Cotillard a surprise in lead actress category

LOS ANGELES - “Life has very unexpected moments,” said a groggy and a bit stunned Marion Cotillard from an L.A. hotel room early Thursday, when she learned she was one of the five Oscar nominees for lead actress.

The Academy Awards nominations for that category played out largely as expected: Julianne Moore (“Still Alice”), Felicity Jones (“The Theory of Everything”), Reese Witherspoon (“Wild”) and Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl”) all earned nods in the category.

The surprise? Cotillard. Many expected Jennifer Aniston to snag the fifth spot for her performance in “Cake,” but instead it went to the French actress for her role in the Belgian film “Two Days, One Night.”

“I was totally in shock. This was very, very unexpected. And at the same time, a real deep joy because I really wanted to take this movie to the Oscars,” Cotillard said, noting the work of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. “This was the first time for the Dardenne brothers, and I was very sad when we didn’t make it to the short list of foreign language films, and I thought that was it. Now I’m going to take this movie to the Oscars! There was no inch of suspicion of getting nominated.”

Cotillard is the only actress from a foreign language film in the category.

“To show a French or Belgian movie outside of our country - and to see it resonate here - is something I really, really enjoy,” she said.

Shortly after the academy’s announcement Thursday, Witherspoon said nominations for her as lead actress and “Wild” co-star Laura Dern for supporting actress were “a huge win for what I’ve been trying to do with my production company: Create roles people would connect with, but also more dynamic, complicated female characters.

“The academy is so wonderful in recognizing them. These characters - they’re not good girls, they’re not bad girls, they’re just complicated women. That’s a huge win for everyone.”

Witherspoon earned her nomination for playing Cheryl Strayed, a former heroin-using divorcee who hiked, solo, along the Pacific Crest Trail.

Moore’s Oscar nod for “Still Alice” was expected. The actress took home the Golden Globe on Sunday for her role as a professor struggling with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Moore wasn’t available for comment Thursday, but in her Globes acceptance speech she said that when Lisa Genova wrote this book on which the film is based, “she told me that no one wanted to make it into a movie because no one wanted to see a movie about a middle-aged woman.”

Felicity Jones said the other actresses in her category are among her favorites of all time.

“I’ve been struck by all of them,” she said. “They’re all actresses I hugely respect and have admired for years. So to be in their company is fantastic.”