Oscar Nominees Share Lunch, Light and Sober Talk

The Associated Press

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Sandra Bullock spoke of maintaining a good work ethic for years to come. Woody Harrelson spoke of soldiers. Carey Mulligan spoke about bumping butts with Quentin Tarantino.

This season’s Academy Awards elite gathered Monday for the annual nominees luncheon, with table talk ranging from weighty matters such as the war on terror to lighter chatter like what to wear to the big show.

Before sharing a meal of poached pear gorgonzola salad, marinated chicken breast and apple tarts, nominees dropped by a news conference to talk about the whirlwind leading to the March 7 Oscar ceremony.

Bullock has been considered the front-runner to win best actress for the football drama “The Blind Side” but said didn’t take her nomination for granted.

“Does anybody expect a nomination? I certainly didn’t,” said Bullock, an enduring box-office draw who had never before been nominated for an Oscar. “I’m really very amazed and thankful to be here, because I’d like to work hard for another 10, 15 years. So if this is what that means, bring it.”

Harrelson, a supporting-actor nominee for the homefront war drama “The Messenger,” and Jeremy Renner, a best-actor contender for the Iraq war saga “The Hurt Locker,” said their roles instilled fresh respect for troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I walk up to any military personnel I can find, and I shake their hand and I thank them for their service,” Renner said.

Before “The Messenger,” Harrelson said he generally had viewed the war and the troops fighting it in the same light.

“I always kind of lumped it all together, and it wasn’t until I had the opportunity through the shooting of `The Messenger’ to spend a lot of time with people in the Army that I started to realize how amazing these people are,” Harrelson said. “As much as I have come to love the warrior, I still loathe the war.”

Harrelson had a concise reply when asked if he ever expected to earn an Oscar nomination for a film released the same year he played a gleeful slayer of flesh-eating fiends in “Zombieland.”

“Short answer, no,” Harrelson said.

The Oscar show had its best TV ratings ever when Cameron’s blockbuster “Titanic” dominated the awards 12 years ago. Oscar organizers hope that having “Avatar” and hits such as “Up,” “The Blind Side” and “District 9” in the mix will coax more viewers to tune in to a show that saw ratings fall to an all-time low two years ago.

“He said, `There isn’t actually anything at the end of the rainbow,'” Gyllenhaal said. “He said, `It’s a lot of fun and enjoy it in that spirit. If you make it mean too much more than that, you’ll probably go astray.'”

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Oscar Nominees Share Lunch, Light and Sober Talk