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Strike shadows Oscars

Nominees announced under cloud of doubt

Javier Bardem in a scene from ‘No Country for Old Men.’

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — “No Country for Old Men” and “There Will Be Blood” led with eight Academy Awards nominations each Tuesday, among them best picture and acting honors for Daniel Day-Lewis and Javier Bardem — but it remained in doubt whether any stars would cross striking writers’ picket lines to attend the ceremony.

“No Country for Old Men,” a crime saga about a drug deal gone bad, and “There Will Be Blood,” a historical epic set in California’s oil boom years, will compete for best picture against the melancholy romance “Atonement,” the pregnancy comedy “Juno” and the legal drama “Michael Clayton.”

Awards shows have become casualties of the strike by writers, whose union leaders say they will not allow members to work on the Oscars. Nominees already are saying they would stay away in support of writers if the strike lingers until Oscar night Feb. 24.

“I wouldn’t do that. I couldn’t. I come from a tradition of not crossing picket lines,” said Tom Wilkinson, a supporting-actor nominee for “Michael Clayton.”

“Atonement” and “Michael Clayton” trailed with seven nominations each, including best actor for George Clooney in the title role of “Clayton.” The lead players in “Atonement,” Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, were shut out on nominations, however, with teenager Saoirse Ronan the only performer nominated for that film, for supporting actress.

Past Oscar winner Cate Blanchett had two nominations, as best actress for the historical pageant “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” and supporting actress for the Bob Dylan tale “I’m Not There.”

On strike since Nov. 5, the Writers Guild of America refused to let its members work on the Golden Globes, which prompted stars to avoid the show in solidarity.

If guild leaders follow through and refuse to let writers work on the Oscars, it would leave nominees and other celebrities forced to choose between attending the biggest night in show business on Feb. 24 or staying home to avoid crossing picket lines.

“I would never cross a picket line, ever. I couldn’t,” said Tony Gilroy, a directing nominee for “Michael Clayton.” “I’m a 20-year member of the Writers Guild. I think whatever they work out is going to be one way or the other, but no, I could never cross a picket line. I think there’s a lot of people who feel that way.”

Viggo Mortensen, who received a best-actor nomination for his performance as a Russian mob member in “Eastern Promises,” said he would not go if the strike is still on.

“But I have a feeling they’ll solve it,” he said.

The acting categories generally played out as expected — with a few surprises, including best actress nominee Laura Linney for “The Savages” and best-actor nominee Tommy Lee Jones for “In the Valley of Elah.” Neither performance had been high on the awards radar so far this Oscar season.

Best actress looks like a two-person duel between Julie Christie, an Oscar winner for “Darling,” as a woman succumbing to Alzheimer’s in “Away From Her” and Marion Cotillard as singer Edith Piaf in “La Vie En Rose.” Both won Golden Globes, Christie for dramatic actress, Cotillard for musical or comedy actress. Yet they face strong competition from Blanchett, Linney and relative newcomer Ellen Page as a whip-smart pregnant teen in “Juno.”

Day-Lewis, an Oscar winner for “My Left Foot,” grabbed another best-actor nomination as a flamboyant oil baron in “There Will Be Blood,” for which he could emerge as the favorite.

Along with Day-Lewis, Clooney, Mortensen and Jones, the other nominee was Johnny Depp, who won the Globe for musical or comedy actor as the vengeful barber in “Sweeney Todd.”

With a Golden Globe and universal acclaim for his performance as a relentless killer, Bardem looks like the closest thing to a front-runner this Oscar season, which is unusually wide open for best picture and other top categories.

Bardem and Wilkinson are up against Casey Affleck for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” Philip Seymour Hoffman for “Charlie Wilson’s War” and Hal Holbrook for “Into the Wild.”

Joining Blanchett and Ronan in the supporting actress category were Ruby Dee for “American Gangster,” Amy Ryan for “Gone Baby Gone” and Tilda Swinton for “Michael Clayton.”

The nominees are …

1. Best Picture: “Atonement,” “Juno,” “Michael Clayton,” “No Country for Old Men,” “There Will Be Blood.”

2. Actor: George Clooney, “Michael Clayton”; Daniel Day-Lewis, “There Will Be Blood”; Johnny Depp, “Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street”; Tommy Lee Jones, “In the Valley of Elah”; Viggo Mortensen, “Eastern Promises.”

3. Actress: Cate Blanchett, “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”; Julie Christie, “Away From Her”; Marion Cotillard, “La Vie en Rose”; Laura Linney, “The Savages”; Ellen Page, “Juno.”

4. Supporting Actor: Casey Affleck, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”; Javier Bardem, “No Country for Old Men”; Hal Holbrook, “Into the Wild”; Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Charlie Wilson’s War”; Tom Wilkinson, “Michael Clayton.”

5. Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett, “I’m Not There”; Ruby Dee, “American Gangster”; Saoirse Ronan, “Atonement”; Amy Ryan, “Gone Baby Gone”; Tilda Swinton, “Michael Clayton.”

6. Director: Julian Schnabel, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”; Jason Reitman, “Juno”; Tony Gilroy, “Michael Clayton”; Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, “No Country for Old Men”; Paul Thomas Anderson, “There Will Be Blood.”

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