ANNA PAQUIN ("The Piano," 1993):
The "True Blood" star was 11 and unknown in Hollywood when she won her supporting actress trophy and memorably blinked at the crowd, overcome by emotion. Holly Hunter, who played her mute mother in the period movie set in New Zealand, won the Best Actress Oscar that year.
HAING S. NGOR ("The Killing Fields," 1984):
A Cambodian doctor who was tortured by the Khmer Rouge, Ngor brought real life hardship to role of New York Times photographer Dith Pran in Roland Jaffe's film. He continued acting until his 1996 death in a shooting outside his L.A. home believed to be gang related.
TIMOTHY HUTTON ("Ordinary People," 1980):
Hutton landed the role of troubled Conrad after a few roles in TV movies and would go on to win an Oscar for his touching portrait of a distraught teen coming to terms with the accidental death of his brother in Robert Redford's 1980 film. The actor, whose father starred in "Where the Boys Are," went on to starring roles in "Taps" and "Falcon and the Snowman."
HILARY SWANK ("Boys Don’t Cry," 1999):
Swank knocked around Hollywood for several years before landing her breakthrough role as Brandon Teena in Kimberly Peirce's 1999 film about a transgender man in the heartland.
MARLEE MATLIN ("Children of a Lesser God," 1986):
Deaf since she was a young child, Matlin scored her Oscar for her film debut as Sarah, a student at a school for the deaf that falls for a teacher played by William Hurt in Raina Haines' adaptation of the Tony winning play.
CUBA GOODING JR. ("Jerry Maguire," 1996):
Gooding had starred in "Boyz in the Hood" before "Jerry Maguire," but wasn't a household name until he shouted at Tom Cruise to show him the money in Cameron Crowe's 1996 film. Gooding further endeared himself to Hollywood -- and the world -- with his exuberant acceptance speech.
MARION COTILLARD ("La Vie en Rose," 2007):
Cotillard had already won a Cesar Award, the French equivalent of Oscar, but was relatively unknown in America when she won the Best Actress award for playing singer Edith Piaf in "La Vie en Rose," becoming one of only a handful of actors to win an Academy Award for a role primarily spoken in a foreign language,
TATUM O'NEAL ("Paper Moon," 1973):
Youngest person to ever win a competitive Oscar (as opposed to a honorary children's statuette), O'Neal was all of 10 when she won her supporting Oscar opposite her real-life dad in this Depression era tale, her first acting credit.
GEOFFREY RUSH ("Shine," 1996):
This Australian stage and screen actor was an unknown in America when he starred as piano prodigy David Helfgott in "Shine." He has worked steadily in Hollywood ever since.
BRENDA FRICKER ("My Left Foot," 1989):
This Irish actress caught Hollywood's attention when she played the determined mother of a son with cerebral palsy in this 1989 movie. Fricker and her screen son Daniel Day-Lewis both landed Oscar gold; Hollywood roles followed.
KATHY BATES ("Misery," 1990):
Little known outside the Broadway community until she landed this juicy role as a homicidal fan of an author she brutally tortures, Bates and her better known co-star James Caan both won Oscars for their work in this Stephen King adaptation.
CHRISTOPH WALTZ ("Inglourious Basterds," 2009):
This Austrian actor had been trying to break through in English-speaking roles for years, but it wasn't until he met Quentin Tarantino that Hollywood took notice. Waltz won the first of two acting Oscars as an SS officer in "Inglourious Basterds," landing his second Supporting Actor trophy last year for Tarantino's "Django Unchained."
F. MURRAY ABRAHAM ("Amadeus," 1984):
A Fruit of the Loom guy in a TV spot early in his career, Abraham had appeared in smaller TV roles before landing the plum role of Mozart's bitter rival Antonio Salieri in Milos Forman's movie.
JENNIFER HUDSON ("Dreamgirls," 2006):
The "American Idol" runner up wasn't exactly unknown when she landed the leading role in Bill Condon's adaptation of the hit '80s musical, but let's just say her acting skills were unproven in Hollywood. But she prevailed as Effie White and took home Oscar gold.
JOHN HOUSEMAN ("The Paper Chase," 1973):
A theater director and acting teacher who worked closely with Orson Welles early in both of their careers, Houseman became famous when he played a crusty Harvard Law professor in James Bridges' movie and later the TV spinoff.
LINDA HUNT ("The Year of Living Dangerously," 1982):
The diminutive actress won her supporting actress role for playing Billy Kwan, a Chinese-Australian photographer who helps Mel Gibson's journalist in Peter Weir's politically charged movie, becoming the first person to win an Oscar for playing a character of the opposite sex.
JEAN DUJARDIN ("The Artist," 2011):
This dashing French actor was a Hollywood unknown before winning American hearts as a silent film star who struggles with the advent of talkies. He has appeared in a number of Hollywood movies since, including "The Monuments Men" and "The Wolf of Wall Street."