Success arrives late for Melissa Leo

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Melissa Leo's Oscar triumph Sunday caps a long career that has only finally been rewarded with top-flight awards success in the past few years.

The 50-year-old veteran had been frontrunner for the best supporting actress Academy Award for her role as Irish-American boxer Micky Ward's mother in "The Fighter."

But she admits that she lacks the pushiness of her character Alice, who will do anything to keep her two boxing sons in line, and the family financially afloat.

"I'm not like Alice. I don't feel myself as a pushy, step-to-it, take-care-of-it kind of gal at all. That was a reach for me," she said in a recent interview.

"I think that what got me the confidence was David's belief in me," she added, referring to director David O. Russell, who was also nominated for best director for "The Fighter."

Leo won from a shortlist for supporting actress which also included Britain's Helena Bonham Carter, US actress Amy Adams, Australian Jacki Weaver and 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld.

The actress had already won a Golden Globe for her role in "The Fighter" last month, along with co-star Christian Bale.

She recently revealed that, at first, she couldn't believe she was old enough to play the mother of sons played by Hollywood stars Mark Wahlberg (as Micky) and Bale (as his drug addict older half-brother Dicky).

She said as much to the director.

"I said, 'Aren't I too young to play Mark and Christian's mother? ... But at some point, I noticed that my apprehension had vanished, and I plowed on ahead and believed myself to be their parent.

"That's probably the biggest secret of acting: If the actor believes it themselves, they can make you believe it," she added.

Born in New York in 1960, Leo has enjoyed a two-and-a-half decade acting career in film and television, but it was only in the last two years that she has been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

She was nominated for best actress Oscar in 2009 for the low-budget independent drama "Frozen River," playing a working-class woman attempting to support her family by smuggling immigrants into the US from Canada.

On that occasion she had been up against a stellar A-list of fellow nominees that included Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Angelina Jolie and Anne Hathaway - Winslet took the award for her role in "The Reader."

Until "Frozen River" she was best known for her performance in the acclaimed crime drama "Homicide: Life on the Street", where she played gritty detective Kay Howard between 1993 and 1997.

Notable movie roles included parts in 2003's "21 Grams" and "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" two years later.