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NEW YORK (Reuters) - At age 63 Australian acting stalwart Jacki Weaver still sees herself as "just a nice girl" from a leafy suburb of Sydney who never really contemplated gracing the red carpets of the Hollywood awards season.
A household name down under after decades in television and movies, Weaver is unknown across the seas but is now featuring in the U.S. film awards season after scoring a best supporting actress Golden Globe nomination on Tuesday for independent Australian crime drama, "Animal Kingdom."
"My main emotion right now is bewilderment. I am thrilled, I am absolutely knocked out," Weaver said in reaction to the nomination, speaking by phone in the wee morning hours from her home city of Sydney where she is currently starring in a play with fellow Aussie actress Cate Blanchett.
In her standout performance in low-budget "Animal Kingdom," Weaver plays iron-fisted but eerily nurturing grandmother Janine "Smurf" Cody. She is the matriarch of a volatile Melbourne crime family who introduces her alienated teenage grandson into their world of robbery, drug-dealing and murder.
Weaver, who has won several acting awards in Australia dating back to the 1971 film "Stork" after appearing in television since the 1960s, said she lived in Melbourne when some of the real-life crime events in the film truly occurred.
But her villainous role, which was specifically written for Weaver by Australian director David Michod for his award-winning debut feature film, was far from her upbringing in the safe Sydney suburb of Pymble and her usual acting fare.
"It was fascinating because it is so different from me, I mean, I am a nice girl from Pymble and my father is a lawyer and my brother is a lawyer, I don't know any criminals," she said. "It was a gift as a role, really."
Had such a nomination happened earlier in her career, she said she may have traversed a different path, but she never really considered a career in Hollywood unlike her younger contemporary Judy Davis.
"I have always been fairly content. Being a success in America, even though I love American movies ... that was not on my agenda somehow. If this had happened 30 years ago, I might have reacted a bit differently."
Still, Weaver said there was time for that to change.
"The exciting thing about this adventure is that for the last couple of decades of my career -- which I hope I have got another couple of decades left in me -- I will have a wider range of options probably," she said. "That's all I live for, apart from my family, is playing interesting characters."
With Sydney now focused on a visit by Oprah Winfrey that includes a big red "O" lit up on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Weaver said a friend joked they might now have to put "a pink J" for Jacki on the bridge.
As for the other big "O" -- a possible Oscar nomination -- Weaver remains cheerily guarded.
"I have got this superstitious thing about not mentioning the 'O' word, that would be unbelievable, that would blow my mind -- especially at this stage in my life," she said.
editing by Bob Tourtellotte