LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Some members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences might think they're seeing double as they consider roles for nomination this Oscar season. That's because many of today's top actors are starring in not one, but two films that have received their share of pre-Oscar hype.
The result: a scattered race for acting's most coveted prize, with studios sending mixed signals and ad campaigns sporting the same name in different roles.
"There are whole floors of people in studios that worry about such things, as though there is power that can be wielded over such matters," says Tom Hanks, who is an Oscar contender for his dramatic role in "Saving Private Ryan," but also received attention for his comic role in "You've Got Mail." "I think it enters into the Zeitgeist and either is or isn't."
There are plenty of other actors earning praise for two different roles.
Nick Nolte is a man struggling not to repeat his family's history in "Affliction," and he's an ambitious military man in "The Thin Red Line."
Which is the better performance? The actor can't say.
"When you are making the one you are doing, you think it is the greatest film going," says Nolte. "And then you do another one and it is a great film."
John Travolta's role as the U.S. president in the comedy "Primary Colors" won the Golden Globe nomination over his more recent courtroom drama, "A Civil Action," in which he plays a lawyer with a conscience.
"I am told I should lean towards 'A Civil Action' because it is the kind of (thing) the Academy likes," says Travolta. "But I am just so proud of both performances and both movies that whatever happens is fine with me."
Other possible picks
And there's more: Sean Penn pulls double duty with "The Thin Red Line" and "Hurlyburly"; Meg Ryan has "Hurlyburly," "City of Angels," and "You've Got Mail"; Meryl Streep has "One True Thing" and "Dancing at Lughnasa"; Joseph Fiennes has roles in two Elizabethan period projects -- "Elizabeth" and "Shakespeare in Love"; ditto for Geoffrey Rush.
"When you have a great actor, you really want to support them and you want to support them with an incredible campaign," says Sherry Lansing, chairwoman of Paramount Motion Pictures Group. "I am hoping for a lot of ties."
Meanwhile, Academy voters' double vision may even extend to the best picture category, where World War II films "Saving Private Ryan" and "The Thin Red Line" are expected to do battle.