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NEWSMAKERS: Partying with Oscar's Chosen

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Mar 19, 2001 | 11:50am EST

Where were you at 5:30 a.m. PST on Tuesday? If you're an Academy Award nominee, you were hounded by media anxious to get a first-hand reaction.

Michael Clarke Duncan and Haley Joel Osment had camera crews sitting with them to watch the nominations. While the 11-year-old "Sixth Sense" star, the third youngest Best Supporting Actor nominee ever, gave his gentlemanly "it's an honor to be nominated" sound bite, "The Green Mile's" Duncan, 42, whooped, hollered and sobbed in one breath, so excited that he couldn't remember his mother's phone number and had to get his Rolodex.

"Yesss! I am in there!" the 6-foot-5, 325-pound Duncan yelled.

Other nominees were just as excited for their collaborators. Best Actor nominee Russell Crowe was first to call his "The Insider" director Michael Mann, congratulating him on his three nominations (Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture).

"The Cider House Rules" sribe John Irving, who was in Manchester, Vt., was ecstatic over his adapted screenplay nod but shouted for joy when director Lasse Hallström received a nomination as well. And "American Beauty's" producers and writer Alan Ball assembled for a pre-dawn breakfast in Hollywood Hills, while director Sam Mendes nervously ate in a London restaurant before the announcements.

Nominees Michael Caine, Jude Law and Hilary Swank were all on location on their next project. Swank didn't have a television, so husband Chad Lowe held up a phone to their set at home so they could both listen to the announcements.

As for leading actor nominees Richard Farnsworth and Annette Bening, their post-Oscar plans will include a little bed rest: Farnsworth is awaiting hip-replacement surgery, and Bening is expecting her fourth child terribly soon after the ceremony. "It's either the hospital or the ceremony," Bening quipped. "I'll be wearing a tent."

YOUTH MOVEMENT: Oscar producers are planning the March 26 program right this second and are promising a really good show. But according to Variety's Army Archerd, telecast producer Richard Zanuck finds it "disturbing" that stars that are neither nominated nor presenting don't show up, particularly the younger generation. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, for instance, have already said they are "unavailable." That sound you hear is the gaggle of females backing out of seat-filling signups.

PUMPKIN PATCHED: Ex-Smashing Pumpkins bassist D'Arcy (full name: D'Arcy Wretzky) has agreed to take drug-prevention classes in exchange for the dismissal of cocaine possession charges. She appeared in a Chicago court Monday, accused of buying crack cocaine Jan. 25 at a building under surveillance for suspected drug sales. "I didn't do it," Wretzky said outside court. She agreed to attend four Saturday classes on drug awareness and prevention -- an option available to first-time offenders. The charges will be dropped if she completes the classes by May 19.

A REAL GOOD 'PIE': There's a new pop version of Don McLean's classic "American Pie" floating around the radio waves, sung by none other than Madonna for her upcoming film "The Next Best Thing." What does McLean think of the Material Girl's cover? "Her version ... is sensual and mystical. I hope it will cause people to ask what's happening to music in America," McLean said in a statement. But what we're wondering is, is that a good thing? Madonna's version "is a gift from a goddess," McLean continues. Oh. Question answered.

QUICK TAKES: Screen veteran Gregory Peck, 83, will reportedly make his final stage appearance Saturday with "A Conversation with Gregory Peck" in Salem, Ore. ...

... Elizabeth Taylor will be the third recipient of the Marian Anderson Award, which honors artists who work to benefit humanity. Taylor will accept the award June 25 and 26 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The award is named after the late opera singer and Philadelphia native who was the first black performer to sing at the White House ...

... Caroline Rhea ("Sabrina, the Teenage Witch'') will host the 52nd annual Writers Guild of America Awards on March 5. Presenters at the event, which will take place simultaneously at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and the Plaza Hotel in New York City, will include Matt Damon, Al Pacino, Haley Joel Osment, Michael Clarke Duncan and Dylan McDermott.

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