At 27, Matt Damon, nominated for "Good Will Hunting," has the opportunity to become the youngest best actor winner. But he's not the youngest best actor nominee. Jackie Cooper was all of 10 when he was nominated for best actor of 1930-31 for "Skippy," and Mickey Rooney was 19 when he was nominated for best actor for 1939's "Babes in Arms."
LONG TIME WAITING
Julie Christie, nominated for best actress for "Afterglow," won that honor 32 years ago for "Darling." But she doesn't threaten the record for the longest interval between acting wins. Helen Hayes won best actress for 1931-32's "The Sin of Madelon Claudet" and won best supporting actress for 1970's "'Airport."
James Cameron's script for "Titanic" failed to get an Oscar nomination. Among the other best picture nominees of recent years not to garner a screenplay nomination are 1992's "A Few Good Men"; 1991's "Beauty and the Beast"; 1990's "The Godfather, Part III"; 1988's "Mississippi Burning" and "Working Girl"; 1986's "The Mission"; 1983's "The Right Stuff" ; 1981's "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and 1980's "Tess."
Even 1980 best film nominee "Raging Bull," considered by most critics to be the best film of its decade, failed to get a screenplay nomination.
"Titanic" is the first film since 1950's "All About Eve" to be nominated for 14 Oscars. The 1932-33 best picture winner "Grand Hotel" is the only best picture winner to win with only one nomination.
Best actor nominee Dustin Hoffman ("Wag the Dog") received his first nomination in this category 30 years ago for "The Graduate." He lost the award to Rod Steiger ("In the Heat of the Night"). Other nominees that year were Warren Beatty for "Bonnie & Clyde," Paul Newman for "Cool Hand Luke" and Spencer Tracy for "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner."
John Williams scores his 36th Oscar nomination with his original score of "Amistad." He's won the award five times. The only other composer to earn more nominations was the late Alfred Newman, with 45. Walt Disney holds the record for the most nominations--64.
THE BIG WINNERS
20 YEARS AGO:
Best Film: "Annie Hall."
Best Actor: Richard Dreyfuss, "The Goodbye Girl."
Best Actress: Diane Keaton, "Annie Hall."
Best Supporting Actor: Jason Robards, "Julia."
Best Supporting Actress: Vanessa Redgrave, "Julia."
Best Director: Woody Allen.
60 YEARS AGO:
Best Film: "The Life of Emile Zola."
Best Actress: Luise Rainer, "The Good Earth."
Best Actor: Spencer Tracy, "Captains Courageous."
Best Supporting Actor: Joseph Schildkraut, "The Life of Emile Zola."
Best Supporting Actress: Alice Brady, "In Old Chicago."
Best Director: Leo McCarey, "The Awful Truth."
CANVASSING THE CROWD
In their respective films, best actress nominees Kate Winslet ("Titanic") and Helen Hunt ("As Good as It Gets") pose in the nude for artists.
Greg Kinnear is nominated for best supporting actor as an artist in "As Good as It Gets."
Other actors who have either been nominated for or won an Oscar for playing an artist include Jose Ferrer, a best actor nominee as Toulouse-Lautrec for 1952's "Moulin Rouge"; Kirk Douglas, nominated for best actor as Vincent van Gogh in 1956's "Lust for Life"; and Anthony Quinn, who won for best supporting actor as Paul Cezanne in "Lust for Life."
"Titanic" best supporting actress nominee Gloria Stuart, 87, starred in a 1934 best picture nominee, "Here Comes the Navy." The best picture winner that year was the comedy "It Happened One Night." Stuart also appeared in "Gold Diggers of 1935," which features the Oscar-winning best song "Lullabye of Broadway."
This year's honorary award recipient Stanley Donen directed the 1954 best picture nominee "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers."
Academy Awards producer Gil Cates directed Melvyn Douglas to a best actor nomination and Gene Hackman to a supporting nomination in 1970's "I Never Sang for My Father."
WARNERS' BIG ONE
"L.A. Confidential" represents the 56th best picture nomination for Warner Bros. During the last 70 years, Warners has won best picture five times: 1937's "The Life of Emile Zola," 1943's "Casablanca," 1964's "My Fair Lady," 1989's "Driving Miss Daisy" and 1992's "Unforgiven."
WHAT AN OMEN!
Jerry Goldsmith not only composed the theme this year for the Oscars, but he is also nominated for his score for "L.A. Confidential." His first nomination came 35 years ago for "Freud." He lost out to Maurice Jarre's score for "Lawrence of Arabia." Goldsmith won his first Oscar for his score for 1976's "The Omen."
Anthony Hopkins is nominated for best supporting actor as John Quincy Adams in "Amistad." This is the second time Hopkins has received a nomination for playing an American president. He was nominated for best actor for 1995's "Nixon."
Several of this year's nominees have TV backgrounds. Best actress nominee Helen Hunt is currently in her sixth season on NBC's "Mad About You."
Among the supporting actor nominees, Robert Forster ("Jackie Brown") starred in the 1972-73 NBC detective series "Banyon" and the 1974 ABC crime show "Nakia," and Greg Kinnear came to fame in the early '90s as the wisecracking host of E! Entertainment Television's "Talk Soup" and as the host of NBC's "Later."
Their competitor Burt Reynolds ("Boogie Nights") has appeared in numerous series. His first continuing role was that of pilot Ben Frazer 39 years ago on the NBC series, "Riverboat."
And yet another supporting actor nominee, Robin Williams ("Good Will Hunting"), became an overnight sensation in 1978 on ABC's "Mork & Mindy." Before the hit sitcom, he appeared as a regular on the short-lived 1977 NBC series "The Richard Pyror Show."
Three of the supporting actress nominees have TV pedigrees: Kim Basinger ("L.A. Confidential") was a regular on the 1977 ABC crime drama "Dog and Cat"; Joan Cusack ("In & Out") was a regular on "Saturday Night Live" during the 1985-86 season; and Julianne Moore ("Boogie Nights") appeared on the daytime soaps "As the World Turns" and "The Edge of Night."
PORTRAIT OF THE LADIES
Helena Bonham Carter is nominated as best actress for the adaptation of Henry James' "The Wings of the Dove." Olivia DeHavilland won her second best actress Oscar for 1949's "The Heiress," which was based on James' novel "Washington Square."
If Gloria Stuart wins, she'll be the oldest acting winner. George Burns was the oldest performer to win in a supporting category; he was 80 years and 2 months old when he won for 1975's "The Sunshine Boys." Jessica Tandy was the oldest person to win a competitive Oscar. She was 80 years and 9 months when she won for best actress eight years ago for "Driving Miss Daisy."
SHIPS PASSING IN THE NIGHT
Six degrees or less of separation between the 1953 "Titanic" and the this current "Titanic":
Gloria Stuart appeared with Shirley Temple in "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm." Temple appeared with Lionel Barrymore in "The Little Colonel." Barrymore appeared with Lauren Bacall in "Key Largo." Bacall starred with Clifton Webb in "A Woman's World." Webb starred in the 1953 "Titanic."
Leonardo DiCaprio appeared with Gene Hackman in "The Quick and the Dead." Hackman appeared with Melvyn Douglas in "I Never Sang for My Father." Douglas appeared with Greta Garbo in "As You Desire Me." Garbo starred opposite Robert Taylor in "Camille." Taylor starred with future wife Barbara Stanwyck in "His Brother's Wife." Stanwyck starred with Webb in "Titanic."
WE'RE FONDA THAT CLAN
Best actor nominee Peter Fonda ("Ulee's Gold") made one film with his Oscar-winning dad, Henry. They appeared together in the 1979 western "Wanda Nevada," which Peter also directed. He and his Oscar-winning sister Jane starred together in the 1968 trilogy "Spirits of the Dead."
AND THE MENU, PLEASE
This marks the fourth year Wolfgang Puck has created the cuisine for the Governors Ball. After the ceremony, the 1,600 guests at the ball will be noshing on such hors d'oeuvres as roasted new potatoes with caviar; chinois vegetable spring rolls with apricot mustard sauce; smoked sturgeon on crisp potato galettes; pizza with smoked salmon and dill cream; and assorted Spago pizzas.
The appetizer plate consists of marinated lobster salad; avocado "sushi" rolls; Moroccan carrot salad (in radicchio cup); marinated mushroom salad; roasted eggplant with goat cheese; truffle beet salad; prosciutto basil focaccia; and smoked salmon on Oscar matzo. The entree is roasted chicken with wild mushroom risotto and French black truffles.
Dessert will be a selection of sweets highlighted by a white-chocolate Art Deco movie palace topped with a chocolate tower and guarded by miniature gold-powdered chocolate Oscar statuettes. Inside the roof will be a pre-cut strawberry layer cake for four.