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Dame Helen was one of the 140 nominees who gathered at the Beverly Hilton hotel in LA for the annual Oscars lunch
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Will and his wife Jada get to grips with a life-size Oscar statuette. The actor will be hoping to take away the smaller version on February 25 for his turn in The Pursuit Of Happyness
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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEES ATTEND PRE-OSCARS LUNCH

6 FEBRUARY 2007

With just over two weeks to go until Hollywood's biggest awards night of the year, the Oscar nominees have been sizing up the competition at the traditional Oscars luncheon in Beverly Hills. Best actress nominee Helen Mirren was among the 140 guests - who ranged from silver screen stars to sound mixers and make-up artists - all in the running for the prestigious gold statuette.

While Leonardo DiCaprio, Penelope Cruz and Peter O'Toole showed up without a partner, others shared the occasion with their nearest and dearest. Will Smith was accompanied by his wife Jada, while Dreamgirls star Eddie Murphy took along new girlfriend Tracey Edmonds, and a casually dressed Steven Spielberg brought his daughter Jessica.

Ten-year-old Abigail Breslin, the youngest nominee, was delighted to get a high-five from heart-throb Leo, while The Departed director Martin Scorsese earned one of the biggest cheers of the day - he is hoping his eighth nomination will mean his first ever win at the ceremony on February 25. He's not the only one still waiting for his moment of glory, though.

Sound mixer Kevin O'Connell has been thwarted at more Academy Awards than anyone else. Now nominated for the 19th time for his work on Mel Gibson's Apocalypto he told first-time nominees "not to give up". "I've saved all my acceptance speeches, all the ones I've written on the backs of napkins and programmes," he revealed. "They are all in a drawer at home. I have my thank you written. If I win this year, I will thank my mother."

Advice for the big day was also on hand from Laura Ziskin, who will produce the Oscars broadcast. "It takes at least three weeks to come up with a decent off-the-cuff speech," she warned. To help them brush up, at the lunch each nominee was given a tape recorder to practice their acceptance speeches.

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