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Chris Hewitt, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Published January 16 2014

Oscar nominations have Minnesota connections

Joel and Ethan Coen may have been shut out of the Oscars, but there were still a few Minnesota connections among this year’s nominees.

Barkhad Abdi, who went from working in his brother’s cellphone store in Minneapolis to co-starring in a movie with Tom Hanks, was nominated for best supporting actor for that film, “Captain Phillips.” He had never acted but heard about local auditions for “Captain Phillips” from a TV advertisement and, as he told the Pioneer Press, “They were coming so close. They were coming to my neighborhood. And it’s Tom Hanks. So why not?”

Grand Forks resident Mahat Ali acted alongside Abdi in “Captain Phillips.”

Amy Adams, a Colorado native who earned her first taste of show biz success in mid-’90s productions at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres and in the Minnesota-shot “Drop Dead Gorgeous” (1998) was nominated for best actress for “American Hustle.”

Melisa Wallack, who was nominated for best screenplay for “The Dallas Buyers Club,” is a native of Wayzata who ran a documents-management company in Los Angeles before she made the transition to screenwriting seven years ago.

One other thing that connects those three nominees: All were cited for movies that are based on true stories. “Captain Phillips” was inspired by the 2009 hijacking of an American ship by Somali pirates, “American Hustle” by the FBI sting operation known as ABSCAM, and “The Dallas Buyers Club” by the true story of a man, dying of AIDS, who went to illegal means to obtain experimental medicines.

Minneapolis-based producer Bill Pohlad’s “12 Years a Slave” was nominated for nine Oscars, including best picture, which is awarded to a film’s producers. Pohlad did not earn a nomination, though, because “12 Years” had seven producers but Oscar rules allow only five to be nominated per film.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service