July 05, 2006 04:35 PM

Oscar may be almost 80, but he’s still young at heart – enough to keep company with Heath Ledger and even Dakota Fanning.

On Thursday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Oscars each year, invited 120 artists and executives to join its ranks – including such young actors as Ledger, 27, Fanning, 12, Keira Knightley, 21, and Jake Gyllenhaal, 25.

“Most people who aren’t really aware of the Academy think it’s probably a bunch of elderly people,” AMPAS director Bruce Davis told the Associated Press. “They’re not thinking Scarlett Johansson and Maggie Gyllenhaal, they’re thinking really old guys. That’s a hard perception to overcome.”

“Two years ago the Academy decided to slow membership growth, and to become even more selective in choosing members,” Academy president Sid Ganis said in a statement. “Instead of inviting every proposed person who has achieved the minimum qualifications for his or her branch, the membership committees are selecting the most exceptionally qualified names from those lists.”

The Academy will welcome new members on Sept. 20 at a reception at its Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study in Beverly Hills.

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