This year's race includes Sean Penn who has already won this award twice ("Mystic River," 2003; "Milk," 2008). He stars in both Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" as a man coming to terms with his past and "This Must Be the Place" as an aging rocker who hits the road to seek vengeance for his aged father who had been persecuted by the Nazis.
Two-time nominee George Clooney is in contention for "The Descendants," his first film with Alexander Payne. He plays a man who learns of his wife's infidelity after she is critically injured in an accident. Clooney, the 2005 supporting champ ("Syriana"), also helmed "The Ides of March," a political drama in which he has a featured role as a political candidate with past nominee Ryan Gosling starring as his ambitious campaign manager.
At least five other previous nominees could return -- Matt Damon for Cameron Crowe's serio-comic "We Bought A Zoo," Leonardo DiCaprio for Clint Eastwood's biopic "J. Edgar," Ralph Fiennes for directing himself in title role of the Shakespearean tragedy "Coriolanus," Woody Harrelson in the gritty police drama "Rampart" and Brad Pitt in Bennett Miller's "Moneyball," as inspirational baseball manager Billy Beane.
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