Image Credit: Steve Granitz/WireImage.comOnce a year for the last 30, the current crop of Academy Awards nominees come together to break grilled shrimp on focaccia bread at the Beverly Hilton, smile for the class photo, and turn a deaf ear to demands for 45-second acceptance speeches and promises of a three-hour running time. But before the 151 contenders (out of 190, which is a nominees luncheon record) could eat, drink and be merry yesterday, the most recognizable of their ranks fielded questions in the interview room, which yielded the following pearls of Oscar race wisdom.

“When I was 13, I had to go to bar mitzvahs every weekend and this is the same feeling. I have to put a suit on every weekend to go meet with a lot of Jews. The alternative where no one likes your movie is worse. I’ve experienced both and this is better.” — Jesse Eisenberg, Best Actor nominee, The Social Network

“Sunday Rose chooses what she calls ‘pretty dresses.’ She has a very strong voice in terms of what I will be wearing on the night of the Oscars. Fingers crossed, guys. I could be wearing a tutu.” — Nicole Kidman, Best Actress, Rabbit Hole, on her 2-year-old daughter/personal stylist

“I do get the odd bow which I put down to either confusion or facetiousness.” — Colin Firth, Best Actor, The King’s Speech, on how people have treated him differently since being nominated for playing royalty

“I’ve been a contented jobbing actor for 48 years in Australia. I’ve never had grand ambitions to work elsewhere and been very happy, and suddenly I’m thrust into this milieu of much excitement. It’s become addictive. I thought it was the twilight of my career but it seems as only the mid-afternoon of it. — Jackie Weaver, Best Actress, Animal Kingdom

“I probably have the least showy performance of the group, so I’m surprised I made the cut. But it’s taken 20 years to get here, so I’ve been, as a meditation, making myself enjoy the hell out of it every single day. And I came up as a starving, struggling actor, so I’m very grateful for a gift lunch.” — Mark Ruffalo, Best Supporting Actor, The Kids are All Right

“My friend Laura and I have a tradition where we eat linguine and takeout and watch [the Oscars]. This is the first I’m gonna miss it.” — Jennifer Lawrence, Best Actress, Winter’s Bone

“It took me at least six months to get back to my feet. It’s not that you become a different person, but you start to behave or say some words that really don’t belong to yourself. It’s like if you go to a disguise party and stay in your disguise for more than 12 hours. There will be a moment where you believe you are a banana.” — Javier Bardem, Best Actor, Biutiful, on how hard it was to shake his character

“Water, vitamins, and the excitement of it is pretty much an energy drink. I do airplane seat yoga. After recent events, people stare at me a little less when I lift my feet over my head and shake ’em out.” — Melissa Leo, Best Supporting Actress, The Fighter, on how she cares for herself during awards season

“Well, it’s certainly all about leaving space for growth, but it’s surprising that that’s become the conversation now instead of the movies. Unfortunately, [it’s all about] what are you wearing?” — Natalie Portman, Best Actress, Black Swan, on planning her Oscar attire around her baby bump

“We have just heard, reputedly by The Sun, [although] Colin seems to suggest it might not be the most reliable source in the world, that the Queen saw The King’s Speech. ‘Moved’ was the quote. Colin and I were just saying, ‘Will that go on the poster?’ ‘Dazzling’ — The New York Times. ‘Moving’ — Your Majesty.” — Geoffrey Rush, Best Supporting Actor, The King’s Speech

“When they first approached me, I wanted to play George ’cause I thought that was the best part. They said, ‘Not interested.’ And then I thought, ‘Well, Lionel?’ It was a boys’ movie. That’s the honest truth. I didn’t look in the mirror and think, ‘God, I’m a dead ringer to the Queen Mother.’ It was daunting. Everyone knows her. She lived such a long time, so every biography is at least five-inches thick. I thought I’ve got to capture some kind of essence without being a patronizing impersonation.” — Helena Bonham Carter, Best Supporting Actress, The King’s Speech, who also worried that her Oscar outfit would probably “be a catastrophe,” but promised to at least wear the same-colored shoes

“It was funny to me when the announcement was made about Anne and I hosting, because a lot of the reaction was like, ‘Oh, an obvious ploy by the Academy to bring in younger viewers.’ And uh, yeah, duh. Is that a bad thing? How is that a criticism? A lot will be about bringing in a fresh crop of viewers, but one of the backbones of the show is to appreciate the history of film.” — James Franco, Best Actor, 127 Hours

“It’s a wonderful time and I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t make me a little nervous to blow my cover. It’s easier to be effective playing characters when people don’t know much about you.” — John Hawkes, Best Supporting Actor, Winter’s Bone, on why it may seem like he ducks the press on recent red carpets

“I would watch the [Oscars] mostly for the red carpet to see what everybody was wearing. I gotta be honest.” — Hailee Steinfeld, Best Supporting Actress, True Grit

“I just said when I walked in that I missed him, but there are lots of other friendly faces here.” — Michelle Williams, Best Actress, Blue Valentine, on what it felt like to be nominated without her co-star Ryan Gosling

“I met Charlene. She didn’t really give me any advice, but asked me not to wear the fishnets [in The Fighter]. Unfortunately, David O. Russell disagreed with her.” — Amy Adams, Best Supporting Actress, The Fighter, on the real-life person she portrayed

“If you can open people’s hearts first, maybe people’s minds get opened after that. I’m very proud that [The Kids Are All Right] sticks up for the dignity of all families, especially for the kids. Those children deserve the same sense of self-respect and dignity about their families as kids of straight parents. There’s a special kind of grasp that I get on my arm because of what the movie does say about the family. Our country’s a big tent. We can let everybody in.” — Annette Bening, Best Actress, The Kids are All Right

“These awards are, as well as being a chance to acknowledge our peers’ great work, also a commercial for the motion picture industry. It’s a chance for the filmmakers and the studios to say, ‘C’mon, see our movie,’ and that’s a good thing when the movies are as good as they are this year.” — Jeff Bridges, Best Actor, True Grit

Black Swan
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