The academy announced Thursday that
Simmons, considered a front-runner, was a little under the weather when he heard the news early Thursday morning.
"I was actually sleeping in, even past 8:30 a.m.," he said when reached by phone in Atlanta. "I'm fighting something, and I'm trying to get healthy."
In "Whiplash," Simmons plays Fletcher, a sadistic music teacher who drives aspiring jazz drummer Andrew (Miles Teller) to the edge of endurance. Simmons said he saw the film's potential after reading the script.
"There are a few hundred people responsible for 'Whiplash' getting that [best picture] nomination," he said. "It's a beautiful thing. Miles and I have always said everything was there on the page and we just did our best not to screw it up."
The actor, who won a Golden Globe on Sunday for the role, called the nomination both gratifying and humbling.
"I’m honestly very glad in my case that it didn’t come a lot earlier in my life because I definitely wouldn’t have been equipped to deal with this kind of attention as a young man," he said. "I’m not sure I am now."
Fellow nominee Hawke said he got word of the nomination after dropping his kids off at school in New York.
"It's been a long wonderful journey," he said of "Boyhood," which was shot over a 12-year span. "I'll never have this experience again or anything like it."
The actor, who plays the divorced father of two in the coming-of-age film, said he and director Richard Linklater wanted to create a "portrait of fatherhood that showed the absolutely subtle growth that adult life goes through."
But Hawke said he didn't anticipate the film's popularity. The film received six nods, including his nomination.
"It never occurred to me we could find this kind of success from a movie that is shot so straight from the heart," he said. "It's rare for an independent film to find its way through the maelstrom of corporate America. It feels pretty good … like, if you're a basketball fan, an unseeded team making it to the Final Four."
This is Hawke's fourth Academy Award nomination; his first was in 2002 for his supporting role in "Training Day," and two were for screenwriting.
Ruffalo was nominated for his portrayal as star wrestler Dave Schultz in "Foxcatcher," Bennet Miller's twisted real-life tale of John du Pont (Steve Carell) and his sponsorship of the U.S. Olympic wrestling team.
Norton was nominated for his role as Broadway bad boy Mike in "Birdman," which stars Michael Keaton. The film scored nine nominations, including best picture.
Of the supporting actor nominees, Duvall is probably the only considerable outlier — though the veteran actor has been lauded for his role as Judge Joseph Palmer. The courtroom and family drama follows the strained relationship between Palmer and his son Hank (
"Robert Duvall can do anything, and he's far from done," Downey said when presenting Duvall the icon award at the Palm Springs Film Festival this month.
Staff writer Josh Rottenberg contributed to this report.