Stars take Oscar sabbatical

Several perennial nominees aren't competing for nominations

While this year’s Oscar hopefuls wait for that early-morning call Feb. 2 when the nominations are announced, some notable and perennial contenders are taking a breather this time around as they finish up projects for next year or ponder their next move.

Kate Winslet, after receiving six Academy Award noms over the course of 13 years, finally ended up with an Oscar (as well as two Golden Globes) on her mantle last winter. She’s not in the race this year, however — reps say she’s considering a number of projects but hasn’t decided on her next film.

Cate Blanchett and Russell Crowe — each with multiple nominations and one Oscar win — are also among acclaimed thesps who’ll probably sleep through the noms announcement. They’ll appear together in next year’s “Robin Hood,” directed by Ridley Scott — a three-time nominee himself for “Thelma and Louise,” “Gladiator” and “Black Hawk Down.”

Sean Penn, a five-time Oscar nominee and two-time winner, will reappear in 2010 with two-time nominee Brad Pitt in “The Tree of Life,” directed by Terrence Malick. The multihyphenate Malick was last nominated in both the screenplay and director categories for “The Thin Red Line” in 1998. “Tree” centers around the story of a Midwestern boy who struggles as his parents compete for his allegiance.

Will Smith, a two-time Oscar nominee like Pitt, is at work developing projects, but reps for the actor won’t confirm any hard release dates for next year.

Angelina Jolie, a two-time Oscar nominee and 1999 supporting actress winner, is also sitting out this year’s award season race; she’s set to return to the screen in 2010 in “Salt.”

Three-time Academy Award nominee Laura Linney will be onscreen in “The Details” next year. The story revolves around a couple who discover a pest problem at their home and disagree about how to deal with it. Darkly comic events ensue.

Keira Knightley, a 2005 nominee for “Pride and Prejudice,” returns next year in three films after sitting out this Oscar season. She joins Colin Farrell in “London Boulevard,” Charlotte Rampling in “Never Let Me Go” and Sam Worthington in “Last Night.”

Following his lead actor win for 2006’s “The Last King of Scotland,” Forest Whitaker has been absent from nominee lists. In spring, Whitaker begins production on a biopic that could catch Oscar’s attention.

The actor will direct and star in a project based on the life of Louis Armstrong called “What a Wonderful World.” The screenplay is by Ron Bass.

Martin Scorsese, who took home the 2006 directing Academy Award after being nominated seven times over his career, has “Shutter Island” opening in 2010.

The film, starring three-time nominee Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Kingsley (four noms, one win), follows the investigation of the disappearance of a female murderer thought to have slipped out of a mental institution and into the wild of a remote island.

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