By DAVID GERMAIN
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — The Golden Globes were truly global Thursday, with the international drama ‘‘Babel’’ leading contenders with seven nominations and such foreign-themed films as ‘‘Letters From Iwo Jima,’’ ‘‘Apocalypto’’ and ‘‘Borat’’ among key nominees.
‘‘Babel,’’ a tale of families on three continents linked by tragic events in the North African desert, was nominated for best dramatic film, along with the Robert Kennedy ensemble tale ‘‘Bobby,’’ the cops-and-mobsters thriller ‘‘The Departed,’’ the suburban comic drama ‘‘Little Children’’ and the British royalty saga ‘‘The Queen.’’
Brad Pitt earned a supporting-actor nomination for ‘‘Babel,’’ while two of the film’s co-stars, Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza, received supporting actress nominations.
‘‘It was a huge challenge, one year of three continents and more than 1,000 people,’’ said Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, nominated for best director for ‘‘Babel.’’ ‘‘It’s a recognition for Muslims, for Catholics, for Jewish, for Germans, Italians, Mexicans, Americans. So many people were involved that it’s a United Nations celebration.’’
Clint Eastwood’s ‘‘Letters From Iwo Jima,’’ the Japanese-language companion piece to his earlier 2006 World War II epic ‘‘Flags of Our Fathers,’’ was nominated for best foreign-language film, along with Mel Gibson’s violent Mayan-language tale ‘‘Apocalypto.’’
Eastwood also had two directing nominations for ‘‘Letters From Iwo Jima’’ and ‘‘Flags of Our Fathers,’’ which tell the story of the Pacific island battle from the Japanese and American points of view, respectively.
Sacha Baron Cohen’s unexpected $100 million hit ‘‘Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan’’ was nominated for best film comedy or musical. Reprising his ‘‘Da Ali G Show’’ TV role as the clueless and crass Kazakh journalist Borat, Cohen was nominated for best musical or comedy actor.
‘‘I have been trying to let Borat know this great news, but for the last four hours, both of Kazakhstan’s telephones have been engaged,’’ Cohen said in a statement. ‘‘Eventually, Premier [Nursultan] Nazarbayev answered and said he would pass on the message as soon as Borat returned from Iran, where [he] is guest of honor at the Holocaust Denial Conference.’’
Hollywood’s second-biggest film honors, the Globes help position nominees for the big prizes, the Academy Awards. The Oscar nominations come out Jan. 23, eight days after Globe winners are announced.
Today’s nominations solidified prospects for such Oscar front-runners as Helen Mirren, nominated for best dramatic actress as Queen Elizabeth II in ‘‘The Queen,’’ and Forest Whitaker, who was among best dramatic actor contenders as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in ‘‘The Last King of Scotland.’’
The role of the flamboyant and personable yet savage Amin was difficult for the soft-spoken Whitaker, who studied the Ugandan language and accent then dove into the man’s psyche.
‘‘I started to figure out what his passions were and that kind of helped me, because I let him live in his passions. He was so caught up in his own passions,’’ Whitaker said.
Ben Affleck, who played a comic-book superhero in ‘‘Daredevil,’’ was nominated as supporting film actor in ‘‘Hollywoodland’’ for playing George Reeves, star of the 1950s TV show ‘‘Adventures of Superman.’’
Reeves’ death in 1959 was declared a suicide, though many have speculated he was murdered. ‘‘Hollywoodland’’ captures the despair of Reeves over becoming hopelessly typecast as Superman, presenting a scene in which his appearance in ‘‘From Here to Eternity’’ draws laughs and catcalls from a movie audience.
‘‘The irony to me is that George Reeves never got the chance to play as interesting a role as George Reeves, the part I got to play,’’ Affleck said. ‘‘He was like one of the first real full-blown cases of typecasting.’’
Jennifer Hudson scored a supporting-actress nomination for the musical ‘‘Dreamgirls,’’ going from finalist on ‘‘American Idol’’ to one of Hollywood’s elite in just two years.
‘‘It’s so strange. I’ve been on a singing path my whole life. I never even thought about my name being mentioned in the same sentence as acting,’’ Hudson said.
‘‘Dreamgirls,’’ adapted from the stage hit about a Motown singing group that rises to stardom in the 1960s, joined ‘‘Borat’’ among contenders for best film comedy or musical. The other nominees: the fashion-world comedy ‘‘The Devil Wears Prada,’’ the road-trip romp ‘‘Little Miss Sunshine’’ and the tobacco-industry satire ‘‘Thank You for Smoking.’’
Along with Eastwood, double and triple nominees abounded for the 64th annual Globes, which previously had never had an actor or director nominated in the same category in one year.
Mirren earned two other nominations, both as best actress in a TV movie or miniseries for playing Elizabeth II’s namesake in ‘‘Elizabeth I’’ and a tenacious detective in ‘‘Prime Suspect: The Final Act.’’
Leonardo DiCaprio had nominations for best dramatic film actor for Martin Scorsese’s ‘‘The Departed’’ and the African adventure ‘‘Blood Diamond.’’
‘‘The Departed’’ trailed ‘‘Babel’’ with six nominations, including honors for director Scorsese and co-stars Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg as supporting actor.
Scorsese won the best-director Golden Globe for 2002’s ‘‘Gangs of New York’’ but has been a perpetual runner-up at the Oscars, where he has been nominated and lost five times.
DiCaprio, the star of Scorsese’s last three films, said he thinks this may finally be the director’s year at the Oscars.
‘‘It’s pretty much like a practical joke that this hasn’t happened for a director of his notoriety and with his resume and what he’s given not only to audiences but the influence he has had for all of the film industry,’’ DiCaprio said.
Along with DiCaprio and Whitaker, dramatic film actor nominees were Peter O’Toole as a lovable old lecher in ‘‘Venus’’ and Will Smith as a struggling dad who becomes homeless along with his young son in ‘‘The Pursuit of Happyness.’’
Joining Mirren in the dramatic film actress category were Penelope Cruz as a spirited mother coping with wild crises in the Spanish-language tale ‘‘Volver,’’ Judi Dench as a lonely teacher preying on a colleague in ‘‘Notes on a Scandal,’’ Maggie Gyllenhaal as an ex-con and drug addict trying to regain custody of her daughter in ‘‘Sherrybaby’’ and Kate Winslet as a wife and mother in an affair with a neighbor in ‘‘Little Children.’’
Cruz said she learned of her Globe nomination after being up all night with friends who threw a party in her honor.
‘‘I was on a bed with 15 friends eating pancakes when I heard the news,’’ Cruz said. ‘‘I was crying. I was crying because I remember growing up in a little place, the little barrio where I grew up — this didn’t seem like it was possible. ... It didn’t seem like anything I’d get to dream about.’’