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A production with international cast

More than ever, Oscars go global

Ang Lee
"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" director Ang Lee says he's "just a small element in a big cultural event"  

In this story:

Nominees a worldwide slate

Memories of home

National pride

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- It's been said that the language of film is universal. Oscar contender "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is proof of that.

The film's dialogue is Mandarin Chinese, its director Taiwanese, and it's nominated for 10 Academy Awards, the highest honor in cinema in the United States.

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The nominations include best foreign film and best picture, making "Tiger" one of only three films in the academy's 73-year history to land nominations for best picture and best foreign-language film. The movie also sets the record for the most nominations ever for a foreign-language film.

"Tiger" Director Ang Lee, whose efforts won the Directors Guild of America award earlier this year, is surprised and heartened by the acclaim.

"This is a great cultural phenomenon. That's great encouragement, of course, for the folks at home and Chinese filmmakers, but I think it's a great cultural event here, as well," Lee says.

Did he set out to make such a big hit in the U.S.? Lee laughs.

"My major goal was to (make a) big hit in Taiwan -- that's all I was thinking about," says Lee, noting the film got 13 nominations in the Taiwanese Golden Horse Awards, the equivalent of the Academy Awards.

"I was a happy man already," he says. "This is all bonus. I'm just a small element in a big cultural event."

Nominees a worldwide slate

America's Academy Awards cross borders this year as never before. In the acting and directing catagories, 10 of the 25 nominees -- 40 percent of the hopefuls -- were born outside the continental U.S.

Great Britain is home to a handful of nominees, including "Billy Elliot" director Stephen Daldry and Albert Finney, nominated as best supporting actor for his role in "Erin Brockovich." It's his fifth nomination.

Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche's best actress nomination for "Chocolat" is her second. The french actress won an Oscar in 1997 for her supporting role in "The English Patient"  

Also hailing from the United Kingdom: best supporting actress nominees Julie Walters ("Billy Elliot") and Judi Dench ("Chocolat"). Both actresses have walked Oscar's red carpet before -- Walters in 1983, for her nomination as best supporting actress for her role in "Educating Rita" and Dench in 1998, who won best supporting actress for "Shakespeare in Love."

France is represented by best actress nominee Juliette Binoche for her role in "Chocolat." Binoche, who won the Academy Award for best supporting actress in 1997 for "The English Patient," says she's happy to be a contender again.

Still, she has her life in perspective, Binoche says. A home in France and two children are her first considerations, she says.

Memories of home

Others think about home, too. New Zealand-born and Aussie-bred actor Russell Crowe, nominated as best actor in "Gladiator," has a working ranch back home. When he travels, Crowe says, he remembers home-cooked meals.

"The food (on the ranch) isn't as fancy as my mum makes, mate," he cautions. "She's a damn fine cook."

Russell Crowe
New Zealand-born and Aussie-bred actor Russell Crowe is up for best actor for "Gladiator"  

Crowe's fellow countryman, Geoffrey Rush, nominated for best actor in "Quills," already has an Oscar, which he brought home for "Shine" (1997).

Have the accolades gone to his head? He says not. As proof, Rush points to his newly acquired Oscar sweater, given to each contender at the academy's annual luncheon. It's probably a bit fancy for some of his no-nonsense friends, he says.

"Where do you wear it?" Rush asks. "In Australia, we like to keep ourselves down to earth, and I can't go to my friend's house in the winter (wearing the sweater) and go, 'I just threw on a little something!'"

National pride

First-time Academy Award nominee Javier Bardem ("Before Night Falls",) is already a star in his native Spain, having won two Goyas, Spain's answer to the Oscar.

Benicio Del Toro
Benicio Del Toro, up for best supporting actor for "Traffic," was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Pennsylvania  

"People in Spain are excited," says Bardem, who claims he's the first Spanish actor ever nominated for an Oscar. "...They feel like I'm some kind of a white hope, which is very funny."

This is also the first Oscar nod for Benicio Del Toro, nominated as best supporting actor for his work in "Traffic." Del Toro was born in Puerto Rico, raised in Pennsylvania, attended college in California and worked with a dialogue coach to perfect his Spanish and his English for "Traffic."

"I wanted it as realistic as possible, so it was important that it didn't sound Caribbean but more Central-American-Mexican," he says.

And with an average of 52 percent of a film's box office take coming from outside the U.S., actors and audiences all over the world are finding that Hollywood speaks their language.

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