CATEGORIES Movies
It has been a good couple of weeks for Janet McTeer. The 50-year-old British star was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in "Albert Nobbs," where she does such a good job playing a woman living as a man that she steals the movie from fellow nominee Glenn Close, doing the same thing in the title role. And this week, she further proves her versatility by starring as a grief-stricken mother alongside Daniel Radcliffe in the gothic horror film "The Woman in Black."

Still, two weeks ago, you might not even have heard of Janet McTeer. Which is a shame, since she's a terrific actress who's done Oscar-worthy work in a handful of movies (even though she's just as at home on the stage, where she's won prizes on both sides of the Atlantic, and on television). Here are ten talking points to get you up to speed on all things McTeer.

1. She's 6'1". Which comes in handy when you're playing a woman passing as a burly 19th century Irish housepainter named Hubert. The strapping McTeer has said she patterned her "Albert Nobbs" character after Liam Neeson. She's so convincing that she fooled co-star Brendan Gleeson (who'd worked with her before, and who didn't recognize her when he first spotted her in costume on the set; for an instant, at least, he thought she was just some guy.

"Albert Nobbs" -- Trailer

2. This isn't her first time at the rodeo. In 1999, she starred in "Tumbleweeds," playing a single mom from the deep South who drags her pre-teen daughter (Kimberly J. Brown) across the country as she looks for a new home and a new man. She was so convincing that journalists who interviewed her as she promoted the film were surprised to learn she was English. No wonder she earned her first Best Actress Oscar nomination for the part. As luck would have it, she lost to an actress playing a woman living as a man, "Boys Don't Cry" star Hilary Swank.

"Tumbleweeds" -- Trailer

3. She followed "Tumbleweeds" with a little-seen gem called "Songcatcher" (2001), in which she starred as an early 20th century musicologist who visits Appalachia on a mission to record and preserve local folk tunes before they (and the people who sing them) are done in by modernity.

"Songcatcher" -- Trailer

4. Before she became an actress, McTeer designed stage costumes and worked as a waitress. One of her coffee customers was a recent graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art who encouraged her to apply there. That was Gary Oldman, who'll be joining McTeer at the Kodak Theatre on Oscar night since he's nominated for his first Academy Award, for "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy."

5.Though she made her film debut back in 1986 as a secretary in the forgotten thriller "Half Moon Street" (opposite Michael Caine and Sigourney Weaver), she made her name at first on the stage. In the mid-1990s, she starred as Nora in a revival of Ibsen's "A Doll House" that won her an Olivier Award in London and a Tony on Broadway. That, in turn, led to her casting in "Tumbleweeds."

6. She's spent much of the last decade working in television. Aside from a number of British series, she and Gleeson played Clementine and Winston Churchill in "Into the Storm," a 2009 made-for-TV movie based on the couple's lives during the years he led Britain through the terrifying years of World War II. For her performance, she was nominated for an Emmy.

7. She once joked that, in the movie of her own life, she should be played by Janeane Garofalo, "because she's ballsy, bright, funny and short -- and I'm ridiculously tall"

8. Her hobbies include doing jigsaw puzzles and drinking Guinness, both of which she has in common with Close. The actresses became friends after Close saw her play Mary Queen of Scots in the play "Mary Stuart" (another stage role that was a triumph for McTeer both on London's West End and on Broadway). Close, who had been trying to get "Albert Nobbs" produced for years, told McTeer she wanted her to play Hubert, but it would be another year and a half before Close could scrape together the money for the independent production.

9. She and Close got along so famously that she landed a recurring role in the fifth and final season of Close's cable drama "Damages," which will air this summer.

10. Next up for McTeer: She's co-starring in Margarethe von Trotta's biopic "Hannah Arendt" as Mary McCarthy, the American novelist who was German-Jewish philosopher Arendt's best friend. The film is due out later this year.