"BringingThe Aviator to the screen took years of effort by an extraordinary groupof individuals, and I am thrilled that so many of the people who poured theirheart into the film have been recognised by the Academy," Martin Scorsesesaid after The Aviator earned 11 Academy Award nominations this week,including a sixth best director nod for the veteran filmmaker.

"Theycommitted whole-heartedly to this film and their passion, hard work anddedication is on the screen," echoed the picture's producer Graham King."As a typical Italian kid my dream was to come to Hollywood, so to be inHollywood and recreate this magnificent period was incredible," best artdirector nominee Dante Ferretti said. "Working with Martin was aprivilege as always."

Scorsesewill face stiff competition from among others Clint Eastwood for MillionDollar Baby, who said: "This is a very personal film for me and foreveryone involved, and we deeply appreciate the Academy's support."

Mike Leighreceived a surprise nomination for Vera Drake. "We decided tomake the film about three years ago when we had calculated that it wouldprobably be released before the US Presidential Election," Leigh said. "Theimportant thing is for people to come and experience it as a piece ofentertainment and to be stimulated at the same time. People respond to storiesof human integrity. Imelda's [Staunton] performance has rightly been rewardedwith a nomination and informs the integrity of the piece."

ImeldaStaunton said she was "a happy bunny" following her nomination in atight best actress category. "I'd never worked with Mike before and every daywas like an adventure," Staunton said. "All I knew about the film was that I'dbe playing a back street abortionist and we spent six months before the shoot improvisingand creating characters." The veteran British actress discovered whileresearching her role that 85% of backstreet abortionists in Holloway Prison inthe 1950s were mothers and grandmothers.

Also inthe running for best actress are Annette Bening for Being Julia andHilary Swank for Million Dollar Baby, two heavyweights whoslugged it out in 2000 when Swank won for Boys Don't Cry.

Also inthe running are an "ecstatic" Kate Winslet for Eternal Sunshine OfThe Spotless Mind, and Catalina Sandino Moreno for Joshua Marston'storrid drug mule drama Maria Full Of Grace. "I spent a lot of timeresearching the role and I came to understand why she risked everything toleave her country," Moreno said. "Living in Colombia, sometimes you don't thinkabout these people, so I'm proud to have done this role."

"It is an honour to be recognised by the Academy forthe work that I was privileged to do in this jewel of a film," Morgan Freemansaid of his best actor nomnation for Million Dollar Baby.

In the supporting actress stakes, Virginia Madsensaid working with best director nominee Alexander Payne on Sideways taughther to be more confident. "He knew how to guide me and how to let go. He'swonderful to work with because he's such a good listener and respects actors."

Sophie Okonedo was at Kenwood House on HampsteadHeath when she heard the news. "My mother stared screaming and they nearlythrew her out. Then we came down the stairs and everybody was clapping. I hadto de-Westernise myself for this role, which was a cultural leap as I went froma North London prostitute in Dirty Pretty Things to a Rwandan housewifein the midst of genocide. I met Tatiana [Rusesabagina] in Brussels and visitedthe Holocaust Museum in Berlin to get a sense of it all." Hotel Rwanda earnedthree nominations for UA and Lions Gate International (LGI).

"We wantedto make something that was outside the system," producer Michael Londonsaid of Sideways, which earned five nominations. "The movie is a successbecause these aren't conventional actors and audiences felt they were going ona road movie with four friends." Payne and writing partner Jim Taylorwere nominated for best adapted screenplay. "We love to cross that line andmove back and forth between something that's funny and pathetic, which can makethings tricky," Taylor said. "We always write together in the same room and weeven hook up two keyboards to the same computer."

EthanHawke knows a thing or two about collaboration, sharing anomination in the original screenplay category with Richard Linklater and JulieDelpy for Before Sunset. "I've never been in a band but this feels likeit, where everybody knows their instruments. I'd be surprised if we didn't worktogether again."

JoseRivera's adapted screenplay nomination for The Motorcycle Diariesfollowed many months of research. "If nothing else I hope the film will createnew curiosity about Che Guevara and serve as an appetizer for a fullerunderstanding of this person on a poster."

Orignalscreenplay nominee Charlie Kaufman said pitching Eternal Sunshine OfThe Spotless Mind was the easy part: "That took five minutes. From sellingthe idea to turning it into a first draft took three years. There weretechnical issues in the writing that tripped me up," he said.

TheAviator screenwriter John Logan said: "There were so manyareas of Howard Hughes'life that would have made a terrific movie, but aviationemerged as an interesting spine on which to build a movie because I believe itwas his passion while his love for movies, women and even business faded butthis never did."

DavidMagee who is nominated in the adapted screenplay category for FindingNeverland, was persuaded to adapt the play The Man Who Was Peter Panby veteran Broadway producer Nellie Bellflower. "We had to condense timea great deal because we didn't want several boys playing each Davies boy, andwere more concerned about writing about what it was like growing up anddeveloping responsibility, and how the imaginary world complements life aroundyou." "I feel as if I've walked straight into a movie," Bellflower said of herdebut as a feature producer.

"I wantedto create a world of boyish energy and reflect the subtle drama that wasdeveloping between the characters," Finding Neverland's nominatedcomposer Jan Kaczmarek said. "I composed on the piano and on a veryunusual instrument which nobody plays except me called a fidola, which is 100years old and has 60 strings."

ThomasNewman received his seventh best score nomination for LemonySnicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. "I wanted to be true to thevision and tone of the books, which I've read to my children many times. Itried to portray that world with a degree of honesty, wackiness and wry irony.It's challenging to write music about children in dire circumstances and keepit fun too."

Veteranmusic producer Glen Ballard attributed his best song nomination for Believein The Polar Express to teamwork. "Alan Silvestri [composer] and I workedfrom the script and only saw the movie for the first time two weeks before itopened. We even worked with a choreographer for some of the dance routines, andwe always worked in synch with Bob Zemeckis, who is an incrediblecollaborator."

In theforeign-language strand, The Chorus writer-director ChristopheBarratier said of his French nominee: "The response has been incredible.Two years ago when I was writing the script at my desk I felt very lonely andwondered if I'd ever get the film going, but I eventually found financing fourmonths before we began shooting. It's beyond a dream - it's like sciencefiction."

Swedishdirector Kay Pollak was inspired by his wife, a former chorister funnilyenough, to make As It Is In Heaven. "For me, the choir is a metaphor forhumankind because the people in it are young and old, tall and short, fat andthin - all in one group. This film is very hopeful and people cry and laugh."

NewmarketFilms' Bob Berney picked up Downfall, Oliver Hirschbiegel'saccount of Hitler's final hours in the Berlin Bunker, at Toronto last year andattributed its success to its sheer power. "It's a big war film with an epicquality to it. The director has such a visceral style that you feel trapped inthe bunker with the characters. Bruno [Ganz, who plays Hitler] and the wholecast really deliver. Before the screenings there were detractors, but it'semerged as a strong cautionary tale."

An impressive documentary section includes last year'sSundance winner Super Size Me. "What's been the greatest thing for mehas been seeing the effect it's had on people's lives," Morgan Spurlocksaid. "I was just at a restaurant in New York and somebody came up to me andsaid they've stopped eating fast food and lost 30lbs since watching the film."

Born Into Brothels co-directors Zana Briskiand Ross Kauffman were back in Calcutta scouting land for their proposedschool of leadership and the arts for children of sex workers when they heardof their nomination. "When we heard, the kids started jumping around and it wasmayhem," Briski said. "This is an opportunity to give this issue a broaderreach and it's such an honour to get recognition from your peers," addedKauffman.

Kirby Dick whose picture Twist of Faithfocuses on the personal fallout from the Catholic priests sex abuse scandal andplayed at Sundance this week, said: "This was an issue I'd followed closely inthe press and we found Tony Comes, an amazing, brave man who had been abusedand agreed to take part." Needless to say the Church declined to cooperate withthe filmmaker.