Claire Danes
Credit: Shopgirl: Sam Emerson

Oscars 2006: Early word on the Best Actress race

With all the under-35 international beauties turning in deserving performances this year, this race could end up looking like the lineup at the Miss Universe pageant. Besides such homegrown talents as Walk the Line‘s Reese Witherspoon, Proof star Gwyneth Paltrow, and Shopgirl lead Claire Danes (pictured), there’s South African-born Charlize Theron, angling for Oscar No. 2 with North Country, Chinese phenom Ziyi Zhang from Memoirs of a Geisha, Brit breakout Keira Knightley in Pride & Prejudice, Australian Radha Mitchell for her dual roles in Melinda and Melinda, and multiracial actresses Rosario Dawson (Rent) and 15-year-old newcomer Q’Orianka Kilcher, who snagged the role of Pocahontas in The New World. But the non-teenybopper crowd could be well represented too, thanks to Joan Allen‘s powerhouse performance in The Upside of Anger; recent Emmy winner Felicity Huffman‘s turn as a preoperative transsexual in Transamerica; Julianne Moore‘s retro mom in The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio; Natasha Richardson‘s work in the final Merchant Ivory production, The White Countess; and Judi Dench‘s at once comic and steadfast embodiment of the title character in Mrs. Henderson Presents.