Plate Full for Busy Oscar Nominees

At Monday's Oscar nominee luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., Best Actor nominee Geoffrey Rush shared his scheme to liven up the endless parade of awards shows and interviews that lead up to the Oscars.

"Tom Hanks and I were talking … 'How are you dealing with the press?' We all get asked the same questions over and over again," said Rush, who's nominated for his role as the Marquis de Sade in Quills. "[So] we've come up with an idea: Wouldn't it be great if all of the nominees in each category could play each other's roles? And I asked Tom, 'What would you want to do?' and we both said, "Well … Gladiator! We could put a whole new spin on that movie."

Rush continued, "Javier Bardem could play the Marquis … we should tell [Oscar show producer] Gil Cates — hey, I think we've got something here."

As for the kind of gladiator he'd make, Rush said, "There'd be a little padding underneath that would be very, um, discreet. … But [me as Maximus] would be a bit like Daffy Duck playing the part, wouldn't it?"

Bardem, Lee Feel Like Oscar Outsiders Also having a bit of fun at journalists' expense was Before Night Falls' Bardem, Spain's first acting Oscar nominee, who joked that since arriving in Hollywood for awards season, he's been offered "two Cadillacs, one big house in Beverly Hills, and two golden watches — but not any roles." He added, "I think it is not very easy for Latin actors to get roles in American films, but I don't know, I'm a stranger in this country."

Ang Lee, despite picking up the Directors Guild of America prize Saturday night, said he thinks the Best Director Oscar isn't his for the taking. "It always goes to some big Hollywood director," he said, excluding himself from that description. In comparing the two awards, Lee said, "The DGA, that's very significant to me, but the Oscars … everybody is watching."

The Taiwanese director said that when he began filming the 10-times-nominated Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, he told the crew the magic formula for the East-meets-West epic: "Think Hollywood production value, Chinese budget, and Hong Kong efficiency." A crewmember yelled back in response, "Yeah, and the salary of Africa!"

Hudson Discusses Mom's Oscar By comparison, Almost Famous' Kate Hudson is Hollywood royalty. The Best Supporting Actress nominee talked about growing up with an Oscar in the house — her mother Goldie Hawn's 1969 award for Cactus Flower: "I've looked at it on the mantel my whole life and dreamed about it. It's never locked or in a cabinet and [it would have been easy for] someone to steal it. One time we had a huge party — my parents were out of town — and we had 500 people in our house. At the end of the night my brother and I were upstairs and he said, 'Oh my God, the Oscar!' and we went running down the stairs. Thank God it was still there."

Still, Hudson said she didn't practice giving her own Oscar speeches with mom's statue. "Oh," she smiled, "you don't touch it."

Life Is Sweet for Joan and Juliette Best Actress nominee Joan Allen, who's been nominated twice before in the supporting actress category, recalled telling her daughter about her 1995 nomination for Nixon. "Oscar? Oscar's a grouch," puzzled her daughter, then 2 years old. Now that she's 7, Allen's daughter recognizes the pluses of an Oscar nomination for mommy, "at least when the Godiva chocolates arrived," smiled the Contender actress.

Speaking of chocolate, Chocolat's Juliette Binoche, when asked, for no doubt the millionth time, to talk about her "relationship" with the confection, kidded, "We have children together." The French actress mused that "being a foreigner helps" at Oscar time, since you're never appreciated as much in your own country.

Nominees: What Are the Odds? Best Actress contender Ellen Burstyn, who's on her sixth nomination, referred pointedly to having had "a long rest" since her last nomination, 20 years ago. When asked how badly she wanted to win this year, the 68-year-old actress's eyes glinted as she said, "Totally."

Willem Dafoe, a supporting actor nominee for the little-seen Shadow of the Vampire, reasoned, "I make the movies that interest me … I'm not a Martian, so I think that if they interest me, they'll interest other people as well." As for his chances in the race this year, Dafoe, who's up against the seemingly unstoppable Benicio Del Toro, grinned and said, "I don't have expectations."

When asked what his odds of winning the Best Actor prize are, Tom Hanks quipped, "One out of five — unless something has changed that I'm not aware of."