A herd of buffalo stampeded through the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences headquarters on Wednesday, and when the dust cleared, Kevin Costner's sweeping tale of the American frontier had landed 12 Oscar nominations, including best picture, best actor and best director.
Its 12 nominations is the most by any film since "Reds" in 1981.
If the number of nominations for "Wolves" was a surprise to onlookers, the fact that the Orion Pictures release was singled out in the top categories was not. Costner's film had been high on the betting lists of Hollywood insiders, done well with the ticket-buying public and critics, and won the top Golden Globe Awards--often a weathervane for the Oscars.
Still, there were surprises. As the nominations were announced for the 63rd annual Oscar presentation, during a pre-dawn press conference at the academy's Beverly Hills offices, an audible gasp could be heard when two of 1990's biggest-grossing pictures, "Ghost" and "Pretty Woman," popped up among nominees. In previous years, it hasn't been uncommon for such popular films--grossing more than $400 million between them--to be overlooked in Oscar competition.
Paramount Pictures' romantic thriller "Ghost," the sleeper hit from the summer, continued to astonish onlookers. It claimed five Oscar nominations, including ones for best picture and Whoopi Goldberg's portrayal of a besieged psychic in the supporting actress category. Meanwhile, Julia Roberts was nominated for best actress for her role as a hooker who falls in love with millionaire Richard Gere in Disney/Touchstone's release of "Pretty Woman."
Other surprises were Diane Ladd's nomination for supporting actress in iconoclastic director David Lynch's "Wild at Heart" and the exclusion of Barry Levinson and his "Avalon" cast from the major categories.
Oscar watchers also noted the omission of director Penny Marshall from the best director category, since her film "Awakenings" received a best picture nomination. It is sure to provoke more accusations that the directors' branch of the academy has a "men only" policy when it comes to Oscar nominations. Five years ago, Randa Haines received a Directors Guild nomination for "Children of a Lesser God," and the movie was nominated for best picture by the general academy membership. But Haines was not nominated by the directors.
In the 63 years of the awards, the only nominated woman director was Italy's Lena Wertmuller, for her 1976 "Seven Beauties."
The Oscars will be presented in a live, international TV broadcast on March 25 from the Shrine Auditorium.
"I'm completely numb," said "Wolves" co-producer Jim Wilson, minutes after he had heard the news of the film's dozen nominations. Wilson said that the film, set in the 1860s as white settlers began claiming the lands of American Indians, had been a three-year project--from inception to last November's release--for him and Costner.
"Now comes this moment and it's unbelievable," he said.
The directing and acting nominations for Costner, who has appeared in a number of hit films, including the popular "Field of Dreams," are his first. If he goes on to win for best actor, Costner would find himself in the rarefied company of Laurence Olivier as the only two men to direct themselves to best actor Oscars. With these nominations, he has already joined Olivier ("Hamlet"), Orson Welles ("Citizen Kane"), Woody Allen ("Annie Hall"), Warren Beatty ("Reds") and Kenneth Branagh ("Henry V") as best actor nominees from films they directed.
Westerns have scored surprisingly few Oscar triumphs in academy history. Only one Western--the 1931 "Cimarron"--has won as best picture, and a Western hasn't been nominated in that category since 1969's "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." If "Wolves" wins five Oscars, it will become the most celebrated Western in Hollywood history, and many people expect it to prompt a revival of the genre.
Among "Wolves' " other nominations: stage actress Mary McDonnell, best supporting actress for her role as a white woman raised by a tribe of Sioux Indians; Graham Greene, supporting actor for his role as the tribal holy man Kicking Bird; Michael Blake, best adapted screenplay; John Barry, original musical score and Elsa Zamparelli for costume design. The film was also nominated in the technical categories of sound, film editing and art direction.
Disney/Touchstone's "Dick Tracy," directed by and starring Warren Beatty, and Paramount's "The Godfather Part III," co-written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, tied for second place in the number of nominations, with seven each. While "Godfather" drew nods for best picture and Coppola for best director, among other categories, the nominations for "Dick Tracy" were mostly in technical fields and for best song.
The Martin Scorsese gangland drama, "GoodFellas," which has swept the best picture prizes among the Los Angeles, New York and National Society of Film Critics, rounded out the five nominees for best picture.
Speaking from the Ft. Lauderdale location of his latest film, "Cape Fear," Scorsese called the recognition for his film and actors "really very nice." While "GoodFellas" star De Niro was not nominated for the Scorsese film, the two-time Oscar winner was nominated for his other major role during 1990, that of a patient in "Awakenings."
"The way I feel is that the nomination (for De Niro's "Awakenings" performance) is for both," said Scorsese, when asked why De Niro was nominated for one film and not the other. "He had two strong performances in '90 and generally the academy doesn't nominate the same actor twice in the same category."
In all, "GoodFellas," a story of life in the Mafia over 30 years, and based on the book "Wiseguys" by Nicholas Pileggi, earned six Oscar nominations. They included Scorsese for best director, supporting actor Joe Pesci and supporting actress Lorraine Bracco.
Coppola, reached at his hotel room in Tokyo, said it was "good news" to be nominated, especially after the mixed response given his third film in the saga of the Corleone family.
"Directing 'Godfather' films is a thankless task," he said, adding "every move you make becomes a kind of controversy." The latest film, "got a mixed response the way 'Godfather II' got a mixed response, and both previous films were controversial when they came out . . . but they improved with stature as time went on."
"Godfather III" was released Christmas Day to a wave of anticipation, as it followed Coppola's two Oscar-winning best pictures, "The Godfather" (1972) and "The Godfather Part II" (1974). He previously won the directing prize for the second, and was nominated for best director for the first.
"GoodFellas" producer Irwin Winkler said he was "thrilled" with the nominations, "but having been nominated, now I think, wouldn't it be nice to win?" It is the fourth best picture nomination for Winkler, whose previous nominated films were "Raging Bull," "The Right Stuff," and "Rocky," the latter winning the Oscar for best picture in 1976.
"It wasn't easy getting 'GoodFellas' started," Winkler said, comparing it to the difficulties that faced "Dances With Wolves." "I'm glad 'Dances With Wolves' got all those nominations, but I'm just as glad for ourselves."
Coming in with five nominations, was Orion Classics' "Cyrano De Bergerac," a French film nominated for best foreign-language film and starring French cinema leading man Gerard Depardieu, who was included in the best actor competition.
Depardieu plays the classic, love-torn title character in the film based on Edmond Rostand's play. It is the second feature-film version of "Cyrano"--the first appeared in 1950 and earned actor Jose Ferrer the best actor Oscar.
With the five nominations for "Cyrano" and the dozen for "Dances With Wolves," the financially strapped Orion Pictures, together with its subsidiary Orion Classics, led the competition for nominations among all film companies.
Orion's president of distribution, David Forbes, reached in New York, called it "a great conclusion for his first year with the company." Coming on top of the company's widely reported financial woes, he said, the nominations are "very ironic, but that's life. . . . It makes the company's prospects for a good future much better."
Next highest among the studios was Paramount, with 16 nominations, largely due to "Godfather III" and "Ghost," followed by Warner Bros. in third place with 11, mostly for "GoodFellas" and "Reversal of Fortune."
Joining Costner, Depardieu and De Niro as best actor nominees are Irish actor Richard Harris (a previous best actor nominee for "This Sporting Life") for his role in "The Field," and British actor Jeremy Irons, as the steely Claus von Bulow, on trial for the attempted murder of his society heiress wife in "Reversal of Fortune." Irons already has won the Los Angeles film critics award, National Society of Film Critics award and Golden Globe for best actor in a drama.
In addition to Julia Roberts, who was nominated for supporting actress for 1989's "Steel Magnolias," the other nominees for best actress are Kathy Bates as the sadistic nurse in "Misery"; Anjelica Huston, who was previously nominated for supporting actress twice and won for 1985's "Prizzi's Honor," for "The Grifters"; Meryl Streep, eight-time previous Oscar nominee and two-time winner (for supporting actress in "Kramer vs. Kramer" and best actress for "Sophie's Choice"), for her performance in "Postcards From the Edge"; and Joanne Woodward, a previous best actress Oscar winner for "Three Faces of Eve," for her role in "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge."
Costner, Coppola and Scorsese are joined in the director's competition by "Reversal of Fortune's" Barbet Schroeder and "The Grifters' " Stephen Frears.
With Greene and Pesci in the supporting actor category are Bruce Davison as the lover of a dying AIDS patient in "Longtime Companion," Andy Garcia as godfather nephew Vincent Mancini in "Godfather III," and five-time previous Oscar nominee Al Pacino as the archvillain in "Dick Tracy."
Joining Diane Ladd and Whoopi Goldberg, both of whom have been previously nominated, and first-timers Mary McDonnell and Lorraine Bracco in the supporting actress race, is Annette Bening for her performance in "The Grifters."
Foreign-language film nominees, besides "Cyrano" from France, are Switzerland's "Journey of Hope," the People's Republic of China's "Ju Dou," Germany's "The Nasty Girl" and Italy's "Open Doors."
Campaigns for the Oscar nominations have been waged for the last two months, and the newest wrinkle in that tradition--the videotape cassette--may have played a large part in this year's nominations process. Tapes sent to the 4,800 voting members of the academy included "Pretty Woman," "Dick Tracy," "Cyrano de Bergerac," "Longtime Companion" and "The Grifters," all of which received nominations.
BEST ACTOR Kevin Costner
Robert De Niro
"My Left Foot"
BEST ACTRESS Kathy Bates
"Mr. & Mrs. Bridge"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Annette Bening
"Wild at Heart"
"My Left Foot"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Bruce Davison