a musician above all else. The multi-talented French starlet sings and plays the guitar, bass and keyboard. She even went on tour with the French band Yodelice under the pseudonym “Simone” (her grandmother’s name), performing in several shows throughout France and Belgium.
12. Edward Norton has his pilot’s license.
Nomination: Best Supporting Actor, Birdman
Even though the Fight Club actor loves his acting career, if he had to choose another occupation, he would be a pilot. Norton actually has his private pilot’s license and has discussed his flight training on numerous talk shows. When asked why he chose to pursue flying, he answered, “Childhood dream, you know. I was just always interested; I don’t know why.”
13. Patricia Arquette refused to get braces as a child.
Nomination: Best Supporting Actress, Boyhood
Though her parents offered the young Arquette braces several times throughout her adolescence, she refused every time. She said, “Even when I was a teenager and my parents offered to straighten my teeth, I said I didn’t. I think I didn’t want to look perfect. I wanted to be more complicated than that.”
14. Meryl Streep lost track of her very first Oscar.
Nomination: Best Supporting Actress, Into the Woods
With 19 Oscar nominations and three wins to date, we can see how Meryl Streep might lose track of her shiny gold statues. But you might be surprised to find out that she actually physically lost her very first Academy Award (Best Supporting Actress, Kramer Vs. Kramer) in 1979. During the award show after-party, Streep accidentally left her Oscar on the back of a toilet in the ladies’ room. Thankfully, it was eventually returned to the star-studded actress.
15. Eddie Redmayne auditioned for the role of Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit—and failed miserably.
Nomination: Best Actor, The Theory of Everything
Redmayne gives a spectacular performance in the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything, but evidently his audition for Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit didn’t go quite so well. Watch him talk reenact his hilariously bad attempt at portraying the classic literary character here: