What's next for Oscar nominees? This year's class goes back to work
Denzel Washington
Credit: Denzel Washington: Sidney Baldwin

All that Oscar’s class of 2002 has had to do for the last month is show up and revel in the attention. But a year from now, will they avoid being seen as last year’s flukes? For the actors and directors, their next choices can be even more important than the ones that earned them their nominations. Here’s what’s in their sights.

Best Actor Russell Crowe is getting back in action, starring as Captain Jack Aubrey in ”The Far Side of the World,” director Peter Weir’s adaptation of Patrick O’Brian’s naval war series. He’s also working on his screenwriting and directing debut, a war drama titled ”The Long Green Shore.” Denzel Washington is in postproduction on his directorial debut, ”The Untitled Antwone Fisher Story” (opening Nov. 27), a biopic about a troubled Navy man who eventually became a screenwriter (and wrote this script). Washington will then reteam with ”Devil in a Blue Dress” director Carl Franklin for ”Out of Time,” playing a cop torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool. Will Smith has ”Men in Black II” (July 3) in the can, and is weighing offers — he’s reportedly negotiating to star in the Michael Bay-directed sci-fi film ”I Am Legend.” Tom Wilkinson costars with Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, and busy fellow nominee Judi Dench in Oliver Parker’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s ”The Importance of Being Earnest” (May 17); he has also wrapped ”Before You Go,” starring Julie Walters and John Hannah. As for Sean Penn, no, we’re not making this up: He filmed a cameo in the docu-comedy ”You’ll Never Wiez in This Town Again,” directed by Pauly Shore. He can also be seen in this fall’s long-awaited release of ”The Weight of Water” opposite Elizabeth Hurley (the movie was screened to mixed reviews at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2000). Finally, he’s got another cameo in Thomas Vinterberg’s ensemble piece ”It’s All About Love.”