Cynthia Erivo, nominated for her starring turn in Harriet, was born and raised in London. She initially began her higher education journey at the University of East London, where she studied psychology. But after just a year, she applied for and was accepted to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, which launched her into a successful theater career in London, and later, on Broadway. Harriet is only Erivo’s third feature film and has already landed her significant critical acclaim, an auspicious start.
Adam Driver, nominated for his role in Marriage Story, has had a slightly windier path to Oscar. A self-described “misfit” in high school, Driver went door-to-door selling vacuum cleaners after graduating. He also did some telemarketing and construction before applying unsuccessfully to study drama at Julliard. He then enlisted in the Marines, where he served as a mortar man for two and a half years before being medically discharged after dislocating his sternum. He attended University of Indianapolis for a year before reapplying to Julliard, and this time, he was accepted. He finished his BFA in 2009 and spent the next three years in New York, performing on and off-Broadway, on television, and in short films. In 2012, he was cast in his breakout role in Lena Dunham’s series Girls.
Joe Pesci has recently returned to the screen in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, receiving his first Oscar nomination in almost 30 years. Pesci has been acting in plays since he was five, so you’d think he had a straight trajectory to a successful acting career. Rather, he started out working as a barber, just like his mother, while trying to launch his singing career. He started branching out into comedy and even appeared on Broadway for one week. He then starred in The Death Collector, a low-budget crime film that would change his life. For the next three years, Pesci worked at an Italian restaurant until Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro reached out to him after seeing his performance in The Death Collector. They offered him a role in Raging Bull, for which Pesci would receive his first Oscar nomination.