Sweden's Alicia Vikander, who on Sunday won an Oscar as best supporting actress in The Danish Girl, burst onto the Hollywood scene last year as an edgy performer not shy of complex roles.
Just three years ago, few had heard of the 27-year-old doe-eyed brunette, but last year she appeared in at least four major movies, including the British sci-fi psychological thriller Ex Machina, where she starred as the humanoid robot Ava and for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe.
"It's been suddenly wonderful to be introduced in rooms to meet actors and filmmakers and people behind the cameras that I've looked up to my entire life," said Vikander.
But it was for her role in the British biographical drama The Danish Girl that Vikander was honoured with an Academy Award, playing Danish artist Gerda Wegener in a love story about how she and her fellow artist husband Einar Elbe, played by Eddie Redmayne, navigate his journey as a transgender pioneer.
"Eddie, there you are. Thank you for being the best acting partner. I could have never done it without you. You raised my game," Vikander said on Sunday in her Oscar acceptance speech.
"I want to thank my friends and my mom and dad — thank you for giving me the belief that anything can happen, even though I would have never believed this," she said.
She bested fellow nominees Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Rooney Mara (Carol), Rachel McAdams (Spotlight) and Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs).
Vikander said she found parallels in her roles in Ex Machina and The Danish Girl, with both the android Ava and Gerda pondering what it means to be a woman.
At a White House event for The Danish Girl celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the media, several transgender attendees said they were moved by her portrayal of Ava.
"Three trans women came up to me separately to tell me they had felt such a connection with Ava in 'Ex Machina', and her dream of finally coming to full female fruition," Vikander recently told a British newspaper.
Born in Sweden's second city of Gothenburg in 1988, Vikander initially dreamed of becoming a ballerina, studying at the Royal Swedish Ballet School in Stockholm before injuries cut her dance career short in her teens.
Her focus then turned to acting, and her on-screen career gained traction after appearances in Swedish short films and the popular television drama series Andra Avenyn from 2008 until 2010.
Soon after, she began looking for work in American and British films, sending audition tapes to casting directors.
But neither Vikander nor her agent received a single response.
"I never even heard 'No, thank you,' so I decided I had to get myself to London," she told a magazine.
Her international breakthrough came in 2012, when she co-starred in the British adaptation of historical epic Anna Karenina, and in the Danish costume drama A Royal Affair, nominated for a best foreign language film Oscar.
In 2015, Vikander also narrated the Swedish documentary Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words, and was named the face of French luxury fashion label Louis Vuitton.
Vikander is currently dating German-Irish actor Michael Fassbender, himself an Oscar nominee this year for his work in Steve Jobs as the late Apple co-founder.
She has scored a role in the upcoming Jason Bourne, which will see Matt Damon return to the big screen as the amnesiac super-spy.