Dark horse perfs battle for nom

Thesps compete for coveted fifth spot

For every Meryl Streep, there is a Fernanda Montenegro (“Central Station”); for every Robert De Niro, there is a Paul Scofield (“Quiz Show”).

While the Russells and Nicoles may find room on almost everybody’s list this year, there are several qualified thesps out there bidding for the Academy of Arts & Sciences’ attention.

Here are a few names being bandied about as having a chance to land that highly coveted fifth nomination slot in their respective categories:

For best actor Anthony LaPaglia, who stars as a disgruntled cop in “Lantana,” recently picked up the Australian Film Institute Award.

Benjamin Bratt impressed many for his turn as poet-playwright Miguel Pinero in “Pinero.”

Josh Harnett’s role in Ridley Scott’s actioner “Black Hawk Down” was part of an ensemble but the film has landed on many top-10 lists.

On the supporting side, Brian Cox, who plays a pedophile in “L.I.E.,” received American Film Institute nomination.

Steve Buscemi has already picked up honors from the New York and online film critics, among others, for his role in “Ghost World.”

Both Ian McKellen’s wizard Gandalf and Elijah Wood’s Frodo might generate heat from the excellent reviews for “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.”

Other supporting performances that have generated interest include Jamie Foxx, as the champ’s cornerman Bundini Brown in “Ali”; Hayden Christensen, “Life as a House”; Anthony Hopkins, “Hearts in Atlantis”; James Gandolfini, “The Man Who Wasn’t There”; Michael Gambon, “Charlotte Gray”; Peter Boyle, “Monster’s Ball”; Martin Landau, “The Majestic”; Carl Reiner, “Ocean’s Eleven”; Tom Sizemore, “Black Hawk Down

On the distaff side, Stockard Channing’s tormented exec in “The Business of Strangers” has been a hit with critics. The film is so small, however, that IFC Films has to hope voters will be willing to pop a copy into their VCRs.

Drew Barrymore’s perf in “Riding in Cars With Boys” may garner attention solely because she is a Hollywood survivor.

Reese Witherspoon’s flighty but sweet Harvard law student in “Legally Blonde” and Thora Birch in the dark “Ghost World” were rare comic turns (along with Renee Zellweger for “Bridget Jones’ Diary”) that earned critical plaudits.

In the supporting category, several of the “Gosford Park” women have a legitimate chance of hearing their name called come nomination morning: Besides Maggie Smith, there is Kristin Scott-Thomas, Emily Watson and Helen Mirren.

Two-time nominated Kate Winslet delivered a lively performance as the young author in “Iris.”

Brittany Murphy has a wide range of work to choose from , including “Don’t Say a Word,” “Riding in Cars With Boys” and “Sidewalks of New York.”

Cameron Diaz proved to be more than Tom Cruise could handle in “Vanilla Sky” while Fionnula Flanagan gave auds the creeps in “The Others.”

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