They had to start somewhere!
Some faced typecasting (we're looking at you, Viola!), and some seemed like they'd be permanently stuck on the small screen. Us Weekly breaks down Oscar nominee pasts by the numbers!
5: The number of times Viola Davis has played a government employee.
The Best Actress frontrunner, 46, played an unnamed social worker in 2000's Traffic, a police officer in 2001's Kate & Leopold, an FBI agent in the short-lived series Traveler, and director of the CIA not once, but twice (in 2005's Syriana, and then again in 2010's Knight & Day).
4: The number of nominees who have appeared on ER.
Fans of the medical drama remember George Clooney fondly as bad boy doctor Doug Ross, but Rooney Mara, Octavia Spencer, and Jessica Chastain all had brief stints on the series as well.
3: The number of Best Actor contenders who hung with Rachel, Ross, and the gang on Friends.
Clooney, 50, appeared (as a doctor!) in 1995, while Gary Oldman and Brad Pitt showed up on episodes of the sitcom in 2001 (at the time, Pitt, now 48, was still married to Jennifer Aniston.)
2: The number of nominees who list Law & Order on their resumes.
Chastain, 30, played an assistant district attorney from 2005-2006, while Mara, 26, recently came under fire for dissing her SVU character. "It was so awful," The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo actress told Allure in January. "Me and my boyfriend...went and beat up these fat people, and at the end of the show you find out that I used to be obese and I hate fat people."
1: The number of nominees who frolicked on the beach for Baywatch.
Pre-Dawson's Creek, a 13-year-old Michelle Williams made her TV debut as Hobie Buchanan's love interest. Jeremy Jackson, who played David Hasselhoff's son on the series, claims he and Williams enjoyed a brief, on-set romance. "We messed around," the actor told Howard Stern in 2011. "She was kind of like my first crush."
Tell Us: Who do you think has come the farthest from their pre-Oscar past?