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Oscars: One 'King' to Rule Them All With 11 for 11 Feat

1 Mar, 2004 By: Gregg Kilday

The ring, the central totem in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, proved all powerful Sunday night at the 76th Annual Academy Awards as the film was hailed as best picture and Peter Jackson was crowned best director.

"King's" triumphant processional proved to be a rout as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bowed before the third installment in Jackson's epic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy novels. It swept all 11 categories in which it was nominated, immediately finding a place in the record books alongside Titanic and Ben-Hur, the only other films ever to earn 11 Oscars.

It also was the biggest sweep ever in Oscar history; the previous record holders were 1987's The Last Emperor and 1958's Gigi, both of which went nine for nine.

New Line Cinema's King -- which already has earned more than $1 billion worldwide -- virtually had the show to itself, save for the main acting honors, which went to Sean Penn, for his distraught father in Mystic River, and Charlize Theron, for her embittered serial killer in Monster.

Holding his best picture trophy aloft, Jackson could be forgiven for looking rumpled. He'd already trotted to the stage to pick up trophies for best adapted screenplay as well as directing.

"I'm so honored, touched and relieved that the members of the Academy have supported us, that they've seen past the trolls, wizards and hobbits (by) recognizing fantasy this year. Fantasy is an F-word that hopefully the five-second delay won't do anything with."

About halfway through the ABC broadcast -- when the King victory began to look inevitable -- Billy Crystal, emceeing for his eighth time, cracked, "It is now official: There is nobody left in New Zealand to thank." A few awards later, he returned to exclaim, "You know people are moving to New Zealand, just to be thanked."

Jackson ultimately riposted, "Billy Crystal is welcome to come make a film in New Zealand any time he wants."

Accepting his first Oscar after three previous nominations, Penn, one of the most respected actors of his generation, was greeted with a standing ovation.

"God, I really have to thank (director) Clint Eastwood professionally and humanly for coming into my life," he said. Although he had skipped the ceremonies on previous occasions, this time, Penn admitted: "I'm learning to enjoy it. Thank you all very much."

Theron's win was preceded by some comedy as Adrien Brody, last year's best actor winner for The Pianist, alluded to his lip smack with Halle Berry. As he walked onto the stage at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland to announce best actress, he joked: "Don't worry. I think they've got a restraining order on me," before popping a breath mint."Oh, this as been such an incredible year; I can't believe it," said Theron, who also took home best actress honors at Saturday's Independent Spirit Awards for her transforming performance. Accepting her first Oscar, the South Africa native paid special tribute to "my mom. You've sacrificed so much for me to live here and make my dreams come true."

After two successive years in which she was nominated for lead actress (for Bridget Jones's Diary and Chicago) but failed to take home the gold, Renee Zellweger finally prevailed. Chris Cooper handed her the award for her performance as Ruby Thewes, the colorful mountain woman in Cold Mountain.

Although she -- like the other three acting winners -- had been heavily favored, Zellweger proclaimed: "I'm overwhelmed, I'm overwhelmed. Thank you."

Similarly, Tim Robbins had already racked up his share of trophies this awards season when Catherine Zeta-Jones announced the first award of the evening -- his Oscar as best supporting actor for Mystic River, in which he plays a man scarred by childhood sex abuse. His thanks included words of appreciation for Eastwood ("You are such an amazing director, and you're making my mantel very crowded") as well as his companion Susan Sarandon ("Thanks for being the best friend a guy could have").

"I would like to say one more thing," the often political Robbins said before relinquishing the podium. But rather than addressing current politics or politicians, he spoke to a larger social problem. "In this movie, I play a victim of abuse and violence, and if you are out there and are a person that has had that tragedy befall you, there is no shame and no weakness in seeking help and counseling. It is sometimes the strongest thing that you can do to stop the cycle of violence."

Finding Nemo, which had been the biggest boxoffice success of 2003 until King arrived on the scene, was named best animated feature film. It was the first time Pixar has won in that category since it was introduced at the 74th Academy Awards.

Andrew Stanton, who directed the father-son fish tale, observed, " Finding Nemo would have never been possible if it wasn't for the extraordinary filmmaking environment created at Pixar Animation Studios by John Lasseter, Edwin Catmull and Steve Jobs."

In the hotly contested documentary race, Errol Morris was honored for The Fog of War, his portrait of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. A respected documentary filmmaker, Morris' exclusion from previous Academy lists was in part responsible for changes in the documentary branch, and he clearly delighted in the win, saying, "I'd like to thank the Academy for finally recognizing my films. Thank you so very, very, very much. I thought it never would happen."

Since much of War involves McNamara's discussion of the lessons of the Vietnam War, Morris added: "Forty years ago, this country went down a rabbit hole in Vietnam and millions died. I feel we are going down a rabbit hole once again. And if people can stop and think and reflect on some of the ideas and issues in this movie, perhaps I've done some damn good here." In contrast to the mixed reaction that greeted fellow documentarian Michael Moore's antiwar speech last year, Morris appeared to receive solid applause.

In the foreign-language film category, the victor was the Canadian feature The Barbarian Invasions, director Denys Arcand's study of a group of friends dealing with a fatal illness. "We are so thankful The Lord of the Rings did not qualify in this category," his producer, Denise Roberts, said.

Sofia Coppola's win for best original screenplay for Lost in Translation earned a particularly enthusiastic round of applause -- especially since she'd already appeared onstage as a presenter with her father Francis Ford Coppola, who used the occasion to welcome her into the family business. Her win made the Coppolas only the second family in history to have three generations of Oscar winners. In addition to her father's Oscars, grandfather Carmine Coppola won the best score Academy Award for The Godfather, Part II. The first record-setting family was the Hustons -- Walter, John and Anjelica.

In her thanks, Sofia Coppola expressed appreciation to her father "for everything he taught me," her brother Roman for encouraging her to keep writing and "my mom, for always encouraging us to make art."

By the time King was awarded best adapted screenplay, three hours into the broadcast, it had become crystal clear that the film would sweep. The award was shared by Jackson, his personal and professional partner Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens, who all appeared both surprised and elated since adapted screenplay was one category where the handicappers didn't expect King to prevail.

But King's domination of the technical awards actually began just 30 minutes into the broadcast. Angelina Jolie presented the first of the craft awards, best art direction, which went to the King team of art director Grant Major and set decorators Dan Hennah and Alan Lee.

A second nod quickly followed for the movie's costumes created by Ngila Dickson (who was competing against herself since she was also nominated for The Last Samurai) and Richard Taylor.

The visual effects award might as well have been a fait accompli. The first two Rings films copped Oscars for Jim Rygiel and his team, and the thundering oliphants and orc battalions of King secured him a triple play, winning best visual effects for Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook and Alex Funke.Taylor also became one of the evening's multiple winners when, along with Peter King, he picked up the best makeup trophy for King.

The Academy Award for sound mixing went to the King team of Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Michael Hedges and Hammond Peek.

Composer Howard Shore was another of the evening's multiple King courtiers: Having won an Oscar for The Fellowship of the Ring two years ago, he took home another Oscar for the King score. And then he shared in the best song Oscar awarded to "Into the West," the soaring tune on which he collaborated with Walsh and Annie Lennox.

Fortunately for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, there were two crafts categories in which King wasn't nominated. Consequently, Russell Boyd picked up the cinematography award for the seafaring epic from 20th Century Fox, and Richard King earned an Oscar for sound editing.

The evening's emphasis on comedy was reflected in the honorary Oscar presented to writer-director Blake Edwards.

In introducing Edwards, Jim Carrey noted, " Days of Wine and Roses made us cry, Breakfast at Tiffany's made us fall in love, and everything else made us laugh like hell."

But, as if to undercut the sentiment of the moment, Edwards played along with the shtick by making his entrance in a motorized wheelchair, which raced across the stage and directly into a collapsible wall.

After that pratfall, Edwards, who has weathered his share of Hollywood battles, noted, "Everyone has contributed to this moment -- friends and foes alike. Yeah, I couldn't have done it without the foes. I'm steamed, and I'm going to prove you wrong, OK?" He also paid tribute to his wife, Julie Andrews, seated in the audience, referring to her as "the beautiful English broad with the incomparable soprano and the promiscuous vocabulary."

The three-hour, 45-minute broadcast was produced by Joe Roth and directed by Louis J. Horvitz, executive produced by Michael Seligman and written by John Macks, Crystal, Beth Armogida, Dave Boone, Ed Driscoll, Carole Leifer, Billy Martin, Marc Shaiman, David Steinberg, Norman Steinberg and Scott Wittman.

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