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Before They Were Famous: Check Out the Best Actress Nominees in Their Debut Film Roles

Photo of Eric Eidelstein By Eric Eidelstein | Indiewire February 21, 2014 at 3:7PM

With the 2014 Academy Awards just two weeks away, Indiewire decided to compile a list of the film roles that established the careers of these immensely talented actresses. While some of the nominees have been in the game for decades, others got started not too long ago.
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With the 2014 Academy Awards just two weeks away, Indiewire decided to compile a list of the film roles that established the careers of these immensely talented actresses. While some of the nominees have been in the game for decades, others got started not too long ago. Here they are in their debut roles: 

Amy Adams, Nominated for "American Hustle" - "Drop Dead Gorgeous" (1999)

An aspiring dancer at first, Amy Adams got her big break in "Drop Dead Gorgeous," a dark comedy that follows a group of contestants who compete in a beauty pageant--and suddenly start to die. Shot in the style of a mockumentary, the film also stars Kirsten Dunst, Ellen Barkin, Kirstie Alley, Allison Janney and Denise Richards. With such a dynamic cast, Adams managed to still stand out in her role as Leslie Miller, a kindhearted, clumsy and somewhat promiscuous cheerleader who also competes for the prize. 

Cate Blanchett, Nominated for "Blue Jasmine" "Paradise Road" (1997)

With such a dynamic career, it's pretty surprising that Cate Blanchett's first film role was only in the late 90s. An already well-known stage actress (she starred alongside Geoffrey Rush in David Mamet's "Oleanna"), Blanchett first appeared alongside Glenn Close and Frances McDormand in the Bruce Beresford World War II drama "Paradise Road." The film is based on a true story about a group of women imprisoned on a Japanese Island during the Second World War who use music to lift their spirits. Although the film performed rather poorly, Blanchett played Susan Macarthy, an Australian nurse, and she undoubtedly held her own against her more experienced costars. She also appeared that year in her first leading role in the well-received romance film "Oscar And Lucinda." 

READ MORE: Cate Blanchett in Indiewire's Awards Spotlight for "Blue Jasmine"

Sandra Bullock, Nominated for "Gravity" - "The Thing Called Love" (1993)

Although having starred in a bunch of really small indies prior to the release of "The Thing Called Love," Sandra Bullock really stood out in the comedy-drama film. It also helps that it was directed by Peter Bogdanovich ("The Last Picture Show") and was the last full film that River Phoenix completed. The film stars Samantha Mathis as an aspiring country artist who moves from New York to Nashville in hopes of making it big. Bullock plays Linda Lue Linden another aspiring country artist who befriends Mathis' character. While "The Thing Called Love" was overall pretty forgettable, Bullock sings and dances--that's worth checking it out. 

Judi Dench, Nominated for "Philomena" - "The Third Secret" (1964)


With a versatile career spanning decades, Judi Dench is undoubtedly one of our most cherished actresses. But, before the Dame snagged an Oscar (and 6 more nominations), she appeared in the British drama "The Third Secret." Directed by Charles Crichton ("A Fish Called Wanda"), "The Third Secret" follows an American journalist's efforts to uncover the mysterious circumstances surrounding his psychoanalyst's death. Judi Dench has a small, but memorable role as Ms. Humphries, the assistant to a patient of the deceased psychoanalyst. Even in a small role, Dench must have impressed producers because the following year she was cast in the 1965 film "Four in the Morning," which won her a BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer.

Meryl Streep, Nominated for "August: Osage County" - "Julia" (1977)

Boasting 3 Oscars and 15 more nominations, Meryl Streep continues to astonish the world with her uncanny ability to immerse herself in a variety of roles. But before her acclaimed turns in, "Sophie's Choice," "Kramer vs. Kramer" and "The Iron Lady," Streep appeared a tiny, but significant role in the award-winning drama "Julia." Streep starred alongside other legends including Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave in the heartbreaking film about a woman's retelling of her lifelong friend's experiences combating the Nazi's before World War II broke out. As a Anne Marie, a socialite friend of Jane Fonda's character, Meryl steals the screen with a performance full of snark and sass.

This article is related to: Academy Awards, Awards, Actresses, Amy Adams, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock, Judi Dench