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The Harveys

Times Staff Writers

And the Oscar goes to ... Harvey Weinstein. * Love him or loathe him -- and many in Hollywood do both -- the gregarious, burly co-chairman of Miramax Films had a hand in 40 Academy Award nominations Tuesday, including three of the five best picture nominations: “Chicago,” “Gangs of New York” and “The Hours.” * Miramax dominated the numbers game on a day filled with other intriguing developments, including a nomination for a director who’s a fugitive from justice (Roman Polanski of “The Pianist”) , a screenplay nod for a writer who doesn’t exist (Donald Kaufman of “Adaptation”) and even an animated film honor for one of the year’s biggest box office bombs, Disney’s “Treasure Planet.” * On the acting front, Meryl Streep made Oscar history when she received her 13th nomination, edging past screen legend Katharine Hepburn. Jack Nicholson moved into position to win his fourth Academy Award, which would be the most for any actor. Paul Newman proved at 78 that he still has the chops -- and the blue eyes -- to land a best supporting actor bid, for “Road to Perdition.” * Tuesday’s nominations marked a rousing conclusion to a sometimes difficult year for Miramax Films. Derailed by failed acquisitions like “Pinocchio,” costly flops such as “Below” and “They,” budget overruns on “Gangs of New York” and unflat-tering media attention, Miramax still garnered more nominations than any other studio. Weinstein’s company financed “Chicago,” and co-financed “Gangs of New York” and “The Hours.” He and his brother, Miramax Co-Chairman Bob Weinstein, also are listed in the credits as executive producers of “The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers.” The only best picture nominee without a Weinstein connection is Focus Features’ “The Pianist.”

Miramax’s 40 nominations constitute the biggest Oscar haul for one studio in nearly three decades, but they fall short of a record. United Artists holds that honor with 45 nominations in 1940. But working for Miramax isn’t a walk in the park for filmmakers, as director Martin Scorsese learned in his battles with Weinstein in bringing “Gangs of New York” to the screen. Still, after the film received 10 Oscar nominations Tuesday, Scorsese used the opportunity to toss a bouquet to the Miramax mogul.

“He’s a showman,” said Scorsese, who received a best director nomination. “I think he’s in the tradition of ... David O. Selznick, who made these extraordinary films that people argue about today, that have flaws in them but are the essence of Hollywood’s Golden Age. In a certain sense, Weinstein is going in the same direction in the modern world.”

Weinstein, who was part of a group that tried unsuccessfully to shift part of the Oscars show to New York, issued a modest statement on the nominations windfall: “Everything is cyclical. Thankfully things worked out for us this year.”

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Overall, “Chicago” had the most razzle-dazzle with members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who honored the film with 13 nominations, including Renee Zellweger for best actress, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah for supporting actress, John C. Reilly for supporting actor and Rob Marshall for director. No musical has received so many nominations since 1964’s “Mary Poppins” -- and no musical has won the best picture Oscar since 1968’s “Oliver!”

Other best actress nods

Joining Zellweger in the best actress category are Salma Hayek for her performance as Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in “Frida,” Nicole Kidman as emotionally devastated novelist Virginia Woolf in “The Hours,” Julianne Moore as a troubled ‘50s housewife and mother in the melodrama “Far From Heaven” and Diane Lane as a commuting suburban adulteress in “Unfaithful.”

Moore was also nominated for supporting actress in “The Hours,” playing yet another troubled ‘50s housewife and mother.

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“It’s insane, it’s absolutely insane,” the actress said in Los Angeles of her double nomination. A day after “The Hours” had premiered in London, Kidman was on the phone Tuesday discussing her second consecutive Oscar nomination. “Oh my God, oh my God!” she said giddily. “I’m smiling.” In Paris, where she is promoting “Frida,” a Miramax film she helped produce, Hayek was emotional as she spoke on the phone Tuesday morning. “I have not stopped crying,” she said. The first actress of Mexican descent to be nominated in this category said the dreams of her family were riding on her performance: “I don’t want to disappoint them.”

Like Hayek, Lane is a first-time nominee. The former child star poignantly recalled that her father, who died a year ago, got to see “Unfaithful” and told her “she rang the bell.” Lane added: “He said, ‘You may go all the way, baby.’ ”

Familiar faces dominated the best actor category. The only first-time nominee is Adrien Brody, who plays a brilliant Jewish musician hiding out in Nazi-occupied Poland in the Holocaust drama “The Pianist.” He will go up against Nicholson as a bitter widower in “About Schmidt,” two-time winner Michael Caine as the disillusioned British journalist in “The Quiet American,” former winner Daniel Day-Lewis as the homicidal kingpin in “Gangs of New York” and another former winner, Nicolas Cage, as screenwriting twins Charlie and Donald Kaufman in “Adaptation.”

Caine confessed Tuesday he couldn’t sleep because he was fretting over whether he’d be nominated. “The nerves never go if you are sensitive about these things,” he said from his home outside London.

Caine, who was 68 when he made the film, quipped that even at his age, he got the girl. “I used to tell journalists, ‘I don’t get the girl anymore, I get the part.’ Here, I got the girl and the part. It’s probably the last time.”

In London promoting “Adaptation,” Cage said he was in the midst of a radio interview when “I heard a big ‘whoop’ sound from the other room and colleagues came in and told me what happened.”

The directors

Facing off against Scorsese for best director are Polanski for “The Pianist,” Stephen Daldry for “The Hours,” Rob Marshall for “Chicago” and Pedro Almodovar for “Talk to Her.”

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Scorsese, who has never won an Oscar, is the sentimental favorite. He recently captured the Golden Globe and is up for a Directors Guild of America award.

The New York-based filmmaker admitted that he didn’t feel part of the Hollywood establishment when he lost the Oscar for 1980’s “Raging Bull.”

“Later on, with ‘GoodFellas,’ for a few seconds I thought I would get it,” Scorsese said Tuesday, hoarse with the flu. “I felt if it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen.” But this time it may happen, because Scorsese has been vigorously campaigning for his film. “I’ve been with it since I was 9 or 10 years old. I’m not going to abandon it.”

Daldry, a British theater director, considers himself “lucky” to have been nominated for best director for the only two features he has made. He was a nominee two years ago for “Billy Elliott.”

One nominee will almost certainly not be walking up the red carpet for the 75th annual Academy Awards show on March 23. Polanski, the Paris-based Polish filmmaker who was previously nominated in this category for 1974’s “Chinatown” and 1980’s “Tess,” fled the country in the late 1970s and remains a fugitive for having unlawful sex with a then-13-year-old girl.

Perhaps the biggest surprise among the director nominees was Almodovar, who was not nominated by the DGA for his Spanish-language drama about two men and the comatose women they love. Another first-time nominee was Marshall, a former Broadway dancer-turned-choreographer and director who made his feature directorial debut with “Chicago.”

“I can’t believe it!” said Marshall, calling from Paris, where the film is opening.

Supporting players

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All 5,816 members of the academy vote on best picture nominees; branches or screening committees vote on nominations in the other categories. The entire membership is eligible to vote on the winners. Usually, the supporting actor and actress categories are the most unpredictable -- and toughest competition. This year is no exception.

Queen Latifah, the popular rap singer and actress who plays a wily jail matron in “Chicago,” was nominated along with her co-star Zeta-Jones, who returned to her musical comedy roots with her sultry stare and athletic dance routines, portraying a woman who murders her husband. They are competing against former Oscar winner Kathy Bates in “About Schmidt,” two-time winner Streep in “Adaptation” and Moore for “The Hours.”

Bates, who won for best actress in 1990’s Stephen King thriller “Misery,” said, “Jack and I really clicked. It seemed effortless to work with him, and we had such a good time.”

She added that they shot the nude hot tub sequence in one day. “We would get out of the tub every now and then, although the water was nice and warm, but we didn’t want to get our skin too wrinkly.”

In the twilight of his career, Newman received a best supporting actor nomination for his role as the Depression-era mob chieftain in “Road to Perdition.”

A 10-time nominee and best actor winner for 1986’s “The Color of Money,” Newman will go up against four seasoned characters actors, including Chris Cooper in “Adaptation,” John C. Reilly in “Chicago,” former winner Christopher Walken in “Catch Me If You Can” and Ed Harris in “The Hours.”

Perhaps the story of Nia Vardalos, who was nominated for best original screenplay for the surprise hit “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” could inspire tomorrow’s Oscarcontenders: “I’m one of these people in this industry who never practiced my Oscar acceptance speech,” she said. “I wondered if one day I could do craft services for that show. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be invited.”

*

More Oscar news:

Critic’s Notebook

The film academy and Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein are right in tune, Kenneth Turan observes. Page 3

Bouquets for boutique

Tiny upstart Focus Features grabs 11 nominations. Page 3

A.M. angst: A four-minute ceremony requires three months of prep. Page 4

Twists and turns: Some eyebrow-raising nominations. Page 5

Toon tussle: Traditional animation has a field day. Page 6

Gift deluge: Flowers? Balloons? Precious jewels? Page 7

The other nominees: Page 4

*

On the Web:

Video coverage of the Oscars includes Times staff writer John Horn’s analysis, plus clips of the major categories. Visit www.calendarlive.com/oscars.

*

The ceremony:

What: The 75th Annual Academy Awards.

When: March 23. This will be the fifth Oscars since the ceremony moved from Mondays to Sundays.

Where: The Kodak Theatre, Hollywood. This is the second year in Oscar’s Hollywood home.

Network: ABC, seen locally on KABC-TV.

Time: 5:30 to 9 p.m. (at least that’s what’s promised; the Oscar telecast typically runs way long. Last year’s was four hours and 15 minutes. A half-hour arrival program precedes the presentation ceremony.)

Host: Steve Martin. He previously hosted two years ago.

Producer: Gil Cates, who has produced 10 Oscar telecasts since 1990.

Special awards: As of today, only Peter O’Toole has been announced as an honorary Oscar winner. O’Toole, though, has declined the honor, stating that he is still a working thespian and hopes to win an Academy Award for his acting before he retires.


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