First-time Oscar nominees Michael Keaton, J.K. Simmons and Patricia Arquette share their gratitude

BEVERLY HILLS, California (Reuters) - As the nominees for this year's Oscars gathered at a luncheon in Beverly Hills on Monday, industry veterans took the opportunity to reminisce on their journey, some for the first time, to the Academy Awards platform. "This nomination would not have come when I was in my twenties, because I was figuring out how to do this," said J.K. Simmons, best supporting actor favourite for Whiplash. His sentiments were echoed by fellow nominees including Michael Keaton, Steve Carell, Laura Dern and Reese Witherspoon, all of whom have been acting for more than two decades. "At 46, it's really beautiful, I can appreciate how meaningful it is," said Boyhood best supporting actress contender Arquette, a first-time Oscar nominee.

Simmons and Arquette joined more than 200 nominees across all branches of the film industry at the annual power lunch hosted by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, organizers of the glitzy Oscars ceremony on Feb 22, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris.

Most of this year's 20 acting contenders are veterans of the film industry, who shared their appreciation at being recognized for Hollywood's top honour at later stages in their career. "The word grateful, I'm just going to keep saying it," said best actor frontrunner Keaton, who at 63, earned his first Oscar nod for dark showbiz comedy Birdman. British actress Rosamund Pike, 36, first-time Oscar nominee for best actress in Gone Girl, said the recognition "certainly isn't an end point" in her career. "I feel I'm just about now getting good at what I do," she said.

At 84 years, Robert Duvall is one of the oldest nominees - best supporting actor for The Judge - at this year's Oscars, but he made sure to pay tribute to the young generation. "The young actors today for me are better than ever," he said. "We learn from them, we learn from each other." As nominees mingled, Academy Award show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron said winners must make their acceptance speeches within 45 seconds on Oscars night, which elicited some discontent.

Keaton, who has won Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild accolades for the role, said his son advised he be "more focused" in his acceptance speeches. "There are just so many people to thank, and I've been doing this for a while, so the list gets longer," he said.

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