Hollywood honored international film legend Clint Eastwood and his movie "Unforgiven" with Oscars for best direction and best picture of 1992 during the 65th annual Academy Awards on Monday night.
But, in contrast to the last two Oscar shows, which were virtually overwhelmed by "Dances With Wolves" and "The Silence of the Lambs," no film dominated the ceremonies at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. "Unforgiven" won four awards, while "Howards End" and "Bram Stoker's Dracula" won three each.
"I feel lucky, especially when you are able to make a living in a field you enjoy," said the soft-spoken Eastwood as he accepted the director's prize. Critics said Eastwood's film in many ways attempted to demystify the image of the American West that he had helped to solidify in many of his earlier films. In "Unforgiven," Eastwood plays a retired gunslinger, still fighting the demons of his past, even as he had become a family man.
The key acting honors were awarded to Emma Thompson for "Howards End" and Al Pacino for "Scent of a Woman."
Thompson, a British actress who is married to actor-director Kenneth Branagh, received her Oscar for "Howards End" after having virtually swept the Los Angeles, New York and national critics prizes, and winning a Golden Globe prize handed out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.
In accepting, Thompson acknowledged the Oscar show's theme, "The Year of the Woman," and the role she played of a strong-willed, unmarried elder sister in the adaptation of the E.M. Forster novel of two families in Edwardian England.
Pacino's Oscar came for his role as a blind and bitter retired Army officer in "Scent of a Woman."
It was the first time Pacino has won an Academy Award despite nominations six other years, dating back to 1972's "The Godfather." He also was nominated in the supporting actor category this year for his role as a ruthless real estate salesman in "Glengarry Glen Ross." Raising the Oscar in his hand, Pacino declared: "You broke my streak."
"This is a proud and hopeful moment," he said. "I want to thank the academy for this gift of encouragement."
Early in the evening, the Oscar for best actress in a supporting role went to Marisa Tomei for her performance as the tough-talking fiancee to Joe Pesci in the comedy "My Cousin Vinny." In February, when the nominations were announced, her nomination seemed to surprise many in the industry because she was a relative newcomer and the film had been all but forgotten--having opened in spring of 1992. As her name was read, there was a wave of shock.
Tomei, however, seemed unfazed and collected as she accepted. "This is such a great honor to receive this in this year when we recognize and celebrate and honor women," she said.
One of the evening's biggest question marks had been the supporting actor category in which a mysterious, unknown British actor, Jaye Davidson, 24, had been nominated. Davidson played a role in "The Crying Game" that is pivotal in the story about tolerance of human nature, set against a backdrop of Irish terrorism. The film's distributor, Miramax Films, turned aspects of Davidson's character into a secret, asking the press to cooperate and not give it away. And up until the last minute on Sunday, it was not known if Davidson would travel from London to the Oscar ceremonies.
In the end, Davidson did attend, but his presence seemed fleeting as the academy gave the award to veteran actor Gene Hackman, a previous Oscar-winning best actor for 1971's "The French Connection." Hackman won the supporting actor Oscar for his performance in "Unforgiven" as a congenial but sadistic sheriff.
The actor laughed with disbelief as he picked up the award, giving "thanks especially to Clint, who made it possible for me."
In all, "Unforgiven" picked up four Oscars.
Eastwood had been the sentimental favorite to win the movie industry's grand prizes after a 30-year career in film and TV. Although he had never before been nominated for an Oscar, in the last few months "Unforgiven" received endorsements from film critics nationwide who cited the drama set in the American West for its revisionist themes in which the myth of gun-toting outlaws and violence is rebuked. Eastwood won the Golden Globe as best director in January and the Directors Guild of America's prestigious award three weeks ago.
"Unforgiven" came armed with a few other advantages as well. It has been a big box office hit, having grossed about $83 million since its opening last summer. And it is distributed by one of the industry's giants, Warner Bros. No film has ever been named best picture by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences without some affiliation with a major Hollywood studio or to a mainstream Hollywood-based producer.
With that history, such highly regarded best picture contenders as "The Crying Game" and "Howards End"--both of which were produced outside the Hollywood arena--had big hurdles to overcome in winning votes among the 4,600 voting members of the film academy. The other two best picture nominees were major studio products--the military courtroom drama "A Few Good Men," starring Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise, and the Pacino film, "Scent of a Woman."
It was clearly an emotional evening for Eastwood, 62, and for the audience that also honored two of his contemporaries, Elizabeth Taylor, 61, and the late Audrey Hepburn, who was 63 when she died in January.
The two actresses, both of whom won Oscars early in their careers, were honored with the academy's Jean Hersholt award for humanitarian work.
Taylor said she never expected to receive the award, "for doing something I just have to do." The actress who has worked on behalf of AIDS causes, said: "I accept this award in honor of all the men, women and children with AIDS who are waging an incredibly valiant battle for their lives. . . . I am so proud of the work that the people in Hollywood have done for others. Like dearest Audrey.
"I will remain as rowdy an activist as long as I have to be," she vowed.
Hepburn's son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, accepted the award with thanks to UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Fund) for which his mother was a spokeswoman. He dedicated the award to "the children of the world."
In another emotional moment, an honorary Oscar was presented to filmmaker Federico Fellini by two fellow Italians, Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. Fellini films have won four Oscars in the foreign language category.
The director of such films as "La Dolce Vita," "Amarcord" and "Satyricon" received a standing ovation. "I come from a country and I belong to a generation for which America and movies were almost the same thing. And now, to be here with you, my dear Americans, (it) makes me feel at home."
In a similar vein, Regis Wargnier, the French director of "Indochine," a film that stars Catherine Deneuve, thanked the American film industry that fed his dreams of movie making as a child. "Indochine" was named best foreign language film.
The Oscars began without any of the high profile protests that have marked recent years. Many of the guests wore red ribbons, denoting an awareness and concern for the AIDS epidemic. Mentioning the ribbons, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins appealed to the U.S. government not to treat HIV-positive persons as criminals. They urged that 250 Haitians with the virus, who are being detained, be allowed into the country.
Outside the Music Center, there was little evidence of heavier-than-usual security, although film academy officials said that security would be tightened in light of the political turmoil in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, and the aftermath of last month's World Trade Center bombing. Viewers in 98 nations--an audience estimated at 1 billion--were watching what turned out to be the longest Oscar show on record. ABC-TV said the telecast ran 3 hours and 33 minutes, nine minutes longer than the previous record set in 1990 and 1992.
As the show started, Billy Crystal ended speculation about how he would top his previous surprise entrances as Oscar show host by riding atop a giant-size Oscar, towed by last year's best supporting actor winner, Jack Palance. For Palance, it was an encore to his onstage pushups a year ago when he won the Oscar for his role in "City Slickers."
Crystal observed that despite the show's theme of "The Year of the Woman," 1992 "was not a great year" for women's parts. "One of the most talked about parts was Sharon Stone's in 'Basic Instinct.' "
Said Barbra Streisand, as she announced the category of best director: "I look forward to the time when tributes like this will be no longer necessary . . . when people will be judged for their work."
Film score honors went to a Walt Disney animated musical film for the third time in four years. In all three instances, for "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast" and this time "Aladdin," the composer was Alan Menken.
Menken also picked up the award for best song written directly for a movie, the ballad "A Whole New World," which he wrote with lyricist Tim Rice. Rice paid tribute to Menken's late lyricist partner, Howard Ashman, "who I know would be standing here if he were alive." Ashman died of AIDS.
The only prize for "The Crying Game" turned out to be to its director, Neil Jordan, for his original screenplay. Despite its "unappealing characters," he said he is heartened that "audiences have it in their hearts to accept a broad range of characters."
The Top Oscars
Best Picture: "Unforgiven"
Best Supporting Actress: Marisa Tomei "My Cousin Vinny"
Best Director: Clint Eastwood "Unforgiven"
Best Supporting Actor: Gene Hackman "Unforgiven"
RELATED STORIES PICTURES: B1, F1-F4