BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Talk about a power lunch.
Chew on this: Clint Eastwood, Leonardo DiCaprio, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Will Smith and Penelope Cruz were just some of the 140 nominees chowing down Monday at the 26th annual Oscar Nominees Luncheon.
There were luminaries all around the International ballroom at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
"There are no power tables in this room," academy president Sid Ganis told the crowd, noting the luncheon's "relentlessly democratic" seating process. "This is a power room."
The contenders for the 79th Academy Awards celebrated their elite status together -- cinematographers and costume designers, screenwriters and song writers, art directors and actors. They drank wine, broke bread, collected their nominee certificates and posed for the annual "class photo," all the honorees, side by side.
"Here in this room, all the nominees are equal," Ganis said.
Everyone congratulated each other as they stood on risers for the class picture and cheered loudly as each one's name was called.
Double-nominee Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, director and producer of best-picture nominee "Babel," snapped photos of his colleagues with a pocket-sized digital camera. DiCaprio smiled with Scorsese as Melissa Etheridge talked with Spielberg. Peter O'Toole looked pleased, sitting happily in the front row with his arms around Cruz and former Paramount chief Sherry Lansing, who will receive the academy's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
Helen Mirren chatted with Abigail Breslin, the 10-year-old star of "Little Miss Sunshine," who was so small in her chair that her cowboy boots didn't touch the floor. Eddie Murphy, who left the luncheon before the main course was served, offered a modest bow when applause erupted after his name was called. Scorsese and O'Toole also enjoyed standing ovations.
Smith would have won a competition for class cheerleader. He whooped and hollered for each nominee. When his own name was called, he high-fived everyone within a 10-foot radius, then hopped onto the stage and enveloped Ganis in a huge hug.
Earlier, Smith told reporters that he was so proud of "The Pursuit of Happyness" and so thrilled to work with his son Jayden, that he didn't need to actually win the Oscar.
"I swear I don't need an award," he said, a grin lighting up his face. "I might pop if I win something."
Of course, there will be a winner for every category on show night, Feb. 25, and telecast producer Laura Ziskin had a message for them: leave the list of names at home.
Ziskin was giving a speech on stage when the page of notes she was holding suddenly burst into flames.
"If you bring paper onstage at the Oscars, you will be playing with fire," she quipped.
In addition to their certificates and official Oscar sweat shirts, the nominees were given tape recorders -- each with a 45-second tape -- to practice their acceptance speeches, Ziskin pointed out.
This day, though, was about enjoying the nomination and not worrying about who might win.
Adriana Barraza, nominated for her supporting role in "Babel," reveled in the recognition.
"This is beautiful, wonderful, perfect," she said.
Sound mixer Kevin O'Connell celebrated his unique achievement: 19 nominations, no wins.
"It's a record," he said, giving two thumbs up.