‘Last Emperor’ Reigns Over Oscar Ceremonies : Best Picture Winner Adds Eight Other Awards; Cher and Douglas Take Top Prizes for Acting

Times Staff Writer

Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Last Emperor” all but swept the 60th Academy Awards on Monday night, winning best picture and all eight other Oscars for which it was nominated in an evening that was heavily dominated by expected winners.

It was the most victories since “West Side Story” won 10 Oscars in the 1962 awards. “Ben-Hur” captured 11 Oscars in its 12 nominations in the 1960 awards, the academy record for one picture.

The 47-year-old Italian film maker, who had never previously won an Oscar, was named best director and shared a statuette for best adapted screenplay with writer Mark Peploe.


The Columbia Pictures production also was honored for art direction, costume design, sound editing, film editing, original score, and cinematography.

“Moonstruck,” a Norman Jewison-directed comedy about the travails of a Brooklyn-Italian family, won three statuettes--including Cher for best actress, Olympia Dukakis for best supporting actress, and best screenplay.

But “Broadcast News,” directed by James Brooks; “Hope and Glory,” directed by John Boorman; “Fatal Attraction,” directed by Adrian Lyne, and “Empire of the Sun,” directed by Steven Spielberg, were all shut out despite multiple nominations.

Cher, who had been a heavy favorite, was honored for her portrayal of a widowed career woman whose loves threw the fictional Castorini family into turmoil. The 42-year-old rock star-turned-actress had not previously won an Oscar. She was nominated for her supporting role in the 1983 film “Silkwood.”

“I want to really say something,” she said. “When I was little my mother said, ‘I want you to be something,’ and I guess this represents 23 or 24 years of my work, and I’ve never won anything before from my peers. I’m really, really happy.”

Michael Douglas won the best actor award for his portrayal of corrupt financier Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street.” The 43-year-old actor had been an expected winner, even though the film--written and directed by previous Oscar-winner Oliver Stone--did not receive any other nominations.


Douglas won a statuette for producing “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” 1975’s best picture. But he had never previously been nominated as an actor. His father, Kirk Douglas, has not received an acting award, despite three nominations.

Thanks to Father

The younger Douglas thanked his father “for helping a son step out from his shadow.”

Sean Connery, a sentimental favorite, won for best supporting actor for his portrayal of a hardened beat cop-turned-gangster buster in “The Untouchables.”

An epic in the mold of past winners “Amadeus” (1985) and “Out of Africa” (1986), “The Last Emperor” followed the life of Chinese emperor Pu Yi from the time he assumed the throne in 1908 at the age of 3, through his years in a prison camp, until his death as an obscure private citizen in 1967.

Bertolucci had previously been nominated for directing “Last Tango in Paris” in 1973, and for writing “The Conformist” in 1971.

He said the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was something that he, as a European, “really didn’t belong to” in the past. When he received the nominations, however, “everything changed immediately. I started to learn the rules of the game. To check the odds.”

A Sweet Victory

The film’s success was a particularly sweet victory for David Puttnam, who resigned last year after a stormy tenure as head of Columbia.


Reached Monday night in Toronto, where he is teaching before returning to independent movie production, Puttnam said: “I joined Columbia to get (corporate parent) Coca-Cola a studio it could be proud of. The job is half done. The other half will be finished when ‘The Old Gringo,’ ‘The Adventures of Baron Munchausen,’ ‘The Beast,’ and the rest of our films come out in the next year.”

Despite Connery’s work in 44 films, including the lead in seven James Bond movies, the 57-year-old actor had never been nominated.

“If such a thing as a wish accompanied this award, mine would be that we ended the writers strike,” Connery said.

Connery told reporters backstage that the month-long strike by the Writers Guild of America had caused “almost irreparable” damage to his movie plans. He said he was to begin work on the next Indiana Jones film, scheduled for release by Paramount in the summer of 1989, but could not proceed, because the script needed work.

Television Coverage

The three-hour, 33-minute Oscar show, broadcast on ABC, went smoothly despite earlier fears that the strike and a change of venue to the Shrine Auditorium from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of The Music Center might cause disruption.

But the writers’ walkout clearly put a nervous edge on the proceedings.

Oscar host Chevy Chase, a guild member, and other presenters quipped about strike rules that barred guild members and others from writing new material for the show after the strike was declared March 7.


“My entire monologue was generously donated by five Teamsters,” Chase quipped at one point.

Guild officials earlier said they planned to monitor the show closely for violations of strike rules, but there was no picketing.

Under the rules, guild members could be expelled for writing show material after the strike was declared, and non-members could be barred from future membership.

Dukakis, cousin of Democratic presidential contender Michael S. Dukakis, was honored for her portrayal of a weary and whimsical Italian-American mother in “Moonstruck.”

Boost for a Candidate

It was the biggest film role to date for the 56-year-old actress, a veteran of the New York stage. In accepting, she offered words of encouragement to her cousin: “Okay, Michael. Let’s go!”

The Massachusetts governor called her with congratulations after watching the telecast from a restaurant in New York, where much of the movie was filmed, his spokesman said.


Dukakis had been the clear favorite in an unusual field of supporting actresses, the youngest of which was the 41-year-old Anne Archer. None of the five had ever been nominated for an Academy Award, although Dukakis had won two Obies for her stage work.

John Patrick Shanley, a playwright who only recently began writing for movies, won the best original screenplay award for “Moonstruck.”

Austrian-born Billy Wilder, a Hollywood legend at the age of 81, received the Irving Thalberg award for sustained excellence in film making. As a director, producer, and writer, his films--which included “The Apartment,” “Some Like It Hot,” “Sunset Boulevard,” and “Irma La Douce”--often combined a comic bent with a sardonic view of human nature.

Entry Into U.S.

Wilder reserved his warmest thanks for an American consul in Mexicali who allowed him into the United States in 1934, after he had fled Hitler’s Germany.

“Write some good ones,” the consul had advised Wilder, on learning that writing movies was his craft.

“Innerspace,” which was co-produced by Steven Spielberg, won for best visual effects.

“Harry and the Hendersons,” another Spielberg-produced film, won a statuette for Rick Baker’s make-up.


“Empire of the Sun,” directed by Spielberg, was shut out, despite its six nominations. “Broadcast News,” with seven nominations, “Fatal Attraction,” with six nominations, and “Hope and Glory,” with five nominations, were also left wanting.

“Babette’s Feast,” a Danish film, won the best foreign-language film Oscar, despite high expectations for director Louis Malle’s “Au Revoir, Les Enfants,” based on the directors’ experience in wartime France. Best original song went to the writers of “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” from “Dirty Dancing.” Best animated short film was “The Man Who Planted Trees.” The best documentary short was “Young at Heart,” and the best documentary feature was “The Ten-Year Lunch,” about members of the Algonquin round-table.

“Ray’s Male Heterosexual Dance Hall” won the Oscar for best live action short film.

Return to Old Site

The Oscars were last presented at the nearly 6,000-seat Shrine Auditorium in 1948. Producers moved back to the old theater this year, primarily because it is larger than the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Backstage before the show, Oscar officials said they had agreed to use the Shrine again for at least the next two years.

Meanwhile, for the second year in a row, thousands of viewers on the westside of Los Angeles--where many film industry workers live--missed nearly all of the Oscar telecast because the signal from Century Southwest Cable Television went out.

Company officials could provide no immediate explanation, but in the past they have blamed sabotage for loss of service during key events, such as a championship basketball game and the Super Bowl last year.


Times staff writers Elizabeth Hayes, Lee Margulies, and Nikki Finke contributed to this article.