Brad Pitt, Will Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Meryl Streep and other stars react to being honored

For Brad Pitt, Will Smith, Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, Sacha Baron Cohen and the other Golden Globe nominees, Thursday morning’s news might have come before dawn, but it didn’t take long for the reality to set in.

“What a great wake-up call,” The Pursuit of Happyness dramatic actor nominee Smith said. “I couldn’t be more honored.”

Smith has been down the Golden Globe path before, having received another dramatic actor nomination for 2001’s Ali. He was also in the running for best TV actor for his sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Pitt, a supporting actor nominee in the dramatic category, said in a statement, “I am so pleased this morning to be nominated along with my fellow actors in Babel for a Golden Globe. I am very proud of this film and I congratulate Alejandro (Gonzalez Iñérritu, the film’s director), Rinko (Kikuchi), Adriana (Barraza) and Cate (Blanchett) as well. As a producer with Plan B, I’d also like to congratulate Annette Bening and all the nominees from The Departed.

For Baron Cohen, who was nominated for best comedic actor for his box-office smash Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (which also received a best comedic film nod), the comedy continued when he heard about being honored.

“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,” he said in a statement. “Eventually, Premier 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.”

Eastwood, a double best director nominee for Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima, said he was grateful for being acknowledged for “projects that I hold very dear” while The Devil Wears Prada star Meryl Streep, nominated for best comedic actress, said she “can’t wait for THAT BIG FABULOUS PARTY!”

Helen Mirren, tipped as the Oscar frontrunner for The Queen, noted that among her three Globe nominations, two are in the same category.

“I’m up against myself, which is very annoying,” she joked of her best actress in a TV miniseries nods for Elizabeth I and Prime Suspect: The Final Act. She’s also in the dramatic movie actress category for The Queen.

“Oh, my God, it’s evening in England,” she told PEOPLE by phone from overseas. “It’s already dark. But the sun has been shining in my heart. It’s the Golden Globe effect.”

She considers being nominated “gratifying,” adding: “I certainly know what it means to not be nominated. If you feel you’ve done the best work you can possibly do, and you’re not nominated for it, it’s very disheartening and very upsetting. And you feel like crap, like nobody loves me and everybody hates me.”

Not this year. “Christmas comes early,” she said.

Marcia Cross, best actress nominee for Desperate Housewives, may be pregnant with twins, but she’s still able to prep for her Jan. 15 appearance at the Globes.

“I’m going to the show if I can waddle out of the house,” she told PEOPLE. “I don’t know what kind of tent they are going to put me in. I’m thinking black or navy. It’s not going to be a high-fashion year for me. And I’m thinking barefoot. I deserve it.”

Steve Carell, who stars in the best comedy film nominee Little Miss Sunshine and who is up for best actor for The Office – a best comedy series nominee – told PEOPLE: “I’m very proud of everyone associated with an incredible film and an outstanding series. I am truly fortunate and very appreciative that the HFPA has recognized us and me in this manner.”

Rinko Kikuchi, who plays a deaf teen in Babel, told the Associated Press, “I’m very ecstatic. I’ve actually been surprised at all the reactions that I’m getting to my performance, and this one was a big surprise as well.”

But fear struck Grey’s Anatomy nominee Katherine Heigl when her phone rang before dawn. “My mother called,” Heigl told PEOPLE, “and my first reaction was something was wrong. Grandpa died. I’m terrified. My mom’s crying and I really thought something was wrong.”

But then Mom broke the news: Heigl had been nominated for her Grey’s role as Dr. Izzie Stevens.

“I was really surprised. This was my first anything. I’ve never even won a trophy for sports or anything. This is really thrilling,” said Heigl, who in June became engaged to singer Josh Kelley.

“It’s been a pretty big year,” she said. “Now I’m getting nervous. I’m such a pessimist. When is the other shoe going to drop?”

For Sleeper Cell nominee Michael Ealy, the alarm wasn’t just set to hear about the Globes. Thursday was also his first day of jury duty.

But right when the clock went off, so did his phone – his agent calling with the big news.

By the time he spoke to PEOPLE later in the morning, he was already “at jury duty right now. I just walked into the courthouse,” he said, joking that he wouldn’t dare ask the judge to set him free so he could go shop for a tux.

“Then they might really stick me in there,” he kidded. “No preferential treatment.”

Meanwhile, Justin Kirk, in the running for playing the slacker brother-in-law on Weeds, noted that this was not his first recognition for his work on the marijuana-scented Showtime series: In October he got a Stony Award from High Times magazine.

“The only reason I want to win the Golden Globe is so I can make it into a bong,” he joked.