Nicholas White
November 29, 2006 08:45 AM

The droll comedy Little Miss Sunshine and the gritty drug drama Half Nelson with five nods each (including best feature and best director), lead the nominations for the 2007 Film Independent’s Spirit Awards, the Oscar eve bash that honors smaller films.

Half Nelson star Ryan Gosling is also up for best actor, while from Miss Sunshine nominations were scored in the categories of best first screenplay (Michael Arndt) and for actors Alan Arkin and Paul Dano.

American Gun, The Dead Girl and Pan’s Labyrinth were also nominated for best feature.

Nominations were spread widely across 41 films, the most ever in the Spirit Awards’ 22-year history.

In some quirky nominations, Oscar favorite Forest Whitaker was cited for American Gun – and not for his lauded turn in Last King of Scotland. He will compete against Aaron Eckhart for Thank You For Smoking, Edward Norton for The Painted Veil and Ahmad Razvi for Man Push Cart.

Meanwhile, indie favorites Marcia Gay Harden and Robin Wright Penn got nominations for roles in Gun and Sorry, Haters, respectively.

Robert Altman, who died last week, also received a nomination for direction for A Prairie Home Companion.

Last year’s Independent Spirit Award winners Felicity Huffman and Don Cheadle announced the nominations in West Hollywood. “It was nerve-wracking,” Huffman told PEOPLE after the announcement. “I’ve known (Don) since Boogie Nights that he did with my husband. I was the girlfriend running around going, ‘Hi! I love your work!'”

The Spirit Awards, held the day before the Oscars, will air live on IFC Feb. 24.

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