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On the Road to Oscars With the Nominees, Hollywood.com Was Along for the Ride

[IMG:L]From out first conversation with nominee Paul Greengrass nearly a year ago to our last conversation with Ryan Gosling less than 24 hours before the Academy Awards kicked off, Hollywood.com has been on the long road to the Oscars’ red carpet nearly every step of the way with this year’s nominees.

Keeping up with Academy darlings like Meryl Streep and Cate Blanchett and filmmaking favorites like Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese, watching big stars like Eddie Murphy, Mark Wahlberg and Will Smith uncover new depths, and discovering fresh new faces like Abigail Breslin and Jennifer Hudson– it’s all been part of Hollywood.com countdown to the big day. Take a look back with us as we retrace our steps alongside the nominees over the past year.

Paul Greengrass (Best Director Nominee – United 93) on the importance of tackling 9/11 on film
Los Angeles – Ten Months Before the Oscars

“Each and every person involved in this film gave the utmost in an attempt to make a contribution on this subject with a belief that we cannot avoid discussing this subject on film because movies are important. They are one of the principal ways that we talk to each other and tell stories to each other. And so my feeling about this whole “Is it too soon?” thing… What we’re saying is that newspapers, magazines, television and the Internet can discuss 9/11, but movies are to be disenfranchised. We’re not going to let our filmmakers make films about 9/11? I don’t understand that. That can’t be right.”

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Meryl Streep (Best Actress Nominee – The Devil Wears Prada) on channeling her inner bitch
Beverly Hills – Seven Months Before the Oscars
“It was really fun. The movie was really fun and it’s an eyeful for sure. I was incredibly restrained. I just pulled myself all back really because that’s the way that really, really, really powerful people, in my experience, express themselves, minimally. That’s her. It was so nice to be the character in A Prairie Home Companion because it’s like the opposite, the unzipped woman. That one was much more fun for me to play. The other was more money, though.”

Abigail Breslin (Best Supporting Actress Nominee – Little Miss Sunshine) on her favorite scenes in the film
Los Angeles – Eight Months Before the Oscars

“The dancing or the pushing the van…It was a little scary, though. My mom was really nervous about me doing it. She wasn’t even watching because she was afraid, but one of the producers – I banged my shin one time, and my mom was like, ‘What?!’ [The dancing scene] was a lot of fun, but when I first did it I was kind of nervous because there were a lot of people up there. So that was a little bit nerve-wracking, but once I did it like once or twice I was fine.”

[IMG:R]Forest Whitaker (Best Actor Nominee – The Last King of Scotland) on the depth of his commitment to the role
Beverly Hills – Six Months Before the Oscars

“I try to serve the character all the time, but this one took a lot of work and was all consuming. It feels good. I feel good because it’s like climbing up a ladder to me. You climb up a ladder and at times you’re scared to face yourself so you make excuses for yourself. You climb up and take a couple of steps back and get in a bad relationship. You take a couple of more steps up and then go back down like three more steps – you yelled at someone that you shouldn’t have and so now you can’t do this. You keep avoiding going to the top of the ladder and having a look in the mirror and see if you can do what it is you’ve been trying to do.”

Penelope Cruz (Best Actress Nominee – Volver) on the early Academy Awards buzz on her performance
Beverly Hills – Four Months Before the Oscars
“It’s really flattering, and it’s an honor that I am being considered for something like that, but better that I don’t think about it too much…whatever happens will happen,” Cruz reflected. “I am not going to pretend, try to be cool and say, ‘I don’t care.’ Of course it would make me very happy. But better not to expect it.”

Will Smith (Best Actor Nominee – The Pursuit of Happyness) on how this performance was far different than the one he had planned
New York – Three Months Before the Oscars
“I’ve always considered myself to be just average talent and what I have is a ridiculous insane obsessiveness for practice and preparation. My father used to say all the time, ‘Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.’ So if you stay ready, you ain’t gotta get ready…So I had this preparation, I had this performance, I’ve seen it in my mind and I know I’m going to go out there and deliver this performance the way that I want to do it. Gabriele [Macht] told me one day, he said, ‘Don’t pose for my camera.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘You’re posing for my camera. I don’t want you to pose for my camera.’ He said, ‘You’re making faces like you are hurt. We will shut down, you go away, you come back when you hurt for real.’ I was like ‘Wow.’ He and Michael Mann are the two directors that I’ve worked with that know all my tricks. They can see right through me and all of the Will-isms and the things that I know how to do to make the audience laugh or smile or cry, I know all of those things and they beat those things out of me.”

[IMG:L]Leonardo DiCaprio (Best Actor Nominee – Blood Diamond) on the message that drove him to make the film
Hollywood – Three Months Before the Oscars

“Ultimately this movie is very much about corporate responsibility. U.S. corporations do these things and it affects people halfway around the world.”

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Jennifer Hudson (Best Supporting Actress Nominee – Dreamgirls) on the seemingly impossible odds of a near-unknown being mentioned for an Academy Award
New York – Three Months Before the Oscars

“Oh my God. I feel honored, and I’m just in awe of that, because last year this time, I had just got the role, and the only thing on my mind was not to disappoint the people who gave me the job, you know. And wanting the part. I never even, even dreamed of this, even thought about it, I just feel so special that my name is even being mentioned, I never would’ve guessed [laughs], so I have to cross that bridge when I get to it.

Djimon Hounsou  (Best Supporting Actor Nominee – Blood Diamond) on knowing the role was one he simply had to play
Hollywood – Three Months Before the Oscars

“When I first read the script, right away I was almost in tears and I called Ed Zwick and in an indirect way I was kind of begging for the role. No one had said yes yet and I read the story and met with him and spoke to him about how touching this story was in that in touched on a lot of modern issues of child soldiers, refugees, and widespread corruption through all the countries. So in that sense I thought it was one of the most powerful human stories.”

Clint Eastwood (Best Director Nominee – Letters From Iwo Jima) on what piques his curiosity about the story from the enemey’s side
Santa Monica – Two months before the Oscars
“I tried to find out what kind of a person Kuribayashi was. And we got some material from Japan [and] converted it into English so we could read it. And it talked about Kuribashi as a father, mostly about, writing to his children. It turned out he was a man with the same feelings towards family as all – most fathers are. And then the Battle of Iwo Jima, and the futility of it, and the uniqueness with which he defended the island, was just something I thought was worth telling. That doesn’t mean that we were rooting for them in – in the war. But we were rooting for people to find peace in their life, regardless of where they are.”

Martin Scorsese (Best Director Nominee – The Departed) on the possibility of finally winning an Academy Award
Santa Monica – Two months before the Oscars
“I count back to Boxcar Bertha in 1972, and then Mean Streets, 1973. It’s been 35 years. I mean, it’s a pretty…just to be nominated at that point is good, whether you win or not, you know? It would be nice. But it’s just great to have that recognition, of being one of the five or ten films that people talk about for the year.”

[IMG:R]Helen Mirren (Best Actress Nominee – The Queen) on preparing herself for the possibility of encountering the real Elizabeth II
Santa Monica – Two Months Before the Oscars

“I’m not prepared. You know, I have thought about that. What would I say? What would I do? I don’t think I could handle that. I really, really don’t. ‘Thank you, Mum, for being who you are, and allowing me to be you.’ I mean, what do you say? Very, very difficult…I met her very briefly about five years ago, something like that, with her for all of about 20 seconds. I did take something away from – and it’s what people say: we have this image of the Queen as being dour and sort of grumpy and everything. And when I met her, she was sparkly and smiley, and charming. And I did very much take that away with me, and I really tried to bring that into the film. It was hard, because obviously the tragedy hits very quickly in the film. But I really tried to bring her wit and her sparkle in the early part of the film.”

Cate Blanchett (Best Actress Nominee – Notes on a Scandal) on being front and center in the burgeoning awards race
Palm Springs –Six Weeks Before the Oscars

“What an extraordinary year this has been for women, including Kate Winslet and Judy Dench. We’re alive and kicking.”

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Forest Whitaker (Best Actor Nominee – The Last King of Scotland) on the acting turning point he went though prior to his heralded performance