‘Ransom’ crew hoards Oscar noms

GOOD MORNING: Nineteen Oscar nominations on the set of “Ransom,” producer Brian Grazer happily noted — 10 for “Ransom” star Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart” and nine for “Ransom” director Ron Howard’s “Apollo 13.” “But I’m brokenhearted,” Grazer admitted because “Apollo” didn’t earn Howard a directing nomination. “Ron made the movie. That’s his movie.” Meanwhile, he allowed, “We’re very lucky to have both of them now.” Howard and Gibson, two of the most generous and professional moviemakers I’ve ever met, were busy congratulating each other on the “Ransom” set Tuesday. I’d been on the set of both pics, “Apollo 13” in the capsule at Universal, and on location in Ireland with Gibson on “Braveheart,” and there’s no question the two films are their babies. Alan Ladd Jr., producer of “Braveheart” with Mel, reminded “how tireless” he was. And also recalled Gibson did not want to star as well as direct the logistically enormous pic. Ladd noted that of the “Braveheart” nominations, Gibson’s third preference would be “actor,” following “best picture” and “director”…”Babe” was also one of my favorite movie creations of the year. I talked to nominee “farmer” James Cromwell whose tender performance won him a nomination. He’s now working in Memphis in “The People vs. Larry Flynt” for director Milos Forman and producer Oliver Stone. It’s Cromwell’s second pic for Stone, after “The Indictment”–“and we’ve yet to meet — but I admire him and hope to meet him soon,” Cromwell said. As for his role in “Babe,” Cromwell said, “I just treated the farm animals — as farm animals. The only time I had to play to Babe talking to me was with an animatronic pig — I played it just like working to another actor.” It’s a great, sweet story and a wonderfully patient, talented director Chris Noonan … It was interesting to also talk to the voice of Babe, Christine Cavanaugh, who said she originally read for the role of Fly, the dog. She was turned down for the pig role “because they wanted a child.” So she faked her name as Chris and “I thought of myself as a little boy” (she’s 30), read, won the role, revealed herself, natch, to director Noonan. He told her, “be honest, sincere.” She was. Christine talked to Noonan in Sydney, reporting, “He’s ecstatic.” She’s also in the “Little Surprises,” nominated for live action short film, directed by first-time director Jeff Goldblum, whom she said was also “amazing.”

ANTHONY HOPKINS GOT WORD of his “Nixon” nomination while trying to relax, driving up the California coast, and in his usual modest way told me how thoroughly “pleased” he is (with the nomination). Hopkins admits it was “the toughest and most challenging” role as well as “the happiest” movie he’s made. “Oliver is a great director”– put him in the category of Orson Welles. Hopkins has “Picasso” next coming up and that’s the last of the historical “or hysterical,” as he said, characters he’ll play, Hopkins laughed … Screenwriters Chris Wilkinson and Steven Rivele, nominated along with Stone for “Nixon,” reminded that this is their first produced script. They got the assignment after sending Stone a three-page fax. “It was a little like winning the lottery,” they admit. They allow many things in the movie “have been called distortions — but in our minds they are not.” “Nixon” won’t be their last teaming with Stone — reportedly the Martin Luther King “Memphis” story is a reunion piece. In addition to admiring Hopkins, the writers said everyone on the set “fell in love with” (nominee) Joan Allen (Pat Nixon) …”The Postman’s” Michael Radford continues to praise the late (nominated) Massimo Troisi who died 12 hours after completing his role. Radford marveled at his will power to complete the movie. Radford says it will be good to do a movie in English next — there are plenty of offers but he’ll probably do his script (with Jan Fleischer) of “The Elixir” in Czechoslovakia for producers Gary Levinsohn and Mark Gordon. It’s about a 16th century alchemist who turns lead into gold. He hopes Ralph Fiennes will star.

SHARON STONE, PREDICTED HERE as deserving an Oscar nomination following “Casino’s” first screening, was understandably on cloud nine Tuesday with countless congratulatory phone calls … One that really moved her — from Lew Wasserman. Stone is already being touted for her next dramatic performance as the death row inmate in “Last Dance” for Touchstone, directed by Bruce Beresford. Producer Steven Haft recalls, “The first day we (he and Beresford) saw her on our film we marveled at her dramatic ability”– and that was before they’d even seen any footage of her in “Casino”… The last time I saw Tim Roth was on the Scotland location of “Rob Roy” where director Michael Caton-Jones showed me footage, including Roth’s rape of Jessica Lange! Roth told me it was a difficult scene to do –“We had to try very hard to keep from laughing!” It was no laughing matter on screen per Roth’s reviews and now the Oscar recognition. Roth admitted to me playing heavies was the most fun. “This movie felt like an old Western to me.”