Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone, and more are poised for comebacks at the 1998 Oscars

Familiarity breeds contempt — except in Hollywood, where it breeds Oscar buzz. This year’s Academy Awards may well feature a clutch of familiar faces — albeit reinvented in some very unfamiliar roles.

Topping the veterans-who-may-get-their-due list is ’70s box office king Burt Reynolds, whose critically acclaimed turn as a porn director in New Line’s Boogie Nights makes him a leading contender for Supporting Actor. As one rival Oscar strategist puts it, ”Hollywood loves survivors, and Burt is the ultimate survivor.” The never-nominated Reynolds says of the speculation, ”It scares the s— out of me.”

Sylvester Stallone, on the other hand, has received an acting nod — for 1976’s Rocky. But he had dropped from the ranks of serious act-uhs until this year, when he gained 40 pounds to play a small-town sheriff in Miramax’s Cop Land. ”The [positive] reviews were almost unanimous,” says Cynthia Swartz, Miramax’s senior VP for special projects. ”Of course we’re doing a [Best Actor] campaign.” Similarly, glowing notices for Kim Basinger in L.A. Confidential have led to a Supporting Actress push from Warner; a studio source says trade ads touting Basinger are already planned.

And in perhaps the ultimate career-resuscitation story, former blaxploitation queen Pam Grier is generating surprisingly strong buzz from early screenings of director Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown (due Dec. 25). Says Mark Gill, Miramax’s L.A. president, ”We are definitely going to launch a big campaign for her.” Given the studio’s famously canny marketing division and a dearth of Best Actress candidates this year, that’s not a vow to be taken lightly.