Alec Baldwin may have summed it up for all the Oscar nominees. ''I'm very grateful and very, very shocked, actually,'' he told the Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday after learning of his first-ever nomination, for his comeback role as a ruthless casino boss in ''The Cooler.'' ''This business is so up and down, and you turn around and one movie can change things for people significantly, and it seems to be happening more and more,'' he added. ''And it's great and I'm very grateful.''
If Oscar watchers were surprised by such nominees as Samantha Morton (''In America'') and Keisha Castle-Hughes (''Whale Rider''), well, so were they. ''I'm shocked. This was completely unexpected,'' Morton told Reuters upon learning of the nomination, her second (her first was for her mute role in 1999's ''Sweet and Lowdown''). ''So often small movies like ours don't get the chance to be seen ... but since making the movie, I've learned that people who do see it hold it in their heart.''
Castle-Hughes, who at 13 is the youngest-ever Best Actress nominee, learned of her nomination at 3 a.m. at her home in New Zealand. ''My Mum came running into my room saying 'Keisha, you've just been nominated,''' she told New Zealand's National Radio. ''I was like, I thought I was still sleeping. I thought, 'I'll be happy in the morning.''' But then congratulatory phone calls started to pour in. ''They were yelling down the phone at me... and I realized it was real,'' she said. ''It's going to change my life.''
One of the biggest surprises was that the little-seen Brazilian street-gang saga ''City of God'' earned four nods, including Best Director for Fernando Meirelles. ''Has the Academy gone mad?'' Meirelles said in a statement. ''What's going on here?''
Even those touted as sure things this year seemed astonished. Four-time nominee Diane Keaton (who won in 1977 for ''Annie Hall''), issued a statement upon learning of her Best Actress nod for ''Something's Gotta Give,'' saying: ''My initial reaction was disbelief.'' Wrote the 58-year-old, who won a Golden Globe for the role on Sunday: ''To be getting this kind of recognition at this time in my life is just a fantastic honor. When [writer-director] Nancy Meyers created Erica Barry she created a unique character in film. Erica makes us all believe that it's possible to find true love at any age.''
Best Actor nominee Bill Murray, who also won a Globe on Sunday, was rendered all but speechless, ''Lost in Translation'' producer Ross Katz told the Reporter. Katz said he called Murray on the Rome set of ''The Life Aquatic'' to give him the news. Said Katz: ''There was a long pause and then he took a deep breath and laughed and said, 'This is incredible.'''
Marcia Gay Harden told the Reporter that her husband made her pause from her morning errands, like taking her daughter to school, to listen to the announcement. Now, says ''Mystic River'''s Best Supporting Actress nominee (she won in this category three years ago for ''Pollock''), she already knows what she'll be wearing to the ceremony on Feb. 29. ''I'll be wearing a muumuu to the Oscars,'' said Harden, who is seven months pregnant. ''I'll be waddling down the red carpet. What I wear is the least important thing for me this year. The whole nomination itself has been a very welcome bright spot in my life.''