The Jane Austen costume romance "Sense and Sensibility" and "Babe," a fable about a pig who fancies itself a sheep dog, won best drama and best comedy honors Sunday night at the 53rd annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills.
Both films buck the trend in Hollywood toward big budget, star-driven movies, instead emphasizing the importance of storytelling over action in filmmaking.
In the major acting categories, Sharon Stone in "Casino" and Nicolas Cage in "Leaving Las Vegas" won for their work in dramatic films, while Nicole Kidman in "To Die For" and John Travolta in "Get Shorty" walked away with Golden Globes for their roles in the category for musicals or comedies.
Mel Gibson, long one of Hollywood's most bankable stars, captured the award for best director for his medieval battlefield epic "Braveheart."
The results portend a wide-open Oscar race, in contrast to the past two years, when "Schindler's List" and "Forrest Gump" swept major categories in both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. "Sense and Sensibility," "Babe" and "Braveheart" now probably will get a boost going into the Oscar season.
In recent years, the Golden Globes, given out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., have served as a predictor of winners in the major Oscar categories. Promotion-minded stars and studios have put their clout behind the awards in order to court Oscar nominations, for which balloting closes Feb. 1.
"Sense and Sensibility," which had received six nominations, also won a Golden Globe for best screenplay. It was adapted from the 19th century Jane Austen novel by Emma Thompson, who starred in the film.
Lindsay Doran, a producer of "Sense and Sensibility," said, "If there is a resurgence of Jane Austen, it's because the public is tired of having bad taste."
In a clever acceptance speech, Thompson read her thank-yous as if they had been penned by Austen herself. When she got around to naming Columbia-TriStar studio chief Mark Canton, the Oscar-winning actress observed that the author felt she was owed money--a remark that drew laughs from the industry-heavy audience.
Stone, accepting her award, said, "No one is more surprised than me."
"OK," she added, placing her hand on her hip, "It's a miracle."
Backstage, Stone met reporters and quipped: "This reminds me of the '70s. I feel high again. I'm so glad. I did all the B movies I could get my hands on to pay the rent. I finally got to do these great roles."
"To be included with these actors is a storybook dream come true," Cage said. "This award encourages me to stay true to myself."
To nearly everyone's surprise, "Babe" beat out "Get Shorty," "The American President," "Sabrina" and "Toy Story."
A great roar went up from the audience when "Babe" was selected. Producers George Miller and Don Mitchell thanked the crowd, with Miller putting on a fake pig snout and saying: "A lot of people helped bring this little pig to life. Universal said, 'A talking pig? Sure, why not?' "
Miller added backstage: "It seems a little story, but it's about the big things in life--mortality and having an unprejudiced heart."
One of the evening's strongest categories was best director in a motion picture. In four of the last five years, the director winning the Golden Globe has gone on to capture the Oscar.
The announcement of Gibson's Golden Globe for directing the medieval battlefield epic "Braveheart" was loudly cheered. Gibson also starred in and co-produced the film.
Long one of Hollywood's biggest stars, he joins Kevin Costner ("Dances With Wolves") and Clint Eastwood ("Unforgiven") as actors who in recent years have won Golden Globes for directing.
"I'm kind of tongue-tied," Gibson said. Referring to his competition, which included Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee, Mike Figgis and Ron Howard, the Australian-American actor said, "And to all whose company I was in, I'm glad to be included among you."
Gibson then joked that he had better not forget to thank his wife. "Otherwise, I'll have a Golden Globe mark on my head," he said.
Mira Sorvino, a Harvard graduate, won best supporting actress in a drama for her role as a ditzy blonde prostitute in the Woody Allen film "Mighty Aphrodite."
"Woody told me about my character--not only is she cheap but she's stupid. But I wanted her to be kind of awkward about being a call girl. . . . I really just tried to make her a whole person."
In something of a surprise, heartthrob Brad Pitt won best supporting actor in a drama for his role as a crazed animal-rights activist in the Terry Gilliam film "12 Monkeys."
"I'd like to thank makers of Kaopectate," Pitt quipped as he accepted the award. "You know, they've done a great service for their fellow man." Then he thanked director Gilliam for giving him a "Terry Gilliam experience--one that will not soon be forgotten" for casting him in the futuristic movie alongside Bruce Willis.
Travolta, whose sagging career skyrocketed after "Pulp Fiction," thanked the Hollywood community. "You've given me faith and, at the risk of sounding like a cliche, look at me!"
Kidman said her role had altered her career. "I don't feel I've changed, but my career has changed," she said.
Sean Connery was given the Cecil B. DeMille Award in recognition of "outstanding contribution to the entertainment field."
Footage of Connery's films spanning some 40 years were shown, from the Disney leprechaun film "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" to his role as Agent OO7 in James Bond films to his more recent action films such as "The Hunt for Red October" and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."
"I've made a lot of films, some which I forgot, some which I'd like to forget," Connery said. "I've traveled to exotic places. I've kissed dozens of beautiful women and been paid for it, and I'm grateful." Then, looking out on the entertainment industry crowd, he caused widespread laughter when he added: "But that doesn't mean I won't sue you!"
In the television categories, Cybill Shepherd of "Cybill" and Kelsey Grammer of "Frasier" were chosen best actress and actor, respectively, in a musical or comedy television series. Shepherd's CBS sitcom also was selected as best musical or comedy TV series.
In an upset, the underdog Fox program "Party of Five" was honored as best dramatic TV series, beating out such high-rated and critical favorites as "ER," "Chicago Hope" and "NYPD Blue." "Party of Five," which many feared would be canceled after last season, its first on the air, depicts the lives of five brothers and sisters who are orphaned.
The series's ratings have improved recently, and may get an additional boost later this month when Carroll O'Connor joins the cast in a recurring role as the children's grandfather.
A rainstorm greeted the stars as they arrived at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and made their way down a long, rain-sodden red carpet past swarms of photographers and reporters.
The arrivals included Michael Douglas, Stone, Jodie Foster and such studio chiefs as Paramount's Sherry Lansing, Columbia-TriStar's Canton, Universal's Ron Meyer and 20th Century Fox's Peter Chernin.
Times staff writer Robert W. Welkos contributed to this story.
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Golden Globe Winners
Here is a list of winners for the 53rd annual Golden Globe awards:
Drama: "Sense and Sensibility."
Actress, drama: Sharon Stone, "Casino."
Actor, drama: Nicolas Cage, "Leaving Las Vegas."
Musical or comedy: "Babe."
Actress, musical or comedy: Nicole Kidman, "To Die For."
Actor, musical or comedy: John Travolta, "Get Shorty."
Foreign-language film: "Les Miserables."
Supporting actress: Mira Sorvino, "Mighty Aphrodite."
Supporting actor: Brad Pitt, "12 Monkeys."
Director: Mel Gibson, "Braveheart."
Screenplay: Emma Thompson, "Sense and Sensibility."
Original score: Maurice Jarre, "A Walk in the Clouds."
Song: Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz, "Colors of the Wind" from "Pocahontas."
Drama series: "Party of Five."
Actress, drama series: Jane Seymour, "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman."
Actor, drama series: Jimmy Smits, "NYPD Blue."
Musical or comedy series: "Cybill."
Actress, musical or comedy series: Cybill Shepherd, "Cybill."
Actor, musical or comedy series: Kelsey Grammer, "Frasier."
Miniseries or movie: "Indictment: The McMartin Trial."
Actress, miniseries or movie: Jessica Lange, "A Streetcar Named Desire."
Actor, miniseries or movie: Gary Sinise, "Truman."
Supporting actress, series, miniseries or movie: Shirley Knight, "Indictment: The McMartin Trial."
Supporting actor, series, miniseries or movie: Donald Sutherland, "Citizen X."