January 25, 2011 / 10:24 PM / 7 years ago

Oscar extends warm welcome to newcomer nominees

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Child star Hailee Steinfeld hit the jackpot with her first feature film, Australia’s Jacki Weaver had to wait 40 years and Jesse Eisenberg joined the elite club of Oscar nominees on Tuesday by bringing to life the publicity-shy creator of Facebook.

<p>Director Tom Hooper poses at a screening of his film "The King's Speech" at the Grauman's Chinese theatre in Hollywood, California November 5, 2010. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>

Oscar’s red carpet will be brimming with newcomers in February as eight of the 20 actors nominated for the movie industry’s highest honors are first timers. And in close-knit Hollywood, three of the five directors competing for an Academy Award this year are also new arrivals.

“I grew up watching the (Academy) awards and never thought this would be my reality,” said an elated Darren Aronofsky, nominated for directing the ballet thriller “Black Swan”.

“I‘m pretty freaking happy! The dog jumped over the moon. It’s a very competitive year, especially for directors,” said David O. Russell, another first-time director nominee for the true life boxing drama “The Fighter”.

Britain’s Tom Hooper, 38, better known for directing TV dramas, also makes his first trip to the Academy Awards on Feb 27, courtesy of front-runner “The King’s Speech”.

Proving some stars really are born overnight, Hailee Steinfeld is getting her first taste of Oscar glory at age 14, playing vengeful Mattie Ross in western “True Grit”.

The California teenager had shot only a handful of commercials and TV roles before being chosen for “True Grit” from thousands of young actresses in a nationwide search.

Steinfeld said she was asleep when she was nominated for best supporting actress at dawn on Tuesday.

<p>Actress Jacki Weaver in a scene from "Animal Kingdom". REUTERS/Sony Pictures Classics</p>

“I woke up to hear my parents screaming in the other room. It’s very, very surreal. when I woke up I thought, I’ve got to be dreaming. This is crazy,” she told Reuters.

EISENBERG, LAWRENCE, FRANCO

Eisenberg, who earned a nod playing Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network”, said he took the role because “the script was wonderful. The character was endlessly fascinating -- a very frightened and frightening character.”

Unknown a year ago, “Winter’s Bone” actress Jennifer Lawrence, 20, found herself in the company of veterans Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman and Annette Bening. Lawrence plays a teenager facing eviction who journeys through her drug-infested community to find her missing father in the low-budget drama.

“Spider-Man” star James Franco barely had to move to win the first Oscar nomination of his 13-year career. Franco, 32, plays a man trapped for days in a canyon with his arms pinned against a rock after a climbing accident in “127 Hours”.

Actors Christian Bale and Mark Ruffalo are also newcomers in their respective roles as a drug addicted boxer in “The Fighter” and a sperm donor dad in “The Kids Are All Right.”

Weaver, 63, may be a household name in her native Australia, but she is finally finding fans in Hollywood thanks to her part as the tough matriarch of a Melbourne crime family in the low-budget movie “Animal Kingdom”.

“I‘m elated to the point of euphoria. I feel like I‘m in a walking dream. I‘m so relieved that all those millions of Australians that wanted me to get this nomination aren’t disappointed. Happy Australia Day,” Weaver said of her best supporting actress nod.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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