1. UP AND RUNNING
Cardellini gets an energy boost with a quick morning cardio and weightlifting session. "It got my endorphins going, and I feel a little more toned and taut," says the actress, 31, who skips a heavy post-workout meal in favor of a strawberry smoothie. "It's nutritious and easy on the stomach. Nerves tend to make me a light eater."
2. CHILLING OUT
The bikini-clad California native whips on a pair of Marc Jacobs shades, pulls out a magazine, and takes five by the pool at the Four Seasons Los Angeles. The day is long and the parties last until the wee hours, so part of getting ready is resting up. "Today feels like a cross between Cinderella and the junior prom," she says.
3. ADDING SPARKLE AND SHINE
Next up: jewelry selection. "I'm so excited to see what the stylist brought," says Cardellini, who here tries on diamonds from H. Stern. "I'm looking for jewels that are beautiful but not overpowering." In the end, she chooses to wear a Chanel Camellia Aquatique earring-and-necklace set.
4. FINDING THE PERFECT DRESS
As Madonna's "Lucky Star" plays in the background, it's time to choose a dress to wear. "They are all so great," says Cardellini, who holds up an Alberta Ferretti gown with the help of stylist Jennifer Hitzges. The actress decides on a navy Ralph Lauren gown accessorized with silver sandals and a clutch by Rodo. "We wanted something young, fresh and clean," says Hitzges.
5. HAIR AND MAKEUP
The returning ER nurse gets a touch of the magic wand from makeup artist Jo Strettell. "Having my makeup done is really fun for me because it never comes out quite right when I do it myself," she says. Hairstylist Robert Steinken gives her a Brigitte Bardot look by adding extensions and then creating full-bodied curls. "I wanted her hair to be piece-y and sexy," says Steinken.
6. A LIFT FROM THE LIMO
Cardellini gets a kiss and some moral support from her boyfriend, Grandma's Boy director Nick Goossen, 28, who wears a Marc Jacobs suit. With hair, makeup and dress in place, it is time for the star to sit back and enjoy the 10-minute drive to the ceremony. "I feel really good. So rarely do you get to experience the glamorous side when you are working," she says. "This is fantastic, and I love it, love it, love it!"
7. LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION
"Linda looks like a classic movie star. She's really just got it," says Goossen. Adds Cardellini: "This is by far my sexiest look to date. It's so much fun getting dressed up." But even the hours of primping and prepping take a backseat to her excitement over the film's nominations. "It's about Brokeback Mountain! I hope we get lucky," she says. No need for luck: She dazzles on the red carpet, and the film nabs four awards.