There are five contenders for the 2012 Academy Award for Best Actress, but only two that could ever be mistaken for one another: Glenn Close and Meryl Streep. And while the roles that they play -- Close for a woman disguised as a man in "Albert Nobbs" and Streep as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady" -- are as different as servants and their masters, the two actresses have much in common.
The last time they went head to head was in 1989, with Streep for the baby-killing drama "A Cry in the Dark" and Close for her delicious role as Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil in "Dangerous Liaisons." (Neither won. That honor went to Jodie Foster for "The Accused.")
A similar face-off had occurred just the year before, when Close and Streep were nominated for "Fatal Attraction" and "Ironweed," respectively; but the Oscar went to Cher, for "Moonstruck."
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Aside from the staggering 17 Oscar nominations and two Oscars Streep has stacked up -- compared to Close’s six nods and zero statues -- it’s easy to confuse these two titans of the silver screen. You might think Streep has the big advantage, but you might be surprised.
Meryl Streep: She was born Mary Louise Streep in Summit, New Jersey, in 1949.
Glenn Close: Patrician from the get-go, she was born in Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1947.
Advantage: Close. She got two years on Streep, and has the better-known municipality as her hometown.
Meryl Streep: Practically covered in ivy, she studied at Vassar and Yale, with drama degrees from both.
Glenn Close: As a student, she inhabited the hallowed halls of the College of William and Mary.
Advantage: Streep -- although both received the coveted Harvard Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year crown, Streep in 1980, Close in 1990.
First Brush With Oscar
Meryl Streep: Received a supporting actress nomination in 1978 for her second film, Best Picture winner "The Deer Hunter."
Glenn Close: Nabbed a supporting actress nomination for her very first film, "The World According to Garp" (1982), in which she played Robin Williams’ mother.
Advantage: Close, because nothing starts off an acting career better than getting an Oscar nod right out of the starting gate.
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Meryl Streep: She has rocked a nearly infinite variety of hairstyles, ranging from the pre-Raphaelite red curls of "The French Lieutenant's Woman" to Karen Silkwood's brown 1980s shag to the sleek gray bob of fashion editor Miranda Priestly in "The Devil Wears Prada" to the political helmet hair of Maggie Thatcher -- to name just a few.
Glenn Close: Best known for her wild mop of blonde 1980s curls in "Fatal Attraction" that could've merited their own nomination. Although the queenly pompadour she sports in "Dangerous Liaisons" merits a mention, she's pretty much kept it light and above the shoulders.
Advantage: Streep, because the long blonde locks she rocked in "Kramer vs. Kramer "(1979) had both men and women lusting after her.
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Rocking the '80s and the Aughties
Meryl Streep: She has never lost her status as an Oscar-voter favorite over the decades. Her 17 nominations are a record, giving even more weight to her unofficial, but often used, title of "the greatest actress of our generation." Her two wins came for "Kramer" and "Sophie’s Choice" (1982). Yet she is on an awards hot streak, having just picked up the BAFTA for best actress in a leading role for "The Iron Lady," on the tails of receiving the Golden Globe.
Glenn Close: All five of her previous nominations were during the 1980s, when she racked them up for her crazed, classic turn in "Fatal Attraction" (1987) and for her standout roles in "The Big Chill" (1983) and "The Natural" (1984). In the meantime, she's earned plenty of awards attention outside of the movies. She won a Golden Globe and two Emmy Awards for her role as the tough as nails attorney Patty Hewes on FX's "Damages" and garnered a slew of other nominations for shows including "The Shield" and "Will & Grace." In addition to a Globe for the 2003 TV movie "The Lion in Winter," Close has also scored three Tony Awards for her work on Broadway.
Advantage:Tie, but leaning toward Close, because in the logic of Oscar voters, she may be a fresher face. Streep was last lauded two years ago with her nom for "Julie and Julia."
Men, Marriages and Children
Meryl Streep: She had a lengthy relationship with the late actor and her costar in "The Deer Hunter," John Cazale, before she married sculptor Don Gummer in 1978 and they had four children together. Daughters Mamie and Grace Gummer are following in mom's career footsteps.
Glenn Close: She married longtime boyfriend David E. Shaw in 2006 after two previous marriages and has one daughter, Annie Starke. Close is a well-known animal lover and has written a blog called "Lively Licks" for the website Fetchdog.com in which she interviews celebrities about their relationships with their dogs.
Advantage: Streep, because a look-alike daughter could become the next Meryl Streep.
And the Winner Is ...
Meryl Streep, because early in her career she was considered a chameleon, and she has continued to embody that skill in recent years. She moves effortlessly from mass-market movies like "Mamma Mia!" to art films like "Adaptation" and "The Hours." Her only missteps: some botched acceptance speeches and matronly outfits at the multitude of awards shows at which she’s been honored.