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HIRSCH DESERVES PRAISE FOR 'WILD'.

Byline: GREG HERNANDEZ

There's no way that Emile Hirsch isn't going to get an Academy Award nomination for his out-of-this-world performance in the superb drama "Into the Wild."

I caught up with the Sean Penn-directed movie Friday night, then less than 24 hours later found myself face-to-face with the talented 22-year-old actor at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, where he was honored for "breakthrough performance."

Emile's character, a recent college grad who leaves it all behind to live in the Alaskan wilderness, encounters a lot of people along the way, played by the likes of Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener and Hal Holbrook.

"What was great about it was I'd be going around and I'd be with all these different actors with different qualities and different things about them that were wonderful, and I would get to experience all of those and try and learn from them," he said. "(Keener) was terrific. You can never catch her acting. She's just that effortless and puts that much understated feeling into it."

But the co-star who clearly touched him the most was Holbrook, who has also been generating heavy Oscar buzz.

"It's so incredible -- working with Hal," Emile said. "He would really be just so honest and so kind-of-naked in his performance. It all seemed so effortless. Really, that's master acting. To get to be there with such a kind, gentle soul as he is was really special and also a relief for me on the shoot.

"For the seven months before that, I had been running from grizzly bears and climbing mountains. Finally getting to spend two weeks with Hal was really a joy."

He was philosophical about the Golden Globes ceremony being effectively canceled due to the writers strike: "I think it's really hard. It's hard on the Globes. It's hard on the viewers. It's hard on the people nominated. It's hard for everybody.

"Unfortunately, it's just part of the process that the writers guild and SAG are going through in order to get what they want. I support SAG and right now we support the writers guild so that's the way it is."

Denzel Washington has 2 films in running

Nominations for the NAACP Image Awards were announced Tuesday morning and the Denzel Washington-directed "The Great Debaters" got eight well-deserved nods including outstanding director and actor for Denzel and an outstanding motion picture nomination.

Cast members Jurnee Smollett, Denzel Whitaker, Forest Whitaker and Nate Parker also got individual nods.

Washington's other film, "American Gangster," also competes for outstanding film. How great to see that the great veteran actress, Ruby Dee, was nominated for best supporting actress for her role in "Gangster."

Two of Diana Ross' children also got NAACP nods. Tracee Ellis Ross is once again up for outstanding actress in a comedy series (she won last year) for her performance in the long-running sitcom "Girlfriends" and Evan Ross was nominated for outstanding actor in a television movie for "Life Support."

Talent most certainly runs in the Ross family.

The award ceremony takes place on Valentine's Day.

Clooney thrilled about Kidman's pregnancy

George Clooney was at the Critics' Choice Awards on Monday night when he was asked his reaction to the news just hours earlier that his "The Peacemaker" co-star Nicole Kidman is pregnant.

"I'm thrilled for her," Clooney told People.com. "(She'll be) a perfect mother. ... She'll be a tall mother."

The tall Kidman has dropped out of her next movie, "The Reader" opposite Ralph Fiennes because she is with child. She has been replaced by Kate Winslet.

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(color) Actor Emile Hirsch arrives Monday for the 13th annual Critics' Choice Awards at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. He was a nominee for best-actor honors, won by Daniel Day-Lewis.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 9, 2008
Words:629
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