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Lunch bunch

Oscar nominees gather for Academy Award tradition

The 79th Annual Academy Awards luncheon brought the nominees out in droves to the Beverly Hills Hilton. This stop in the Oscar race that has been a staple in H’wood for 25 years and it gives the noms a chance to meet and greet with the other contenders.

“It’s fantastic! I arrived early and helped set up tables!” said Felicity Huffman, who is up for her role as Bree in The Weinstein pic “Transamerica.” “Finally, I’m not just another seat filler”

“I was so thrilled to be nominated. I chose the role because the thing that appealed to me first was the screenplay. The next thing was the role…To be able to attempt this was the chance of a lifetime,” she said. “I have to call my husband several times a day and say, ‘I forgot to tell you…I’m going to the Academy Awards.'”

“I’ve never been to the luncheon,” said William Hurt, who was nominated as supporting actor for New Line’s “A History of Violence.” “Over the years, my appreciation has ripened and my ease has deepened with the issue of celebrity and fame. I’m more comfortable with it now. I’ve declared what I am. I’ve maintained what my work is, that’s why this nomination is the most wonderful.”

“The luncheon is really great, but they don’t let you really enjoy it,” said “Crash” star and supporting actor nominee Matt Dillon “They have you do so much stuff.”

“The film was small and I didn’t have any expectations other than the making of it.” said Amy Adams, who was honored for her work in “Junebug.” “I’m still absorbing that I’m nominated.”

“This is an amazing time for me. Who thought after doing the ‘The Facts of Life’ things would work out quite this way. If you can survive a mullet, you can survive anything,” joked George Clooney, a triple threat at this year’s Oscars. “It’s fun to be here.”

Despite the high spirits, the big question of March 5 still looms in the air: Who will win?

“If you are going to Vegas and got 20% odds, would you take that?” Clooney said. “I don’t feel like I’m going to win. It’s just great to be nominated. But right now is the golden time for me. It’s all fun. I’ve never been here before. This is the icing on the cake.”

Keira Knightley was in the Bahamas filming when she got the news about her nomination.

“I was working nights, so when the nominations came in at 6 a.m., it was like 9 for me and I was fast asleep, and my mom came squealing in, ‘You got a nomination!’. Then I fell back asleep. But I woke up giggling three hours later.”

Her “Pirates of the Caribbean” co-star Johnny Depp was not exactly supportive.

“He laughed at me. They have all been taking a piss at me since the day it happened. Every time I do a take, they say, ‘Is that an Oscar nominated take?”

Reese Witherspoon was slumbering as well when her news came. “I was passed out on the couch. I was shaken awake with the news.”

Huffman celebrated her nomination with her “Desperate Housewives” co-stars.

“There was a lot of hugging and hopping around the makeup trailer. Which is the classic way of celebrating an Academy Award nomination.”

For many, an Oscar nomination is a culmination of a lifetime of hard work.

“I’ve been in the biz since I was 12. That’s before labor laws. I was working like a dog,” said Witherspoon.

“The Oscar is the dream. The fantasy you are afraid to believe in but in the secret dark room you dream and wait for it,” said Terrence Howard, who is nominated for his work in “Hustle & Flow.” “Sitting in that room will probably be the scariest day in my life because everyone is one in five.”

Charlize Theron is an old hat at this point when it comes to the Oscars. But making it in H’wood wasn’t easy.

“You have to have a clear idea of what you want to be. And for me, all I wanted to be was a working actor. It was challenging to get those parts that don’t have to do with me once being a model, or being tall. It was all I ever wanted. I can’t do anything else,” joked Theron, who is nommed for “North Country.” “Never in a million years would I ever have believed that in a two year period that I’d be nominated twice. It’s like I got locked in the candy store and no one knows I’m there, and I’m having a really good time.”

“I think everybody starts out with bad things,” said Clooney on his success, “But if I had been successful at any of them, I don’t know how things could have turned out. I could have been shooting crack into my forehead.”

The first Oscar luncheon started on March 9, 1982, with only 45 nominees in attendance. Since then, the event has grown. Of the 120 nominees at the BevHills hotel ballroom, all of them shared the limelight before the impending big day.

“Will Smith told me that for the next month, each and every person that is nominated is a winner,” said Howard. “Enjoy it.”

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