01/27/2004 12:00AM

'Seabiscuit' nominated for seven Oscars

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"Seabiscuit," the film based on the best-selling book by Laura Hillenbrand, was nominated for seven Academy Awards on Tuesday, including Best Picture.

"Seabiscuit" will go up against four other movies for Best Picture, including "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," "Lost in Translation," "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World," and "Mystic River."

"Seabiscuit" grossed more than $120 million at the box office and was viewed as a financial and artistic success by its distributor, Vivendi Universal. It was directed by Gary Ross, who also adapted the book for the movie's screenplay.

Ross was also nominated for an Academy Award for the adaptation, while the movie was nominated for art direction, cinematography, costume design, sound, and film editing. The Academy Awards ceremony is scheduled for Feb. 29.

Hillenbrand, who lives in Washington, D.C., and worked closely with the moviemakers, said on Tuesday that she was not surprised that the film received seven nominations, one of the highest totals of any 2003 movie.

"It succeeds on so many levels, and so many of the people who made it did the most inspired work of their lives for it," Hillenbrand said. "The movie was a labor of love for all the people on the set, and it shows in the final product."

"Seabiscuit," which follows the horse's rise to fame from relative obscurity during the late 1930's, starred Jeff Bridges as Charles Howard, Seabiscuit's owner; Tobey Maguire as Red Pollard, Seabiscuit's regular jockey; and Chris Cooper as Tom Smith, Seabiscuit's trainer. Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens had a supporting role as George Woolf, who rode Seabiscuit nine times in 1938 and 1939 while Pollard was recuperating from an injury.

Hillenbrand said she has high hopes for the movie at the Academy Awards ceremony, although she won't be attending because of health concerns.

"The Academy loves films that have a grand sweep, and 'Seabiscuit,' with its breadth of characters, broad time frame, sense of history and epic story, is a perfect fit," she said.