Jake Gyllenhaal's Bafta win is one of the highest recognition to date for a young actor who has managed to mix acclaimed offbeat work with mainstream offerings.
Gyllenhaal's performance in Ang Lee's gay cowboy film Brokeback Mountain, which has earned him the best supporting actor award, has given him the best reviews of his career.
The actor, whose first role in a major film was a child part in 1991 cowboy comedy City Slickers, has been praised along with screen lover Heath Ledger.
The Guardian newspaper said the film showed how Gyllenhaal had "matured into one of the most charismatic actors of his generation".
Meanwhile, US rock magazine Rolling Stone called the pair's performances "a triumph".
Brokeback Mountain is among the frontrunners for the award season.
It has garnered eight Oscar nominations and secured the best film win at the Bafta awards.
Gyllenhaal first made a name in the 2001 cult hit Donnie Darko, in which he played a troubled teenager visited by a giant rabbit, which warns him of the end of the world.
Gyllenhaal plays an unlikely maths student in the forthcoming Proof
Since then, he has starred opposite Jennifer Aniston in indie hit The Good Girl and played the son of Dennis Quaid in the 2004 disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow.
His other lead role credits also include 2002 family drama Moonlight Mile and cult comedy Bubble Boy.
Born in Los Angeles in 1980, Gyllenhaal comes from a film background.
He is the son of director Stephen Gyllenhaal, whose credits include the film version of Graham Swift's novel Waterland and an episode of TV cult drama Twin Peaks.
His screenwriter mother Naomi Foner's work includes the 1988 drama Running on Empty while older sister Maggie - his co-star in Donnie Darko - has starred in films such as Secretary and Criminal.
Gyllenhaal's godmother is Jamie Lee Curtis and he was reportedly given his first driving lesson by screen legend Paul Newman.
Close friends include Natalie Portman and he is a sometime boyfriend of Kirsten Dunst.
Gyllenhaal has proved he is not just a screen pin-up with a stint in London's West End in This is our Youth.
The role saw him win the outstanding newcomer prize at the 2002 Evening Standard Theatre Awards.
Gyllenhaal has been selective about his choice of work and not rushed to make a large number of films in a short period, like some contemporaries.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
Donnie Darko (2001)
He told a BBC Movies website at the time of Donnie Darko's UK release that he was not interested in making films that made "a lot of money".
"The advice I've been given by a lot of people is: don't jump in too fast, do the things that you care about, and see what happens then," he said.
His future roles include playing real-life journalist Robert Graysmith, Se7en director David Fincher's film about a serial killer who terrorised San Francisco in the 1960s and 1970s.