"Bugsy" almost stole the show Wednesday when the 64th annual Academy Awards nominations were announced. While the stylish gangster drama received the most nominations with 10, it had to share the spotlight with "Beauty and the Beast," the first animated movie to be nominated for best picture.
The 10 nominations for "Bugsy" included best picture, best director (Barry Levinson), actor (Warren Beatty) and screenwriter (James Toback).
"JFK," the controversial Oliver Stone examination of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, came in second with eight nominations, followed by the romantic psychodrama thriller "The Prince of Tides" and the suspense thriller "The Silence of the Lambs" with seven. All three were best-picture nominees.
But despite "Prince of Tides' " best-picture nomination, director Barbra Streisand was not among those nominated for best director. (See related story, F8.)
"Beauty and the Beast" producer Don Hahn called the film's best-picture nomination "validation of animation as a legitimate way to tell a story," and the studio has hailed it as a tribute to the legacy of the late Walt Disney.
Besides "Beauty and the Beast," there were some notable firsts in the nominations announced early Wednesday by academy president Karl Malden and actress Kathleen Turner at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences headquarters in Beverly Hills.
John Singleton, the 24-year-old director of "Boyz N the Hood," became both the first African-American and the youngest nominee for best director. Diane Ladd and Laura Dern were the first mother and daughter to be nominated--Dern for best actress and Ladd for best supporting actress in "Rambling Rose."
Singleton was also nominated for his original screenplay for "Boyz N the Hood," which is set in the South-Central Los Angeles neighborhood where he grew up. Singleton, who was 23 at the time "Boyz" was released last July, replaced Orson Welles, who formerly held the distinction, having been nominated at age 26 for 1941's "Citizen Kane."
"I'm the first person in my neighborhood to get an Oscar nomination," Singleton joked. "I'm just in awe," he said, speaking by phone from Las Vegas, where on Tuesday he had been honored as "debut director of the year" at a convention of the nation's theater owners.
For weeks before Wednesday's nominations, campaigns were waged on behalf of many contenders in direct-mailings to academy voters and in ads purchased in the film industry newspapers--especially for "Bugsy" and "JFK."
Now the Hollywood-style campaigning will begin all over again in preparation for the Academy Awards ceremony, when winners will be announced. The program will be held in Los Angeles on March 30 and will be seen on television by an estimated 1 billion people worldwide.
Oliver Stone, whose "JFK" has received much criticism and stirred a national debate and about the Kennedy assassination, said the film's eight nominations "feel wonderful."
"Considering what this movie has been through, it's very nice to be recognized by my colleagues," Stone said.
In the directing category, besides Stone, Levinson and Singleton, Jonathan Demme was nominated for "The Silence of the Lambs" and Ridley Scott for "Thelma & Louise."
The 10 nominations for "Bugsy" gave its distributor, TriStar Pictures, the most nominations of any major studio, and Beatty what some say is a near record in Oscar nominations during his career. Between five of his films--"Bonnie & Clyde," "Shampoo," "Reds," "Heaven Can Wait" and "Bugsy," the actor/writer/producer/director has received 13 Oscar nominations.
Beatty's nomination for his performance as mobster Benjamin (Bugsy) Siegel was his fourth for best actor.
Beatty told The Times that "when you make a movie in which the leading character is unsavory and, secondly, he dies in the end, you know you have your work cut out for you. So when you get the critical attention and peer recognition, it gives all of us more ability to make more movies that are not simply escapist movies."
While he said the film's nominations "feel good," he was disappointed that Annette Bening, his co-star and the mother of his baby daughter, was not a best-actress nominee. "I think she is what makes the picture work," he said.
Best-actor nominee Nick Nolte, reached in Madrid, where "Prince of Tides" is having a premiere Friday, described his reaction as "balanced." "I've been working 20 years to tell stories, not necessarily to gather awards," he said. "If this is recognition for good work, and I'm one of the actors doing good work--that's the way I accept it."
Asked about the failure of director and co-star Streisand to garner a directing nomination, Nolte said: "She's going to be elated that the film received seven nominations. That's quite a bit of recognition."
In the best-actor category, Nolte and Beatty were joined by Robert De Niro for his role as a psychopathic killer in "Cape Fear," Anthony Hopkins for his role as a cannibalistic murderer in "Silence of the Lambs" and Robin Williams, who co-starred in "The Fisher King" as a gentle but psychotic homeless man.
Academy members will have to choose between the two stars of "Thelma & Louise," who were nominated for best actress--Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis. Sarandon told the Associated Press: "I'm very pleased to be honored with all of these wonderful actors, but I'm most pleased that Geena and I have been honored together. I never would have gotten in the car without her."
"Thelma & Louise" screenwriter Callie Khouri said she was "gratified as hell" to be recognized for her screenplay, and not surprised that Sarandon and Davis garnered best-actress nominations for the controversial film.
Although "Thelma & Louise" was perceived as an anti-male statement in some quarters, Khouri said she felt totally supported in Hollywood. "There was a backlash," she acknowledged, "but it was certainly not inside the film community."
The other best-actress nominees are Dern for her role in "Rambling Rose"; Jodie Foster for her role as an FBI trainee in "The Silence of the Lambs, and Bette Midler for her role as a USO trouper in "For the Boys." Foster won the best-actress Oscar for 1988's "The Accused. " Midler was a previous nominee for 1979's "The Rose."
Ladd said she was "thrilled" to learn of her nomination for best supporting actress but waited with "bated breath" to learn whether her daughter was also a nominee for best actress in the same film. "When I heard that Laura got nominated, I started to cry," Ladd said.
But, Ladd said she hoped the unprecedented mother-daughter nominations will bring "Rambling Rose" to the "attention of people that should see this film," Ladd said. "That really excited me."
Dern was equally ecstatic. "I'm very excited, not only to be nominated for a movie that I so wanted to make for five years, but to be nominated with my mother," she said. "So many times, when actors get nominated, it's not for a movie they really care about."
Besides Ladd, the nominees for best supporting actress were Kate Nelligan for "The Prince of Tides," Jessica Tandy for "Fried Green Tomatoes," Juliette Lewis for "Cape Fear" and Mercedes Ruehl for "The Fisher King."
In a statement, Ruehl said "it's an honor to be included in the company of such extraordinary actresses," while Lewis said she found it "really odd" to be nominated at the age of 18.
"There're people who've been around for 50 years and give great performances and are never nominated," she said. "I don't understand the logic of the Oscars yet."
She also said her nomination "doesn't change anything. It doesn't change the condition of the world. Our world is still falling apart."
In the supporting-actor category, Tommy Lee Jones won a nomination playing accused conspirator Clay Shaw in "JFK," Ben Kingsley and Harvey Keitel as gangland leaders in "Bugsy," Michael Lerner as an outrageous movie mogul in "Barton Fink" and Jack Palance as a tough cowpoke in "City Slickers."
For Palance, it is his third nomination as a supporting actor. The first two were for "Sudden Fear" in 1952 and "Shane" in 1953. "I enjoyed my role in 'City Slickers' more than any other I've had in many years," Palance said through a spokesman. "The nomination for best supporting actor is the icing on the cake. I am most grateful."
Contacted yesterday, Lerner said he felt the academy voters may have liked the parody aspects of his character. "The movie does make fun about Hollywood, but still there's something very compelling about the movie-mogul immigrants of the 1940s."
Commercial hit films often aren't recognized in the voting by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but this time around, 1991's biggest hit, "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," received six nominations, all in technical categories. In addition, two of the best-picture nominees--"The Silence of the Lambs" and "Beauty and the Beast"--have topped the $100-million mark in box-office grosses.
In the foreign-language film category, the German film "Europa Europa," about a young Jewish man who passes as a Nazi to save himself during World War II, was not eligible because the official German film commission did not nominate it or any other film for consideration. But a campaign by prominent German film directors and American critics appeared to have helped the film in Oscar competition, as director Agnieszka Holland was nominated for her adapted screenplay.
Joining "Europa Europa" in the adapted screenplay category are "Fried Green Tomatoes" by Fannie Flagg and Carol Sobieski, "JFK" by Stone and Zachary Sklar, "The Prince of Tides" by Pat Conroy and Becky Johnston, and "The Silence of the Lambs" by Ted Tally.
In the competition for best original screenplay, Khouri, Singleton and Toback were nominated with Lawrence Kasdan and Meg Kasdan for their "Grand Canyon" and Richard LaGravenese for "The Fisher King."
Musical categories were dominated by Disney's "Beauty and the Beast." Three songs from its score by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman were nominated for best song, including the title ballad. Also in this category was the best-selling pop hit "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You," from "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," recorded by Bryan Adams, and "When You're Alone" from "Hook," by John Williams and Leslie Bricusse.
Menken's "Beauty" score also was nominated for best score.
In the weeks preceding Wednesday's nominations announcement, critics groups have honored "Bugsy" and "Silence of the Lambs," while the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.'s top Golden Globe awards were given to "Beauty and the Beast" and "Bugsy."
. . . And the Other Key Nominees
* Warren Beatty
* Robert De Niro
* Anthony Hopkins
"The Silence of the Lambs"
* Nick Nolte
"The Prince of Tides"
* Robin Williams
"The Fisher King"
* Geena Davis
"Thelma & Louise"
* Laura Dern
* Jodie Foster
"The Silence of the Lambs"
* Bette Midler
"For the Boys"
* Susan Sarandon
"Thelma & Louise"
* Jonathan Demme
"The Silence of the Lambs"
* Barry Levinson
* Ridley Scott
"Thelma & Louise"
* John Singleton
"Boyz N the Hood"
* Oliver Stone
TOP NOMINATED FILMS
"The Prince of Tides": 7
"The Silence of the Lambs": 7
A full list of nominees on F11.
* Tommy Lee Jones: "JFK"
* Harvey Keitel: "Bugsy"
* Ben Kingsley: "Bugsy"
* Michael Lerner: "Barton Fink"
* Jack Palance: "City Slickers"
Last year's winner: Joe Pesci, "GoodFellas"
* Diane Ladd: "Rambling Rose"
* Juliette Lewis: "Cape Fear"
* Kate Nelligan: "Prince of Tides"
* Mercedes Ruehl: "Fisher King"
* Jessica Tandy: "Tomatoes"
Last year's winner: Whoopi Goldberg, "Ghost"
Times staff writer Terry Pristin contributed to this article.