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Nominees treated to lunch and a sweatshirt

Stars talked movies and assessed their chances
/ Source: The Associated Press

Everybody always says it’s an honor just to be nominated for an Oscar — but they always leave out the part about the nifty sweatshirt they get.

Some of the world’s biggest stars gathered at the annual pre-awards luncheon Monday at the Beverly Hilton to collect their pullovers, talk up their movies and have a free bite to eat while they’re all still potential winners.

Peter Weir, nominated for producing and directing “Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World,” said the gathering is a chance to mingle with fellow nominees before the hard-bitten competitiveness kicks in.

“There’s something ancient, I’m talking really primitive, some Stone Age thing comes out and you want to win. It’s like acid in your mouth,” he said.

But that’s for Oscar night on Feb. 29, Weir added. “It’s still somewhat civilized, so it’s a very nice period right now.”

Benicio Del Toro, who won a supporting actor Oscar for 2000’s “Traffic” and is up again this year for “21 Grams,” said he’s “a little more relaxed” this time around. “I’m collecting signatures, autographs,” he said before the luncheon.

Keisha Castle-Hughes, the “Whale Rider” star who at 13 is the youngest-ever best lead actress contender, said she really was hoping to do some stargazing. “I saw Charlize Theron,” the New Zealander said of her “Monster” rival. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God! Oh, my God!’ ... I was interested in meeting Johnny Depp, but he’s not here.”

Castle-Hughes said she’s hoping for another chance to encounter the “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor nominee. “But that will have to wait for awards night,” she said.

Jackson dons shoes for the occasionPeter Jackson was previously invited to the luncheon when he was up for best director for 2001’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.” “I couldn’t come because we were at work finishing the other two films,” he said.

Now that they’re all finished — except for the final “extended edition” DVD — he had time to kick back and enjoy the perks of nomination for directing and producing the end of the trilogy, “The Return of the King.”

The normally barefoot Kiwi director even put on a rare accessory for the event. “Yes, I do have shoes on. I feel it would have been impolite not to wear shoes,” he joked.

The random seating for the luncheon is determined when workers at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences pick little wooden balls out of a bingo cage-tumbler.

Of all the scores of nominees, Jackson — whose “The Return of the King” overtook “Finding Nemo” as the highest grossing movie to open in 2003 — ended up at a table with “Finding Nemo” director Andrew Stanton, whose movie is up for best animated feature.

Among the other nominees, “Mystic River” supporting actress nominee Marcia Gay Harden said she hopes she won’t have too tough a time finding a gown for awards night.

It will have to be big enough for three, since she’s seven months pregnant with twins.

“Babies are always a good sign. I mean, life and birth and hope,” said Harden, who previously won a supporting actress Oscar for 2000’s “Pollock.” “These guys are twins and I’ve heard in other cultures that’s a sign of fame and fortune. So ... I’m waiting.”