TORONTO - Set decorator Gordon Sim expects his second trip to the Oscars will be a little less surreal than the first one.

The Toronto-based talent, who won an Oscar with John Myhre in 2003 for best art direction on "Chicago," was nominated for the golden statuette with Myhre again on Tuesday in the same category for the star-studded musical "Nine."

Sim said he and Myhre likely won't be able to top the amount of partying they did at the 2003 Oscars, when they whooped it up with a musical giant and got their picture taken with Jennifer Lopez.

"It's kind of hard to remember in a funny way, because it just seemed so unbelievable," Sim said with a laugh over the phone Tuesday after the nominations were announced.

"We really had fun. We went to Elton John's party, we went to the Vanity Fair party. I didn't ever figure I would ever go again, so trust me, I had a good time the first time."

Sim, born in St. Thomas, Ont., was speaking from Los Angeles where he's working on the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean" instalment, directed by Rob Marshall, who also helmed "Nine" and "Chicago."

He said he wasn't even awake when the nominations were announced early Tuesday morning because he didn't expect his name would be read.

"To tell you the truth, I hadn't thought about it at all -- I just sort of went to bed last night and I didn't even think that this morning we were going to make the nominations.

"I was in a state of shock. My partner called me at quarter to 6 and woke me up and said, 'Oh my God, you're nominated, you're nominated!' So it was a big shock, I have to say ...

"('Nine') wasn't received well by the critics and I guess it didn't get the attention that we all had hoped and thought it would get ... I've also started on another project, too, so my head is full of the new work."

"Nine" received three other Oscar nominations Tuesday in the categories of best costume design, best music (original song) and best supporting actress for Penelope Cruz.

The top-drawer cast is rounded out by Sophia Loren, Nicole Kidman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard and Judi Dench.

In the art direction category "Nine" is up against "Avatar," "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," "Sherlock Holmes" and "The Young Victoria."

Sim, 58, said he and Myhre worked on the sets on a speedy schedule in England and Italy, where the film was shot.

"Doing a musical (film) is complicated because there's a huge rehearsal period," he explained.

"It's like doing theatre, in a way. There's a rehearsal period where parts of the set have to be built so that the dance numbers can be rehearsed on."

Sim is used to such challenges, having already worked extensively in theatre, first as a prop maker and then as a set designer at such renowned venues as the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Shaw Festival and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

Decorating sets for film and TV was something he fell into after working for years on the stage, he said.

"It wasn't anything that I ever planned to do, to tell you the truth, but it was something that seemed to suit me and that I liked very much."

The Oscars will be held March 7 in L.A. and broadcast on CTV.