Daily Insider for February 26, 2004

02/25/2004 AT 07:03 PM EST

February 26, 2004
GEARING UP FOR OSCARS
Some nominees are calming their nerves in the days leading up to the Academy Awards by throwing themselves into work. Tim Robbins is in New York this week rehearsing for the off-Broadway play Embedded, which he also directs. Ben Kingsley, who is shooting Mrs. Harris in Los Angeles, flew to Chicago to appear on Oprah. And Charlize Theron is shooting a TV commercial in L.A. for Luxe Hotels. "I won't think too much about Sunday night," she says.

But it's not all work for Theron: Light years from being a Monster, but very glam-free nevertheless with no makeup and her hair in a ponytail, she turned up at L.A. eatery Il Sole at about 8:30 p.m. Monday. She was with two unidentified male companions – but had no reservation, and waited 15 minutes for a table. Imagine how long the wait would have been if she hadn't won SAG's best movie actress award the night before.

Don't look for Best Actress nominees Keisha Castle-Hughes and Diane Keaton or Best Supporting Actress hopeful Marcia Gay Harden to pull up to the Kodak Theater on Sunday in stretch limousines. Each of the actresses has made arrangements to arrive in a low-emission Toyota Prius, provided by Global Green USA. The environmental group has doubled its bookings from last year, when Cameron Diaz and Tom Hanks used the popular hybrid vehicles. The cars will come stocked with eco-friendly snacks (water, nuts, Clif bars), "but unless we get organic vodka," CEO Matt Peterson says, "they are going to have to bring their own bar."

Looking for Best Actress nominee Naomi Watts? She is expected to attend a bash at the L.A. branch of the private club Soho House in the Hollywood Hills tonight. (Soho House is only in L.A. for Oscar week.) The guest of honor at the soiree, which Dior is throwing, is makeup artist Pati Dubroff, who will put on Watts's face on Oscar night.

Oscar night will be bittersweet for Queen Latifah this year: Feb. 29 is also the birthday of her late brother, Lancelot. The former Newark, N.J., police officer – whom she called "Winki" – died in a motorcycle accident while off-duty in 1992. The Chicago star considered skipping this year's ceremony but decided to attend after a talk with her mother. "Mom said, 'Go to the Oscars. He knows you love him,' " she says. "It's a melancholy thing."

How much of a favorite is The Lord of the Rings? According to BetonSports.com, you would have to put up $15 just to win $1. And if the handicappers are right, Seabiscuit is the long shot – just like in the movie. The odds are as follows:
Lord of the Rings: 1-to-15
Mystic River: 4.5-to-1
Lost in Translation: 6-to-1
Master and Commander: 12-to-1
Seabiscuit: 22-to-1

CAUGHT IN THE ACT
Recently spotted:
George Clooney and Rande Gerber, dining at Robert De Niro's Melrose eatery, Ago, while Michael Keaton enjoyed dinner a few tables away.

Hayden Christensen, chilling in a booth with two male friends at El Centro in Hollywood, as Kirsten Dunst danced nearby.

Love Actually's Martine McCutcheon, in a white sweater and ponytail, sipping a drink at the lobby bar in the Beverly Hills Peninsula Hotel.

Written by: SEAN DALY and ZORIANNA KIT
Reported by: PEOPLE's L.A. BUREAU

NEXT: Tobey Folds 'Em Fast>
MORE ON: Charlize Theron

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