Four years ago, Hugh Jackman sang, danced and joked as host of the Academy Awards. Now he is heading back as a best actor nominee for his stirring role in Les Miserables. The Australian star, who once described himself as the dunce of his first acting course, has graduated to his first Oscar nomination for playing the reformed prisoner Jean Valjean in the musical.
Also nominated for the 85th Academy Awards is Naomi Watts, who plays a tsunami survivor in The Impossible, and Jacki Weaver, who plays the mother of a troubled teacher in Silver Linings Playbook and Rick Findlater for make-up and hairstyling on The Hobbit.
Lincoln, director Steven Spielberg’s bio-pic of Abraham Lincoln as he battles to abolish slavery and end the Civil War, leads the nominations with 12.
Jackman, who is currently filming in Georgia, has the chance to complete a rare acting triple crown by adding an Oscar to his Tony and Emmy awards.
In a strong field for best actor, he will be up against Daniel Day Lewis (Lincoln), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) and Denzel Washington (Flight).
Adding to his triumph, Jackman sings Suddenly in Les Miserables, which is up for best original song.
The musical is one of nine nominees for best picture alongside Lincoln, Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook, Django Unchained and two surprises - Beasts of the Southern Wild, a small-scale indie film set in a Louisiana swamp called The Bathtub, and Amour, an emotional German-Austrian-French collaboration about an elderly couple dealing with a health crisis.
Watts, who has been nominated once previously for 21 Grams, is vying with both the youngest and oldest actors to be nominated for best actress at the Oscars.
Quvenzhane Wallis, who is nine now, was just six when she played a sparky swamp dweller named Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Emmanuelle Riva, a French actress who turns 86 on the day of the Oscars, plays a retired music teacher who suffers a stroke in Amour.
Also up for best actress are Jennifer Lawrence as a not-so-merry widow in Silver Linings Playbook and Jessica Chastain as a driven CIA officer in Zero Dark Thirty.
It is Weaver’s second Oscar nomination after her first, for playing crime matriarch ‘Smurf’ Cody in Animal Kingdom, led to a thriving Hollywood career.
She is up for best supporting actress against Amy Adams (The Master), Sally Field (Lincoln), Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables) and Helen Hunt (The Sessions).
I honestly wasn't expecting it and it did take me quite by surprise. I yelled out a rude word.Jacki Weaver
Tom Hooper, who triumphed at the Oscars with The King’s Speech before making Les Miserables, was overlooked for best director as nominations went to Ang Lee (Life of Pi), Steven Spielberg (Lincoln), David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook), Michael Haneke (Amour) and little-known Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild).
Seth MacFarlane, who received a nod for the lyrics for the song Everybody Needs A Best Friend from Ted, announced the nominations with Emma Stone in Los Angeles.
Jackman said he had not planned to listen live to the announcement but his driver had it on in the car as he headed to work.
"To be honest, it's very exciting but all a bit surreal and it hasn't fully sunk in yet," he said. "This is a brilliant awards year that has been defined by an eclectic list of stories that have been told by incredibly talented and courageous filmmakers and it's an honour to be mentioned in the same sentence as the other nominees in the best actor category.
"Having hosted the show, I have seen so many different sides of the Oscars but to be an actual nominee is something I never would have dreamed possible."
Weaver learned of her nomination while watching TV "in my Qantas pyjamas" after flying into Los Angeles on the way to Texas to play Lee Harvey Oswald's mother in Parkland.
"I wasn't sleeping so well so I turned on the TV," she told Movieline. "I honestly wasn't expecting it and it did take me quite by surprise. I yelled out a rude word."
Weaver added that the word began with "f as in Freddie" and "it sounded like the way Australians say park."
Watts said she was "thrilled and humbled with this morning's wonderful news," adding that "the journey of telling Maria Belon's miraculous story of survival has been an incredible experience and I am so grateful for this acknowledgement of our film. I am truly honoured."
Findlater, who has worked on The Lord of the Rings movies, Avatar and Naomi Watts’s make-up for The Impossible, read of his nomination online just before 1am at his home in Georgica, near Lismore in northern NSW.
He was alone except for his black labrador Diesel.
‘‘I was a bit bleary-eyed at that stage because you’ve been sitting there killing time, killing time, killing time,’’ he said. ‘‘It was good.’’
Rather than crack open a bottle of champagne, Findlater just went to bed.
‘‘It was kind of just this release of relief,’’ he said.
‘‘Because I live in the country, there’s just a different kind of perspective.
Best motion picture of the year
* "Amour" Nominees to be determined
* "Argo" Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney, Producers
* "Beasts of the Southern Wild" Dan Janvey, Josh Penn and Michael Gottwald, Producers
* "Django Unchained" Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin and Pilar Savone, Producers
* "Les Misérables" Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward and Cameron Mackintosh, Producers
* "Life of Pi" Gil Netter, Ang Lee and David Womark, Producers
* "Lincoln" Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers
* "Silver Linings Playbook" Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
* "Zero Dark Thirty" Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow and Megan Ellison, Producers
Performance by an actor in a leading role
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Performance by an actress in a leading role
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Best animated feature film of the year
Achievement in cinematography
Achievement in costume design
Achievement in directing
Best documentary feature
Best documentary short subject
Achievement in film editing
Best foreign language film of the year
Achievement in makeup and hairstyling
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
Achievement in production design
Best animated short film
Best live action short film
Achievement in sound editing
Achievement in sound mixing
Achievement in visual effects