Hal Holbrook already has four Emmys, a Tony Award and countless other acting honors, but the buzz is that he has an excellent chance of being nominated for an Academy Award for the first time for his performance in “Into the Wild.” Holbrook and I chatted on Thursday, the day he received news that he had been nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actor. The SAG Awards are usually the most accurate precursor to Oscar nominations. “I was just happily surprised because there’s a great deal of competition,” Holbrook said. “You look at the big ads in Variety and there are all these big movies coming along with well-known people. You realize you are in a very tough competition here, and you can’t allow yourself to get too hopeful because anything can happen.” What has made the entire experience all the more satisfying for the 82-year-old Holbrook is that “Wild” was written and directed by Sean Penn, whom he had met decades ago when Penn had a small role in the television movie “The Killing of Daniel Webster,” which starred Holbrook and his wife, Dixie Carter of “Designing Women” fame. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson“We couldn’t help watching this young actor,” he recalled. “He didn’t have much of a part, but you could see there was something special about his talent and we told him so. We talked to him about how good we thought he was.” Holbrook and Carter, married since 1984, were very surprised to receive a letter from Penn after production had finished. “He thanked us for encouraging him,” Hal remembered. “It was such a gentlemanly and lovely and respectful thing to do, really. I never forgot the quality of the writing, of the letter. You never would have expected that from this quiet, nonverbal young man.” Then all these years later came a call from Holbrook’s agent that a script from Penn was being delivered, and the next day the two met in the bar of the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. “He offered me the role and I was thrilled,” Holbrook said. “When I read that screenplay, I was so impressed by it. It had a mystical and poetic quality to it.” Based on a true story and the best-selling book by Jon Krakauer, “Into the Wild” is about an Emory University grad, played by Emile Hirsch, who hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Holbrook plays Ron Franz, an Army veteran and one of the interesting characters the young man encounters along the way. Working with Hirsch was one of Holbrook’s better acting memories. “We got to know each other from scene to scene as the characters, but we also got to know each other as people. It was just the two of us for two weeks working in the desert. \ were more or less shot in sequence; it was very natural to track how you would feel getting to know this man.” Holbrook’s preparation for the role included his having to shave his mustache and cut his hair short. “It’s amazing what that does to your look and your face,” he said. “When I first saw (footage of) myself in the jeep, I didn’t recognize me.” Holbrook found his best feature film to date late in a career that has also included memorable performances in “The Firm,” “All the President’s Men” and “Wall Street.” It is on television and the stage where he has had most of the plum parts. He won the Tony Award for “Mark Twain Tonight!” and has returned to Broadway throughout his career. And for close to 40 years, he has been involved with many high-profile television productions, including “That Certain Summer,” “The Bold Ones,” “Our Town,” “The Awakening Land,” “North and South” and his favorites: 1973’s “Pueblo” and the 1974 miniseries “Lincoln.” “You don’t get a role like this very often in your career,” he said of “Into the Wild.” “That is, unless you are terribly sought-after and can choose from the top drawer.” For more celebrity news, go to blogs.dailynews.com/hollywoodjoe and blogs.dailynews.com/outinhollywood160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!