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Oscar Nominees Do Lunch

The appeal of the annual Academy Award nominees luncheon is simple: everyone enters and leaves a potential winner. It also offers a peek into the psyches of the latest crop of performers on the magic carpet ride called Oscar.

Leading Ladies Who Lunch

“The bad thing about two nominations is that you can be a two-time loser!” laughed double nominee Julianne Moore, who added that while the Oscar ride is wild, it’s also filled with a few empty calories. “When you’re working, you do something and you get so much back. And this kind of stuff, although it’s fun, clearly there’s not a big return emotionally…It is fun, but sometimes it’s like a little too much candy.”

Salma Hayek, nominated for her self-produced film Frida, was asked if her beau, actor and previous nominee Edward Norton, had given her advice on how to handle her turn in the spotlight. “No, he doesn’t give me advice. I don’t know what advice there is to give,” she mused. “Should I get on the ride and go ‘Whooo?’ and just enjoy it?”

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The Hours‘ Nicole Kidman crinkled her nose as she admitted the personal intrusions that accompany a life in the spotlight sometimes can be bothersome. “I do get a little sick of it. I’m very passionate about my work and at the moment the benefits of that far outweigh the other stuff, so it gives me an enormous amount of joy.” She also revealed her date(s) for the big night: “My mom and dad. I’m pathetic.”

“All those early press quotes that were flattering–they might have been premonitory. And now I’m here,” said Diane Lane of her early season Oscar buzz after Unfaithful. “I’m glad that they were psychic, as it were, rather than just flattering.”

You’ve Got Male
A strong contingent of Best Actor nominees also took time out for a midday meal with Oscar, including Daniel Day-Lewis, whose impassioned speech at the SAG Awards was praised by many of his fellow nominees. The actor admitted he’s never sure exactly how his spontaneous speeches will play out. “You’re aware of the people you owe a very deep debt of gratitude and who helped you to achieve what you have done,” he said, “but beyond that I trust to the gods that I open my mouth and something more or less coherent comes out of it. But I never quite know what it’s going to be!”

Casually dressed Nicolas Cage, who promised to wear the “standard uniform” black tuxedo at the big night, explained the occasional identity crises he’d suffer while playing identical (though one is fictional) twins Donald and Charlie Kaufman in Adaptation. “When you have two characters to play you can get a little confused, because you go ‘OK, I’m Charlie, I’m gonna walk like Charlie, I’m gonna dress like Charlie and I’m gonna think like Charlie.’ And I go back to my trailer and I think about Donald: he has better posture, he has a better attitude about life…And everything switches back to Donald to Charlie to Donald again, sometimes five or six times a day. Sometimes I would literally scream in frustration saying ‘Who am I? Which one am I now, Spike?'”

The conflicted Cage admitted at the end of the day he had a favorite Kaufman: “When people say they like Donald more, I get a little jealous. I guess I relate to Charlie.” But there’ll be no more double duty in his future, he claimed. “I just want to do one character per movie from now on.”

The Pianist star Adrien Brody was honored for playing the real-life pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman, but Brody preferred to honor the man himself. “What this man went through is unbelievable. His strength is unbelievable, and his courage,” said Brody. “I haven’t really been presented with an opportunity like that before…I did everything in my power to not take it for granted.”

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Brody also paid tribute to director Roman Polanski, saying the fugitive auteur, kept out of the country after fleeing a statutory rape charge decades ago, won’t really miss attending the ceremony. “Roman’s very content with his life, his family. What’s important is that we differentiate all this nonsense and focus on the achievement of making a film like this, and what Roman has given us with a film like this.”

Musical to Our Ears
After their many triumphs at the previous night’s Screen Actors Guild Awards, the team behind the musical Chicago were still high-steppin’. “I’m such a virgin to all this, so it’s all new and thrilling,” said directorRob Marshall, who partied into the wee hours with SAG winner Renee Zellweger and her co-star Richard Gere. “Backstage [at the SAG Awards], having won the ensemble, and they were all lined up horribly, so I had to go choreograph the pictures!”


Asked about her most magical moment making the musical, the radiant and very pregnant Catherine Zeta-Jones answered: “Literally the first day was me coming up and starting to sing ‘All that Jazz.’ It was like a pipe dream for me for so long. I didn’t quite believe that we were actually going to make that movie until that spotlight hit me, and I went ‘OK, there’s no turning back.’

“If not one person in the world saw it, if people threw tomatoes at us, we were gonna do this,” she continued, “and the success has just been phenomenal. People come up to me in the street and say ‘I HATED musicals until I saw Chicago.’ And that’s great!”

Queen Latifah took a moment to ponder the sudden ascension of hip-hoppers-turned-rappers. “We emote during our videos and we emote onstage…I think it’s possible I won’t be the only one in the room next year, just like Will [Smith] wasn’t the only one. He was inspirational to me, I’m like ‘If Will can do it, I can do it.’ I guess L.L. [Cool J] said ‘If Latifah and Will can do it, then I can do it.’ So there is a little trickle-down effect…You continuously have to break down people’s stereotypes.”

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Perhaps the most amused by the long awards season party was journeyman actor John C. Reilly, who admitted, “It’s fun to celebrate for a living, absolutely–although lately I’ve been pining for the old acting life again. It’s such a rare time for me, with four movies [Chicago, Gangs of New York, The Hours and The Good Girl] out there. I might never top this output, so this has really been a blast. To have this many out all at the same time and for all of them to be embraced in the way that they have…It really seems kinda surreal.”

Best Supportive Actors

The spirit among the Best Supporting Actor nominees was, appropriately, supportive. “I have some really good friends who have passed away from the ravages of AIDS,” recalled The Hours‘ Ed Harris, who mentioned one man in particular had a lasting effect on him. “I spent a lot of time with him in his last months at his bedside. So I felt some motivation to play this guy with dignity and strength and some justice.”

Asked what nominees he was rooting for, Harris grinned. “Other than myself? I’m rooting for Nicole.”

Christopher Walken said he found a surprising source of inspiration for his role in Catch Me If You Can. “When they gave me the haircut and the suit and the hat, I looked exactly like my father.”

Walken was clearly tickled to have received an award at the previous night’s SAG celebration. “I’ve never been to an award thing like that where there were so many actors, and there were a lot of actors I knew from a long time ago, and there were actors that I knew because I saw them 100 times…It was a very tribal kind of thing. I thought afterwards that next year they should put up a big bonfire and we could all dance around it.”

Adaptation’s Chris Cooper revealed that not all actors are self-absorbed or crave the spotlight, at least as far as the Oscar race is concerned. “I voted for another person in this category…because I like the other person’s performance. I’ll say he has the same first name as me.” But, the actor shrugged, “Don’t read too much into it. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to win.”

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