Tinseltown abuzz about 'Chicago' nominations

Musical up for a leading 13 Academy Awards

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

— "Chicago" is striking all the right notes in its quest to become the first musical in 34 years to win the best-picture Academy Award: solid box office, a strong showing in earlier film honors and a leading 13 Oscar nominations.

Other best-picture nominees Tuesday for the 75th annual Oscars were "Gangs of New York," "The Hours," "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" and "The Pianist."

The film with the most nominations often takes the top Oscar, especially when its honors include key categories such as acting and directing. "Chicago" grabbed nominations for four of its stars -- lead actress Renee Zellweger, supporting actresses Catherine Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah, and supporting actor John C. Reilly -- plus director Rob Marshall.

It also earned a screenplay nomination for Bill Condon, who adapted the musical from the Bob Fosse stage hit about two jailed murderesses competing for tabloid celebrity.

"Chicago" followed "Moulin Rouge" as the second straight musical to earn a best-picture nomination after a 22-year drought for the genre. The 1991 animated musical "Beauty and the Beast" was nominated for best picture, but no song-and-dance flick has won the top prize since 1968's "Oliver!"

"I can't quite imagine it happening, but I would be so honored to carry on that tradition from 'Oliver!"' Marshall said. "I grew up on movie musicals. They really were my world. I just think it's an incredible American art form that can lift you in ways that nonmusicals can't."

"Gangs of New York," an 1860s tale of vengeance, trailed "Chicago" with 10 nominations, including one for director Martin Scorsese. The Virginia Woolf-related drama "The Hours" was next with nine.

Along with Zellweger, best-actress contenders were Salma Hayek as Mexican painter Frida Kahlo in "Frida"; Nicole Kidman as author Woolf in "The Hours"; Diane Lane as an adulterous wife in "Unfaithful"; and Julianne Moore as a 1950s housewife whose marriage crumbles in "Far From Heaven."

Moore also received a supporting-actress nomination for playing another troubled 1950s housewife in "The Hours."

"They're wildly diverse characters. The fact that both happened to be placed in the 1950s, I didn't even think about that when we filmed them. Except that I didn't want my hairdos to be the same," said Moore, who covered her trademark red hair with a blond wig in "Far From Heaven."

Meryl Streep was shut out in the lead-actress category for "The Hours" but did earn a supporting-actress nomination for the twisted Hollywood tale "Adaptation."


AP File Photo

Actress Renee Zellweger, center, is nominated for an Academy Award for best actress for her role in "Chicago." The musical, adapted from the stage hit about two murderous women competing for tabloid celebrity, led Oscar contenders Tuesday with 13 nominations, among them best picture and four acting honors.

That makes her the most-nominated actor ever, with 13. She had been tied with Katharine Hepburn at 12.

"I am thrilled and honored to be nominated, and also aghast that anybody could imagine that I could surpass the unsurpassable Katharine Hepburn in any category whatsoever," Streep said. "But it's lovely to even be mentioned in the same sentence."

Best-actor nominees were Adrien Brody as a musician hiding in Nazi-occupied Poland in "The Pianist"; Nicolas Cage in dual roles as a neurotic screenwriter and his carefree twin brother in "Adaptation"; Michael Caine as a journalist in the 1950s Vietnam tale "The Quiet American"; Daniel Day-Lewis as a ruthlessly charming crime boss in "Gangs of New York"; and Jack Nicholson as a widower examining his dreary life in "About Schmidt."

"Chicago" lead actor Richard Gere was overlooked for a nomination.

The seven nominations for "The Pianist" also included one for director Roman Polanski, a fugitive from the United States for having had unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

Joining Moore, Queen Latifah, Streep and Zeta-Jones for supporting actress was Kathy Bates as a bawdy in-law in "About Schmidt."

Along with Reilly, supporting-actor nominees were Chris Cooper in "Adaptation"; Ed Harris in "The Hours"; Paul Newman in "Road to Perdition"; and Christopher Walken in "Catch Me If You Can."

Besides Marshall, Polanski and Scorsese, the best-director contenders were Pedro Almodovar, a surprise nominee for the Spanish-language film "Talk to Her," and Stephen Daldry for "The Hours."

The 75th annual Academy Awards will be broadcast on ABC (Sunflower Broadband channels 9 and 12) at 7:30 p.m. March 23.

Absent was Peter Jackson, director of "The Two Towers," who had earned a best-director nomination for the fantasy trilogy's first chapter, "The Fellowship of the Ring."

Scorsese has been nominated three times before but never won. He had been developing "Gangs of New York" since the early 1970s and had a highly publicized feud with Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein over the final cut.

"There's no doubt I get hotheaded," Scorsese said. "As personalities, we wound up learning to work together. That doesn't mean I didn't argue and scream and yell. He did too, which made me do it even more. But at the end, there was always reconciliation and humor that he could take what I could dish out."

Disney-owned Miramax will be competing with itself in many categories. Along with "Gangs," Miramax distributed "Chicago" and co-produced "The Hours" with Paramount. Weinstein and his brother, Bob, also have executive producer credits on "The Two Towers."