The annual pre-Oscars lunch is traditionally a chance for nominees to size up the competition and organisers to remind all concerned to keep their speeches short and lively. This year, however, after the likes of Kate Winslet, Mickey Rourke, and Robert Downey Jr took their seats in Beverly Hills, there was an unexpected warning from Academy Award bosses.

The talents in attendance were told that this year's ceremony format would be very different from previous years, and would carry "many, many risks". Exact details were kept under wraps, though actors were told to "stay alert" and "be prepared" for surprises.

While the exact nature of the surprises wasn't revealed, insiders have hinted there'll be a big change in the way categories are announced, and the show will unfold as a story, rather than just a series of presentations.

With less than a month to go before the big day, six-time nominee Kate - elegant in a classic LBD - said she was feeling jittery. "I think I'm not cut out for this. I'm too emotional to lose, and I'm too emotional to win," revealed the Reading-born star, who is up for a best actress gong for her role in The Reader.

The Wrestler star Mickey wasn't worrying about what he would say should his name be read out when the winner of the best actor trophy was announced. "I'll probably be sitting out there clapping for Sean Penn," he said modestly.

A total of 15 out of the 20 nominees from the four acting categories attended this week's lunch, including Spanish actress Penelope Cruz - who'd flown in after picking up an award at Spain's equivalent at the Oscars, the Goyas - and first-time nominees Anne Hathaway, Amy Adams and Viola Davis.

Photo: Rex
The British beauty was among nominees attending the traditional pre-Oscars bash, at which bosses informed them this month's ceremony would be radically different from those of previous years and carry "many, many risks"
Photo: Rex
The Wrestler star Mickey said he thought Sean Penn - rather than himself - would be collecting the best actor trophy