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Oscars’ First-Time Nominees Crowded Club: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Michael Fassbender Among Contenders

Eight actors total join this year’s field of Academy Award hopefuls

This year’s first-time Oscar nominees list is as diverse as it is fascinating.

Movie star Matthew McConaughey — the biggest name in the bunch — is sharing the rarefied honor with the likes of Chiwetel Ejiofor, a British-born stage actor, and 84-year-old “It girl” June Squibb. Like Ejifor, Squibb was best known for her theater work before making the transition to movies at the tender age of 61.

Also read: Oscar Nominations: The Complete List

TheWrap takes a look at McConaughey, Ejifor, Squibb and the five other first-timers: Jared Leto, Lupita Nyong’o, Sally Hawkins, Michael Fassbender and Barkhad Abdi.

Matthew McConaughey seemed destined for a career filled only with Kate Hudson rom-coms. But the 44-year-old Texas native earned raves for noteworthy turns in “Mud” and “Magic Mike” before delivering the performance that earned him an Oscar nod for best actor in “Dallas Buyers Club.” In the film, McConaughey stars as a fast-talking hustler who, after being diagnosed with AIDS, starts helping other patients work around the system to get their medication.

Also read: 17 Biggest Snubs & Surprises: Oscar Nominations 2014

Chiwetel Ejiofor isn’t quite a household name but moviegoers might recognize him from the holiday hit “Love Actually,” Angelina Jolie’s “Salt” and “Dirty Pretty Things.” Ejifor, who was born to Nigerian parents in London, made a name for himself in the United Kingdom’s theater scene playing the leading man in “Romeo and Juliet.” Years later, he played the lead in “Othello.” Ejiofor, 36, has been nominated in the best actor category for his heartbreaking performance as Solomon Northup, a black man born free in upstate New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841.

Also read: Oscar Nominations: Three’s a Crowd, With ‘American Hustle,’ ‘Gravity’ and ’12 Years a Slave’ on Top

June Squibb is proof that professional passions don’t have to end. Squibb, who started making a name for herself Off-Broadway in 1958, is still going strong. She made the transition from stage to film in the 1990 Woody Allen film “Alice.” After that, Squibb appeared in a number of movies and television shows including “ER” and “About Schmidt.” She’s earned a supporting actress Oscar nomination for her role as wife and mother Kate Grant in “Nebraska.”

Jared Leto will always be a teen heartthrob for those of a certain age thanks to his role as moody but sultry Jordan Catalano from “My So-Called Life.” Although Leto, 42, spends most of his time with his band 30 Seconds to Mars these days, he does still act. Credits include “Fight Club” “Chapter 27” and “American Psycho.” Now he’s earned a supporting actor nod as Rayon, an eyebrow-free transgender in “Dallas Buyers Club.”

See photos: Oscar Nominees in Pictures

Lupita Nyong’o beat out 999 other actresses to play Patsey, a slave woman who suffers unimaginable cruelties in “12 Years A Slave,” a role that has earned her a supporting actress Oscar nod. The Yale Drama School graduate was born in Mexico and raised in Kenya before coming to the U.S. to go to school and hone her craft. A relative unknown, Nyong’o costarred in the MTV miniseries “Shuga.”

Sally Hawkins is the daughter of children’s book authors and illustrators. The British actress first garnered attention in America for her leading role in 2008’s “Happy-Go-Lucky,” which earned her a Golden Globe. Hawkins, 37, has also appeared in “An Education” and “Jane Eyre.” Her Oscar nod is for her supporting role in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine.” In it, Hawkins costars as Jasmine’s (Cate Blanchett) well-intentioned sister Ginger.

Also read: Oscar Nominations: David O. Russell Film Scores Acting Nods in All 4 Categories for 2nd Year Running

Michael Fassbender once played a sexy demon on BBC’s “Hex.” But he’s come a long way in 10 years. Since then, the German-born actor has starred in “300” “Inglourious Basterds” and “X-Men: First Class” and courted acclaim in the sex-addiction flick “Shame.” Fassbender, 36, has been nominated in the Academy’s supporting actor category for his turn as a sadistic slave owner in “12 Years a Slave.”

Barkhad Abdi has become an award-season darling thanks to his every man backstory. The Somalian immigrant was driving taxis and limos when he decided to audition for “Captain Phillips.” The 28-year-old plays Muse, a Somali pirate in the movie, a role which earned him an Oscar nomination as a supporting actor.