Their heroes and villains were all over the map: a tortured Harlem teen, a silver-tongued Nazi, a sexy frequent flier, a danger-junkie soldier on Iraq’s front lines. Now the actors who brought these characters to the big screen all have one thing in common: an Oscar dream. In this exclusive LIFE portrait gallery, photographer Jeff Vespa captures moments with 11 actors enjoying awards-season buzz — including our stunning cover star, Up in the Air’s Vera Farmiga, who’ll be hoping to hear her name called as a Best Supporting Actress nominee come Feb. 2.
Who ever thinks of England’s 19th-century monarch as a PYT? It’s hard to see her otherwise after watching Blunt’s take on the queen-to-be, putting the zap on royal-court plotters and casting saucy sideward glances at future hubby Prince Albert. Blunt, who made a big splash playing the snarky assistant to Meryl Streep’s boss from hell in The Devil Wears Prada, handily conquers leading-lady territory here. (For Your Consideration: Best Actress)