Oscars 2014: Best Actor Nominations | EW.com

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Oscars 2014: Best Actor Nominations

From Chiwetel Ejiofor to Bruce Dern, the nominated actors talk to us about their roles and upcoming projects

Chiwetel Ejiofor
12 Years A Slave
Age: 36
Role: Solomon Northup, the real-life Northern-born musician who was abducted and sold into slavery while visiting Washington, D.C., in 1841.
Oscar History: First nomination.
The Art of Suffering: The more brutal the scene, the easier it was for Ejiofor to get into character and portray the truth of American slavery. “The hanging scene, the first beating in the cell — there was a level of uncomfortability in it, but it was in those moments you feel that you are as close as you can get to what was going on,” says Ejiofor, a British actor born to Nigerian parents. “It allows for another level of legitimacy in the pursuit of someone’s story, somebody’s life.”
Out of Order: Director Steve McQueen began filming on the plantation of ruthless slave owner Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), then jumped to Northup’s pre-slave life in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. While Ejiofor had initially hoped to film in chronological order so he could experience his character’s trajectory from free man to slave, he wound up welcoming the time-shifting schedule. “It gave me a good visceral sense of where we were going,” he says. “I wouldn’t have had that ability if we had shot in sequence.”
Up Next: He stars with Thandie Newton in the Nigeria-set drama Half of a Yellow Sun (due this summer) and will soon begin shooting the sci-fi flick Z for Zachariah with Chris Pine and Amanda Seyfried in New Zealand. —Nicole Sperling

Matthew McConaughey
Dallas Buyers Club
Age: 44
Role: Ron Woodroof, a hard-living, homophobic Dallas man who begins smuggling experimental medicine in the 1980s after learning he has AIDS.
Oscar History: First nomination.
Heavy Lifting: If you counted only his colorful supporting roles in Mud and The Wolf of Wall Street, 2013 would still be a great year for McConaughey. But his harrowing performance in Dallas Buyers Club — for which the already lean star dropped 47 pounds — managed to overshadow both. McConaughey says he’s gratified audiences didn’t assume the film would be a downer. “With Dallas Buyers Club, the one-liner would be: period-piece AIDS drama,” he says. “Well, that doesn’t necessarily qualify as entertainment — that would qualify as something that’s probably good for you, more of a message movie. But we made a highly raucous, entertaining movie.”
Fired Up: Remember that chest-thumping, throat-humming bit his character did in The Wolf of Wall Street? That’s a routine McConaughey uses as off-camera preparation every time he shoots a scene. “Yeah, that’s a warm-up thing I’ve always done, you know, to calm the nerves, to get into rhythm,” he says. “I’ll just make up a different rhythm for whatever I’m going to be doing in the scene, and it also gets my voice box more relaxed.” Leonardo DiCaprio was transfixed by the routine and talked him into working it into one of their Wolf takes as an improv.
Up Next: McConaughey stars in Christopher Nolan’s top secret space saga Interstellar (out Nov. 7). —Anthony Breznican

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