Nominees spill on the thrill of being honored

Reactions to the 79th Annual Academy Award nominations:

“It’s a nice way to wake up. If only that could be our alarm clock every morning,” said Valerie Faris, co-director with husband Jonathan Dayton of “Little Miss Sunshine.” “It’s nice, especially for a comedy The whole experience is beyond anything we’d ever allowed ourselves to think about.

“You know, there was a time where we wondered if we’d ever be a part of the film business. We thought if we can’t make this film, maybe we should-n’t make films at all, but this is the kind of movie that we wanted to make and the kind of movie that we wanted to see.”

* * *

Peter Morgan, in Sundance for the screening of “Longford,” admitted that writing “The Queen” was “a high-wire act.” Queen Elizabeth and Tony Blair are “two people whom we think we know a great deal but we know nothing.” Morgan also scripted “The Last King of Scotland” and was trying to figure out how to celebrate the noms for both films. “I want to light a cigar the size of Central Park, something really ostentatious. But unfortunately I don’t smoke,” he laughed.

* * *

“I’m very surprised,” said “Half Nelson’s” Ryan Gosling. “I was convinced that it wasn’t gonna happen, and I knew that my manager was up watching TV, so I called her to try and make her feel better, and before I could say, ‘I told you not to be disappointed,’ she said, ‘What do you mean, they haven’t announced it yet.’

“Then I heard this huge squeal and car crash out my window. I went to have a look and saw that a cop on a bike had been hit and thrown into the middle of the intersection. Before (the nomination) settled in, I had to watch this poor guy get put into an ambulance.

“It was on the news a little later and he only broke an arm, so it turned out to be a good day for both of us, but the polar extreme of that moment for him and I left me speechless for a little while.”

* * *

“My wife and I snuck downstairs while the kids were asleep and we watched it together on TV,” said “An Inconvenient Truth” helmer Davis Guggenheim. “Al (Gore) and I had a nice talk and he’s over the moon. It’s exciting that he’s going to be recognized, and when he walks down the red carpet next month, it’s going to be a hero’s walk. He’s tried to tell this story for almost 40 years, and now people are finally listening.”

* * *

“Volver’s” Penelope Cruz said, “I’m very happy and very excited. I still can’t believe it. I was sleeping at home, and then my father woke me up and I heard Salma’s voice on the TV.” She plans to celebrate with dinner with her dad, who’s in town.

“I think my family was more confi-dent than I was that it was gonna happen. It was beautiful when Salma started screaming, her reaction was so real. I felt bad for Pedro, because he deserved a foreign-language nomina-tion.”

“I’ve received so many loving mes-sages from Spain and people I haven’t spoken to in years are very excited for me. It’s the first time it has happened to an actress from my country,” she added.

On working with Pedro Almodovar, she said, “He’s the reason I became an actress, so I could work with him. I knew the role would give me a different kind of credibility, and I knew I was in good hands, so there was a magical energy on set.

“Initially, a nomination seemed im-possible, like my wildest dream come true. This all seems like science fiction. I’m very excited and I still can’t completely believe it.”

* * *

“I’m not sure what it is, but I seem to be having a pretty good day,” exclaimed “Little Children’s” Jackie Earle Haley.

“Needless to say, I did a little toss-ing and turning last night. My wife, Amelia, got up early and I was pretending to sleep. She came into the bed-room screaming and crying and abso-lutely beside herself yelling, ‘You got it, you got it!’ I was totally overwhelmed with emotion. We just held each other and cried and shared the experience.

“With everything I’ve been through and experienced, for the Academy to vote and include me, it’s a wonderful, validating feeling.”

Of his character, a paroled child molester, he said, “When I first heard about (him), I was concerned, but after reading the script and the way it dealt with the character’s sensibilities, I knew I wanted to do it. I think it’s a wonderful film that deserves a wider audience.”

* * *

“I’m extremely batty. I hope this nomination will drive audiences to see the film. It deserves to be seen. That’s why you make films,” said “Babel” screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga.

“When I was 9 years old, I used to practice my ‘I’d like to thank…’ speech in front of my brothers with a Coke bottle (as a mic). I hope to do it for real this year.”

* * *

Tom Perrotta, who adapted his novel “Little Children” with Todd Field, admitted his first emotion was “relief,” because he tends to be a glass-half-empty kind of guy. He knew “for sure” his celebrating will include a toast with his wife and kids. However, tea will have to suffice, as the clan is fighting a stomach bug.

“It took a little while to find out because they only do above the line on TV,” says Rick Heinrichs, “Pirates of the Carirbean: Dead Man’s Chest’s’ art director. It’s a great thrill to be recognized for such a long, challenging project. It was the most physically challenging project I’ve ever been a part of. You’re in a box with the director and the actors for hours at a time but it was great fun and Gore is an incredible director. He really pushed us to try and get as many shots in camera as possi-ble. He’s a very adventurous and inventive guy. This is my third nomination, so I’m thinking of opening some congratulatory champagne with the family.”

* * *

“I woke up at 4 a.m. automatically and kept myself busy for an hour and a half doing laundry and dishes to keep my mind off it,” says “Deliver Us From Evil” director Amy Berg. “I watched the nominations on TV but they didn’t announce the documentary category, so I had to wait a little while until Adam from Lionsgate called me. I immediately called all the survivors because they wanted me to. They’ve been suffering in shame and silence for years now and this is a huge gift for them. There were so many great documentaries this year, it’s great to be in the company of all these great films. The nomination itself is the celebration. I’m going wherever the day takes me. I’m sure my parents will be over soon.”

* * *

Now that he has the supporting actor nomination in the bag, Mark Wahlberg said that his Tuesday afternoon golf game with brother Paul would likely curry favor to his older sibling.

“He may beat me today as I’m not too concerned about golf,” “The Departed” star said. Of his nomination, Wahlberg said the real sweet spot was making mom and dad proud. “I was able to put my real-life experiences with the Boston Police to good use after all,” he said. “After all the torture I have put them through, to know they cried happy tears today. I’ll think about that for a while.”

* * *

“I am very pleased that ‘The Departed’ has been honored with five nominations for this year’s Academy Awards. I am particularly happy that the hard work of the entire cast and crew has been rewarded with a Best Picture nomination and that the specific contributions of Mark Wahlberg, our screenwriter William Monahan, and my longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker have been recognized with nominations as well,” said Martin Scorsese, Best Director nominee for “The Departed”

* * *

“I’ve been laughing, crying, hollering, whooping and leaping around,” “Little Children” star Kate Winslet said.

“My husband, Sam (Mendes), called me. He’s in London, I’m in New York. I had just dropped my daughter at school and I was taking my son. There was some serious fist pumping, pounding the ceiling of the car.”

“This isn’t supposed to happen to a girl who grew up in a tiny town. I was told the only way I’d have a career as an actress would be if I could settle for playing fat girls.”

And what did Winslet have to say about co-star Jackie Earle Haley’s nod?

“It’s not just a whole new career, it’s a whole new life. It’s gonna change him and his self esteem.

* * *

Helen Mirren phoned from the set of “Inkheart,” and had just wrapped a scene in which the characters get showered by gold coins from above. It, she said, “was very appropriate.”

Retelling her tale of nomination morning, she added: “My heart started pounding. I was on hold with the ‘Today’ show — they had me on the line in case I was nominated — and doing a Sudoku puzzle.

“I thought this is going to be so embarrassing if I’m not nominated, because there’s always doubt. When you’ve had a career as long and wonderful as I have, there are ups and downs and disappointments. You get used to them. You can’t let them influence your life and work too much.”

* * *

“It was 6:30 in the morning and one of my sons, Matthew, called me and gave me the news,” said supporting actor nominee Alan Arkin, who has been nommed twice before. “This one (“Little Miss Sunshine”) seems to have particular resonance for audiences. Just seeing the look on people’s faces when they talk about it. I haven’t had time to think about celebrating, but it’s been nice hearing from a lot of old friends who seem to be very happy for me.”

* * *

In London, “The Queen’s” Stephen Frears laughingly acknowledged his film is “cheeky.” The film could have gone wrong in so many directions, “but you take a deep breath.”

The helmer said he didn’t have time to be nervous about reactions to the film, since he finished it “and two weeks later it opened in Venice.” The response was immediately positive and the pic has earned more than $67 million worldwide. “The marketing has been very, very good,” he said.

* * *

Heidi Ewing — who co-helmed docu nominee “Jesus Camp” — called during a stopover at the Denver Airport and left a message saying: “We found out through the captain on the airplane.”

Ewing’s co-director, Rachel Grady, was reached a bit later and explained what happened up in the sky.

“We got on a plane at 8:05 a.m., so we were in the air when the nominations were announced,” she said. “We were in a vacuum, which doesn’t really exist in the world anymore, so we asked the flight crew to ask the captain to call down and see if we were nominated. So the captain did and then he made an announcement over the loudspeaker and the whole plane started clap-ping. The flight crew brought some champagne and then once we landed, we took pictures with the pilot in the cockpit and the flight crew to prove that it actually happened.”

* * *

Forest Whitaker plans to celebrate his actor nomination by taking his wife out for a night of dinner and dancing. Thesp is in Gotham to promote “The Last King of Scotland,” just going into wide release.

“I worked hard on this character and put so much of my spirit and soul into it,” he said. “Now let’s fill those theater seats.”

* * *

“Winning the Golden Globe was already a great honor, but the Oscar is top-notch. It’s the supreme award, so I’m dancing right now,” said Alexandre Desplat, who nabbed a music nom for “The Queen.”

* * *

Tom Perrotta, who co-adapted his novel “Little Children” with Todd Field, admitted his first emotion was “relief,” because he tends to be a glass-half-empty kind of guy. He knew “for sure” his celebrating will include a toast with his wife and kids. However, tea will have to suffice, as the clan is fighting a stomach bug.

* * *

“And the cycle begins,” “Happy Feet” helmer George Miller stated.

” I just got back from India so I was in bed and someone called me.. It’s a lot better to be in LA than in Sydney because when you get that call at 2 a.m., you always think it’s something wrong.

“It feels very good,” he added. “As they say in Australia, it’s better than a poke in the eye with a blunt stick. That’s a classic Austra-lian understatement and irony.”

* * *

“When they read the nominees, my mouth dropped,” said Graham King, producer of both “The Departed” and “Blood Diamond.” “To get 10 nominations between the two movies is really an achievement.”

Asked if this could be “Departed” helmer Martin Scorsese’s year, King said: “Marty’s driven by the art and creativity of moviemaking, not awards. But, personally, I would love to see him take it home. It’s long overdue.”

* * *

“Letters From Iwo Jima” co-writer Paul Haggis was in Albuquerque at the helm of “In the Valley of Elah” when he heard the good word about his nom for original screenplay.

“This was Clint’s vision. Iris (Yamashita) and I just helped him to bring the film to life. We’re just along for the ride, hanging onto his coattails.

Haggis said he has yet to speak to Eastwood and will wait until later in the day before making that call; a lesson he learned the hard way in the past.

“I called him at 10 a.m. when the nominations for ‘Million Dollar Baby’ were announced. I said, ‘Congrats,’ and he said, ‘For what?’ He had just woken up.”

* * *

“It’s funny. When something good like this happens, you tend to be happy instead of humbled, but it demands reflection,” said Michael Arndt, who penned “Little Miss Sunshine.”

“It’s kind of crazy because two years ago, I had basically given up,” he added. “Everyone passed on it, it was in turnaround. We were at Sundance just hoping to find a distributor. But for the past 12 months, it’s been like Murphy’s law in reverse. Everything that could go right has.”

* * *

“I can’t remember who told me because I was in the middle of shooting ‘The Bourne Ultimatum,'” said “United 93″ director Paul Greengrass.

“I’m very proud to represent those families and those who played a part in 9/11, from the air traffic controllers to law enforce-ment officials.

“You can never escape the tragedy of what happened and the enduring pain, and of course, there are great questions and chal-lenges that remain with us in the wake of those events.

“You have to take this nomination with humility in the face of those events.”

* * *

“I’m extremely batty. I hope this nomination will drive audiences to see the film. It deserves to be seen. That’s why you make films,” said “Babel” screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga.

“When I was 9 years old, I used to practice my ‘I’d like to thank…’ speech in front of my brothers with a Coke bottle (as a mic). I hope to do it for real this year.”

* * *

“The Pursuit of Happyness” actor contender Will Smith, who is on location in Gotham lensing “I Am Legend,” said: “Congratulations to all of the nominees. It is a great honor to be considered among this caliber of performers. No competition, all celebration. Let the parties begin.”

* * *

“I am honored by the three Academy nominations I have received today for the original songs from ‘Dreamgirls,'” said composer Henry Krieger. “What an incredible experience it has been and continues to be, to be asked by the amazing director Bill Condon to enrich the score for ‘Dreamgirls’ with original songs for this movie. This completes a musical journey begun over 25 years ago. I am delighted to share these nominations with my co-writers Scott Cutler and Anne Preven for ‘Listen,’ Siedah Garrett for ‘Love You I Do’ and Willie Reale for ‘Patience,’ along with Bill Condon, the producers and the entire cast and production team of ‘Dreamgirls.’

* * *

“Wow! Best non-English film! I am ecstatic. Many of my heroes have won this same award: Fellini, Truffaut, Bergman, Benigni, Buñuel, Ang Lee,” exclaimed “The Lives of Others” scribe-helmer Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

And I know from what I’ve read that this prize meant more to them than all the others, not only because it’s the Oscar, but because it’s the most important Oscar of all: the director receives it, but he receives it for the country. Winning this statue is like winning the Olympic Gold Medal… I would win for Germany!”

* * *

“Cars” director John Lasseter and his son have an Oscar tradition.

“Ever since he was 9 years old, my oldest son would crawl under the covers and watch the nominations with me,” Lasseter explained. “Now he’s 26 and living in L.A., so he was on the phone with me today.

“I feel this was a very strong year for the animation industry,” Lasseter said. “It’s special because I hadn’t directed a movie since the category was created. ‘Cars’ is a very personal story for me. With my new job (as chief creative officer of Disney Animation), I’m not sure when I’m going to get the chance to direct again.

* * *

“Water” director-scribe Deepa Mehta was, appropriately, “floating” when she learned of her foreign-language film nom.

“When they announced ‘Water,’ I was jumping up and down. It was totally infantile behavior,” she said from Toronto. “I’ve seen all the films in the category and they’re all fabulous. It’s a very strong year, and what great company to be in.”

* * *

“I was watching CBS news, sitting in bed in New York, not really believing it,” said Danish helmer Susanne Bier of the nom for “After the Wedding.”

“It’s usually quite hard for movies to travel, but it has done really well in the few territories where it has opened. As a director, my job is to find the truthful moment, so that’s what I tried to do. I just wanted to tell the story right and not concern myself with everything else around me.”

* * *

“It’s my second nomination but this time I would love to win,” said “Days of Glory” director Rachid Bouchareb. His 1994 film “Poussières de vie” was also up for foreign language Oscar.

“I already have the space reserved at home for the statue. I can promise the members of the Academy that we will take very good care of it and clean it once a week.”

* * *

“This is only my second film, so I’m learning on the job,” said “Notes on a Scandal” scribe Patrick Marber. “The nomination may never happen again, so I’m gonna enjoy it while it’s here.”

Marber plans to toast the nod in London by dining with his wife and Sam Mendes (whose nominated wife, Kate Winslet, is reveling in Gotham), followed by a viewing of his new play “Don Juan in Soho” at the Donmar Warehouse.

* * *

“I didn’t sleep well, obviously. I watched the announcement on TV with my husband and we were jumping and screaming and crying and kissing,” said “Babel” thesp Adriana Barraza.

“When I was younger and I was starting in theater, I thought, ‘What if I got to the Oscars?’ but I never thought it possible for this. I’m very happy that dreams are still possible.”

* * *

“This is my first movie, so now I’m cursed,” confessed “Monster House” director Gil Kenan.

“‘Monster House’ captured everything I love about movies. All I had to do was contain my excitement in telling the story, be-cause I was making the movie for a younger version of me,” he said.

“It was pretty much a dream come true that I got to make it with two of my heroes, Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis.

“The whole thing is tinged with a dreamlike quality that just seems impossible. Once you taste animation, and the power you have to tell a story, it’s tough to relinquish that power. When you work on an animated film, you get a sense of just how much power a story has over an audience You’re creating a story and a world out of thin air, so it doesn’t wash off easily.”

* * *

During a complicated conference call set-up, “Little Miss Sunshine” producers Marc Turtletaub and Peter Saraff were at last on the line. “We may know how to make movies but we’re not so swift when it comes to setting up phones.,” said Turtletaub.

Added Saraff: “I wish everyone had been nominated, but the best picture nomination sort of counts for everyone. And we are thrilled for Abigail (Breslin). She’s a unique talent. We’re immediately negotiating to become her agents.”

* * *

“I didn’t get that much sleep because of course I was nervous,” “Babel” producer Jon Kilik said.

“You never know how its going to go, the Academy always has some surprises and there were a few this year. This (pic’s seven noms) is a tribute to everyone’s hard work, endless energy and dedication. Adriana (Barraza) had to gain weight. Rinko (Kikuchi) studied sign language and had to prepare for many months before she was even given the part,” he said of the two nommed actresses.

* * *

“We had over a million feet of film; more than 240 hours worth of footage, said “Babel” film editor Steven Mirrione. “Alejandro (González Iñárritu) is so relentless. Every single moment, every single second, every single frame, he tries to squeeze as much life as he can and because of that he shoots a lot of film. It was a challenge, but I am excited for everything that is about to come.”

* * *

“This is an exciting day for IFC. We have always been fervent champions of superb foreign language films with a team dedicated to bringing them to audiences around the country,” said IFC Entertainment president Jonathan Sehring of the company’s foreign-language nominees “After the Wedding” and “Days of Glory”. “It has been a phenomenal year in this regard, for all of our filmmakers who have found a voice through our distribution platforms and especially for Susanne and Rachid who are so deserving of this honor.”

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