Houdini has nothing on Amy Ryan. For the past 17 years, the actress has disappeared into roles in Gone Baby Gone, Capote and HBO's The Wire so completely that even her closest friends often can't spot her. "It's great to hide away," says Ryan, 38, "but the disadvantage is people won't always think of you." Then last month she was approached by a flight attendant who—finally!—knew a star was on board. Says Ryan: "He said, 'I have all your albums. You're Amy Grant, aren't you?'"

Oscar voters, however, now know exactly who she is: a supporting actress nominee for Gone, as a South Boston drug addict searching for her kidnapped daughter. After the nominations, "I had 300 e-mails," says the single Queens native. "I don't have 300 friends!" For Oscar-night advice, she's turned to best friend Patricia Clarkson, a nominee in 2004. "She said, 'Remember, it all goes back: the dress, the shoes, the purse,'" says Ryan, who is now filming the drama The Imperial Life in the Emerald City with Matt Damon. "It should be that way. You revel in it. Then you go back to work."