BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Hollywood awards are so up for grabs that even Golden Globe voters were divided, picking seven nominees for best drama instead of the usual five.
The classy British drama "Atonement" received a leading seven nominations Thursday and joined such savage critical favorites as "No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood" as potential Academy Awards heavyweights.
All three earned Golden Globe nominations for best drama, though this year's awards pageant is so wide open that voters could not narrow things down to the usual five nominees. Because of a tie in voting, there were seven, the others being the crime sagas "American Gangster" and "Eastern Promises," the feel-good campus story "The Great Debaters" and the corporate-lawsuit drama "Michael Clayton."
Just released last weekend, "Atonement" earned nominations for lead players Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, 13-year-old supporting actress Saoirse Ronan and director Joe Wright, along with screenwriting and musical score.
With so many nominations on "Atonement," the Globes ceremony Jan. 13 will be a true celebration for the cast and crew, said Knightley, a past Globe and Oscar nominee for Wright's 2005 film "Pride & Prejudice."
Knightley already has gotten a head start on the revelry, though.
"I unwittingly just got attacked (last night) by a bottle of Chianti," said Knightley, playing a woman who loses her new lover to false criminal accusations by her jealous younger sister. "But maybe hair of the dog and I'll just carry on with a bit of champagne tonight. I think that's all right."
A three-way tie for the fifth slot resulted in the seven drama nominees, the first time that has happened in the 65-year history of the Globes, said Michael Russell, spokesman for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which presents the awards.
Oscar nominations come out Jan. 22, nine days after the Globes are presented. Further confounding the crowded Oscar campaign is a strong lineup in the Golden Globes' second best-picture category, for musical or comedy.
The Johnny Depp stage adaptation "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" could become the latest entry in a rebirth of the Hollywood movie musical to earn a best-picture Oscar nomination.
Along with best musical or comedy, "Sweeney Todd" earned acting nominations for Depp as the murderous title character and Helena Bonham Carter as his landlady, who serves the barber's victims up in her meat pies. Tim Burton, Bonham Carter's romantic partner, was nominated for directing "Sweeney Todd."
Expecting their second child, Burton and Bonham Carter got the word about the nominations while at the doctor's office in England, where they live.
"We were sort of in the middle of a chat about inducing the baby. It's meant to come out tomorrow," Bonham Carter said, adding that they might celebrate by spray-painting "my belly, because it looks like a globe."
Along with "Sweeney Todd," two other musicals _ the Beatles romance "Across the Universe" and the Broadway adaptation "Hairspray" _ were nominated in the musical or comedy category, along with the foreign-policy romp "Charlie Wilson's War" and the teen-pregnancy tale "Juno."
The satiric "Charlie Wilson's War" ran second to "Atonement" with five nominations, among them acting honors for Oscar winners Tom Hanks as a congressman, Julia Roberts as a Texas socialite and Philip Seymour Hoffman as a slovenly CIA man who shape U.S. covert reaction to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Past Oscar winners crowded the Globe nominations. Hoffman was a double Globe nominee, also scoring a lead-actor bid for musical or comedy in the sibling tale "The Savages." Cate Blanchett also had two nominations, as dramatic actress for playing the British monarch in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" and supporting actress for her gender-bending role as an incarnation of Bob Dylan in "I'm Not There."
Screenplay Oscar winners Joel and Ethan Coen were nominated for directing and screenwriting on "No Country for Old Men," which scored a supporting-actor nomination for Javier Bardem as a relentless killer.
Other Oscar winners earning Globe nominations included George Clooney in the title role of "Michael Clayton," Julie Christie as a woman with Alzheimer's in "Away From Her," Daniel Day-Lewis as an oil tycoon in "There Will Be Blood," Jodie Foster as a gun-toting vigilante in "The Brave One," Angelina Jolie as journalist Mariane Pearl in "A Mighty Heart" and Denzel Washington as a Harlem drug lord in "American Gangster." Washington also directed best-drama nominee "The Great Debaters."
Fresh faces joined veteran awards nominees, too.
Besides teenager Ronan, who plays the sister who sets the "Atonement" drama in motion, nominees included relative unknowns Amy Ryan as a neglectful mother in "Gone Baby Gone," Nikki Blonsky as a spirited teen in "Hairspray," Marion Cotillard as singer Edith Piaf in "La Vie En Rose" and Ellen Page as an ultra-cool pregnant teen in "Juno."
"I've never experienced this so it's definitely _ it's crazy and exciting," said Page, who sounded a bit star-struck by her fellow nominees. "It's kind of amazing to know you're going to be in rooms with people who've really inspired you and who you really admire. That's always a really kind of crazy thought that makes my brain explode."
Though he had an Oscar nomination for 2006's "Half Nelson," Globe nominee Ryan Gosling also was in awe of his fellow nominees for best actor in a musical or comedy. Gosling, nominated as a social recluse living a fantasy romance with a life-sized doll in "Lars and the Real Girl," joked that he wants to parlay his awards success into long-term friendships with fellow nominees such as Depp and Hanks.
"They're all guys at some point or another I tried to sneak into restaurants they were in or parties, and now they're stuck with me," Gosling said. "I've never met any of them. I'm a huge fan, and now they'll have to deal with me. It would be rude not to."
Along with Blanchett's turn as Dylan, a cross-dressing role earned John Travolta a supporting-actor nomination for "Hairspray," in which he plays an overweight, homebody housewife.
Adapted from the stage hit that in turn was based on John Waters' 1980s cult film, "Hairspray" has a tradition of using men in that role, but done more campily as a guy-in-drag character. Well-disguised in a fat suit and prosthetic jowls, Travolta played the part as just a quirky woman uneasy about her size.
"Frankly, it was the only choice for me. I like to throw myself into characters. This is a character I had to embrace, to be a woman in it," Travolta said. "I grew up with the most extraordinary and wonderful women in the world, and watching women in musicals."
Dampening Hollywood's awards season, which culminates in the Oscar ceremony Feb. 24, is a strike by the Writers Guild of America, whose 12,000 members stopped working in November over revenues from Internet programming and other new distribution forms.
Many awards shows are written under guild contract, so it remains unclear how the strike might affect the ceremonies.
"I don't know anyone who's rejoicing, regardless of the time of year," said "Sweeney Todd" producer Richard Zanuck. "It's a pretty sad thing, and I drive through the picket line when I go to the studio, when we're shooting outside on the streets of Los Angeles, the pickets are there and they're honking their horns. ... Particularly, I guess, this time of year makes it more tragic."
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