“Animal Kingdom's” Jacki Weaver Stands Tall as an Oscar Nominee

The actress now known to filmgoers as “Smurf” is anything but blue about her Oscar nomination.

After a bracing turn as a coldblooded crime family matriarch in “Animal Kingdom,” journeywoman performer Jacki Weaver became a surprise “discovery” in the Acadmey Awards’ Supporting Actress crop at age 63, following decades of notable performances on stage, screen and television in her native Australia. And Weaver admits she’s happily overwhelmed by venturing into the center of the Oscar derby.

“It’s an absolute whirlwind,” Weaver told PopcornBiz. “It's been so amazing, and I started wondering if it's some kind of elaborate hoax. But I'm having such fun and it is a huge adventure. It takes a lot of stamina, I have to stay. It's much harder work than the actual acting!”

Weaver admitted that, despite feeling that “Animal Kingdom” was a particularly significant addition to her substantial film resume, she never saw the Oscar nom coming. “I certainly didn't expect to be coming to America to get all this praise,” she said. “It was right off my agenda. I didn't imagine it. I thought that we had a good product on our hands, that we did some very good work, but I didn't dream that I'd be talking to you on the red carpet.”

In creating the compelling character of Janine “Smurf” Cody, Weaver said “We invented it from the ground up, and I did a lot of research about that kind of person, the psyche of a sociopath, and I tried to empathize with her – like, what would've made her that way? She's obviously had a very rough criminal life.”

On her road to the Oscar ceremony, Weaver said she’s been stunned by encounters with famous new fans. “Heaps of them,” she chuckled. “Pedro Almodovar sent a text to Michael Barker, the head of Sony Classics, when we were at The Golden Globes. He said, 'I see you're sitting next to Jacki Weaver – Tell her she's now one of my favorite actresses.' I nearly fainted. Quentin Tarantino came up to me and was most enthusiastic. So was Mel Brooks, Kevin Spacey and Sylvester Stallone. My head is totally turned!”

Not surprisingly, Hollywood’s been burning up her reps’ phone lines. “I've had quite a few offers,” Weaver said. “I've now got an agent and a manager here in L.A. and I'm trying to work out what's the best.” She’s also trying to work out that age-old conundrum: what to wear to the Oscars? She has plenty of offers of help coming from her homeland.

“I've had 37 designers in Australia ever since I said I thought I should wear an Australian dress,” she said, “because I think the statistic says that this is the first time there's a performance nomination for the Oscars in an Australian film since 'Shine,' which was 15 years ago. So I thought that it would be appropriate even though I love European and American designers to wear and Australian designer. When I said that, 37 of them put their hands up, which is so touching. I wish that I could wear them all.”

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