On arrival, nervousness isn’t just an act

The evening belonged to the nervous nominees, and all of them, decked out in their most photogenic finery, insisted they didn’t care about winning.

Then why was Clint Eastwood wearing that lucky red leather tie? And why was Miranda Richardson clutching that funny little bag she called “my lucky bag?”

And why did best supporting actor nominee Jaye Davidson of “The Crying Game” sneak in a back door, eluding hoards of fans waiting to see his outfit for the evening?

Nervous? Of course.

Davidson wore a long black frock coat over tight pants and boots, his hair pulled back in a bun reminiscent of his startling on-screen role.

Some nominees were giddy as they negotiated the red-carpeted walk past photographers, reporters and screeching fans.

“I’m so excited. Actually ,I don’t think it’s good for me!” said Britain’s Emma Thompson, who won as best actress for “Howards End.”

Eastwood was less ebullient. “I wish the expectations weren’t so high,” he said. “That’s what makes me nervous.”

His “Unforgiven” wound up winning four Oscars, including picture and director.

The red leather bow tie, he said, was made by an extra on the film “Bird,” and he promised to wear it if he ever went to the Oscars as a nominee. “I never thought it would happen,” he said.

If Eastwood was uptight, actor nominee Denzel Washington seemed to be walking on air,ready to give an acceptance speech if necessary. (It wasn’t. Al Pacino won for “Scent of a Woman.”)

“Luck is where opportunity meets preparation,” Washington declared. “When the opportunity came to play Malcolm X, I was prepared. I feel the same way tonight.”

Washington wore a purple ribbon on his lapel, symbolizing the fight against urban violence. Others wore the ubiquitous red AIDS awareness lapel ribbons. Richard Gere’s ribbon was made of red rhinestones.

Young Marisa Tomei was among the most jittery as she arrived, elegant in a black and white Chanel gown.

“Of course, it’s my first time here,” she said. “I feel lucky already. No matter what happens, I’m planning to have a good time in spite of my jitters.”

She didn’t have long to wait to have her dream come true. She won supporting actress for her role as the Brooklynese-speaking girlfriend in “My Cousin Vinny.”

For many nominees, Hollywood was a foreign country. The large contingent of British nominees blinked at the California sun and savored the hoopla.

Kleig lights, bowers of flowers and acres of red carpets led to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Los Angeles Music Center, where fans screeched approval for their favorite stars. Helicopters hovered overhead and security guards came in battalions, some in tuxedos, some uniformed.

“Sure it’s good fun, isn’t it?” said Ireland’s Stephen Rea, nominated as best actor for “The Crying Game.”

“I feel lucky already,” said Rea. “Just to be here.”

Susan Sarandon came with her romantic interest, Tim Robbins, and with Michaela Odone, the woman whose real life story Sarandon portrayed in “Lorenzo’s Oil.’

“It’s like having your portrait painted by Van Gogh,” said an adoring Odone.

Among the most ebullient nominees was David Paymer of “Mr. Saturday Night,” who seemed overwhelmed just to be among the glitterati at the Oscar ceremonies.

“I’m having a great time!” he enthused. “The limo ride was great. You mean there’s more?”

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