Of the 20 actors and actresses up for the Academy Award in both the lead and supporting acting categories, their respective paths to movie's biggest night have all been unique.
From Austin Butler's Disney Channel roots to Michelle Yeoh starring alongside Jackie Chan in a watch commercial, here's a look at some of the nominees' big breaks — roles that inevitably got them where they are today!
Nickelodeon; Amy Sussman/WireImage
Before Butler set out to take on what would become an Oscar-nominated performance as Elvis Presley, the actor got his start as a child actor working on shows like Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide (2005-2007), Hannah Montana (2006-2007), iCarly (2007) and Zoey 101 (2007-2008).
Enda Bowe/Hulu; Taylor Hill/WireImage
Mescal, who is nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in Aftersun, first broke onto the scene with his swoonworthy performance in the 2020 Hulu adaptation of Sally Rooney's novel, Normal People.
Guy Laroche; Monica Schipper/Getty
While Yeoh is clearly a superstar in her own stratosphere, her journey to this point was not linear. After more than 40 films (many in the action genre, such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings), in 2023 she became a first time Oscar nominee for her Lead Role in Everything Everywhere All at Once.
Before her big screen accolades, Yeoh moved to London at 15 from her native Malaysia to study ballet at the Royal Academy of Dance. After a spinal injury derailed her future in dance, she returned home and would later win the Miss Malaysia pageant. From there, she landed a watch commercial with Jackie Chan, pictured above, before being cast in her first movie in Hong Kong: The Owl vs. Bumbo.
Ana de Armas
Globomedia; Gilbert Flores/Variety/Getty
Before landing roles on the big screen in films like War Dogs and Blade Runner 2049, de Armas got her start on the Spanish drama series El Internado in 2007.
"When the series first became successful, we couldn't even walk down the street," de Armas, who is nominated for Best Actress this year for her performance as Marilyn Monroe in Blonde, told Vogue Spain in 2020. "Elena [Furiase, her costar], who has been used to fame all her life, took my hand and knew how to get around an uncomfortable question or a photographer following me."
Ke Huy Quan
Lucasfilm Ltd/Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock; Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
Quan's career trajectory is one for the history books. At 12 years old, shortly after moving to Los Angeles from Vietnam with his family, he decided to tag along with his older brother to an open audition for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
A year later, he went on to appear in another fan favorite, Goonies, but shortly after he made the "very difficult decision" to step away from acting. Two decades later, he returned to the screen in a major way — booking the first role he auditioned for, in Everything Everywhere All at Once. His performance as Waymond Wang has earned the actor numerous accolades, including the nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
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Bassett began her career in theater and on television before moving into film with roles in Boyz n the Hood and Malcom X — but it was her Oscar-nominated role in 1993's What's Love Got to Do With It, based on the life of Tina Turner, that was a true turning point for her.
29 years later, she's nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
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Jamie Lee Curtis
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As she humorously noted in her "I Am an Actor" speech at the 29th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, Curtis first got her SAG card for her role in Operation Petticoat — a show based off the movie her father, Tony Curtis, had starred in. Though she only worked on the show for a year, she would soon after land her iconic role as Laurie in Halloween – following in her mom, Janet Leigh's, footsteps as a Scream Queen.
BBC; Amanda Edwards/Getty
After a small role in the 2006 film Venus, Riseborough's first recurring role on television came in the short-lived British television show Party Animals in 2007. In the years since, she has landed more prominent roles in films including Happy-Go-Lucky, Never Let Me Go, W.E., Birdman and Netflix's Waco mini series. Her role in 2022's To Leslie earned the actress her first Oscar nod for Best Actress in a Leading Role — a nomination that came as a surprise to Riseborough herself and raised eyebrows due to star-studded campaigning of the film that took place before voting.
Jenny Anderson/Getty; Michael Rowe/Getty
Before Hsu's Oscar-nominated performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once, the actress made a splash on Broadway in 2017 — originating the role of Karen the Computer in Spongebob Squarepants, the Broadway Musical (pictured above.) On the small screen, Hsu also had recurring roles on Hulu's The Path (2016-2018) and more recently on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Brian Tyree Henry
Guy D'Alema/FX; Amy Sussman/Getty
Henry's performance as James in Causeway alongside Jennifer Lawrence earned the actor a nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. While he has had numerous roles in buzzed-about movies before, including If Beale Street Could Talk, Joker, Eternals and Bullet Train, his first big gig came in season one of Atlanta in 2016 as Alfred — a role he played for the show's four seasons.
Beretta/Sims/Shutterstock; Neil Mockford/FilmMagic
The Dublin-born actor got his start after responding to an open casting call he saw on a window advertisement and eventually booking the role in an Irish crime drama released in 2011. From there, Keoghan found roles in various Irish independent films — even appearing in a few episodes of Irish TV soap opera Fair City — before landing his big break in 2017's Dunkirk (pictured above).
This year, he is nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his work in The Banshees of Inisherin alongside fellow Oscar nominees Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Kerry Condon.
The Oscars air live on ABC on Sunday, March 12, at 8 p.m. ET.