Rooney Mara may be the favourite to win, but she faces stiff competition from four other hotly-tipped actresses, including Kate Winslet

Best Supporting Actress looks set to be one of the closest-run categories in this year's Oscars race, with one former winner of the prize – Kate Winslet – up against four first-time nominees. Here's everything you need to know about all five women.

Rooney Mara

Rooney Mara in Carol Credit: WILSON WEBB

Age: 30

Nominated for: Carol. More than holding her own against Cate Blanchett’s Carol, Rooney Mara plays the older woman’s maybe-girlfriend Therese Belivet.

Oscars history: Mara received a Best Actress nomination in 2011 for her role as troubled computer hacker Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but was beaten by Meryl Streep’s turn as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.

What the critics said: A few critics were distracted from Mara by Blanchett’s performance, and the film’s shimmering surface. But The Telegraph’s Tim Robey found Mara’s performance as the young photographer powerful and unsettling in equal measure. “There’s something alien and blank about her,” he wrote, “like a photo sheet she hasn’t yet put through developing fluid. Mara’s rigidity as an actress is completely ideal in conveying this, and she uses it ideally, too.”

In her own words: "The great gift of the film is that it’s not shoving an agenda on anyone. It’s not that it’s a love story between two women; it’s just a love story, period.”

Did you know? Along with her sister Kate (star of House of Cards and Fantastic Four), Mara is an heir to the New York Giants NFL fortune.

Alicia Vikander

Alicia Vikander with Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl Credit: Agatha A Nitecka

Age: 27

Nominated for: The Danish Girl. There was no escaping Alicia Vikander in 2015: not only was she superb in the Alex Garland’s sci-fi Ex Machina, but she also starred in the Guy Ritchie’s reboot of The Man from UNCLE. Nothing, however, topped her performance in The Danish Girl, where she played the artist wife of Lili Elbe, one of the first people to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

Oscars history: This is Vikander’s first Academy Award nomination.

What the critics said: Many felt Vikander’s performance outshone that of Eddie Redmayne as her on-screen husband. For The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin, Vikander was “the film’s secret weapon” and “effectively its leading character”. Should she have been up for Best Actress?

In her own words: Vikander woke up early to hear the news about her nomination. "I knew it was going to be announced this morning, so I set my alarm clock," she told the LA Times. “"But the WiFi suddenly went out — and I was really nervous. But then I had a call. And it's just wonderful."

Did you know? Despite not speaking a word of Danish in The Danish Girl, Vikander is fluent in the language - having learnt it for her role in the 2012 period drama A Royal Affair.

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Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet with Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs

Age: 40

Nominated for: Steve Jobs. Winslet effortlessly matches Michael Fassbender’s Steve Jobs as the Apple pioneer’s marketing guru and long-time confidante, Joanna Hoffman.

Oscars history: Easily the most-awarded actress on the list, Winslet has had no less than seven Oscar nominations. This could be her second win, following a Best Actress gong in 2009 for The Reader.

What the critics said: For The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin, Winslet has been “rarely better” than as the “unflappable” Hoffman. She won the Golden Globe for her performance, and is also nominated for a Bafta.

In her own words: [after winning a Golden Globe for the fourth time] "I really am so shocked right now... I honestly, truthfully didn’t expect this at all."

Did you know? Kate Winslet released a single which hit the UK Top Ten during Christmas 2001. What If was taken from the animated version of A Christmas Carol.

Jennifer Jason Leigh

Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight Credit: The Weinstein Company

Age: 53

Nominated for: The Hateful Eight. Leigh’s Daisy Domerghue is perhaps the most likeable character in Quentin Tarantino’s snowy Western – but that’s not saying much. Held captive by Kurt Russell’s Hangman, she soon proves herself as poisonous as her captors.

Oscars history: Despite an illustrious film career, this is Leigh’s first Oscar nomination.

What the critics said: Leigh’s embattled performance captivated the critics, among them the Telegraph's Robbie Collin, who praised her as "demonically good, spitting and swiping her way through the film with an almost lizard-like conspiratorial smile. There is a close-up of her in the stagecoach with a teardrop of black blood rolling down one cheek that’s unforgettable."

In her own words: “It’s just particularly sweet,” Leigh said, after receiving the nomination. “To get this kind of recognition is really such a joy. It’s surreal.”

Did you know? Age 20, Leigh took a job in a shopping mall pizzeria in order to "get into character" for Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Rachel McAdams

Rachel McAdams in Spotlight Credit: Seacia Pavao

Age: 37

Nominated for:  Spotlight. McAdams joined a starry ensemble cast to play a dogged journalist in this gripping dramatisation of The Boston Globe’s investigation into child abuse in the Catholic Church.

Oscars history: This is McAdams’s first Oscar nomination.

What the critics said: Robbie Collin was impressed by McAdams's "compelling, rabbity alertness" , and the film was widely praised for the ensemble work of the cast.

In her own words: To prepare for the role, McAdams tried to find out every detail about her real-life character, Pulitzer-winning journalist Sacha Pfeiffer, asking her about everything from her taste in shoes to her favourite size of Post-It notes. "I bugged Sacha a lot and she was very gracious about it,” McAdams admits.

Did you know? McAdams is just seven years younger than her Mean Girls mother Amy Poehler.

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