It appears to be the year of the independent film, judging by the dramas selected as Golden Globe nominees Thursday. "The English Patient" leads the pack with seven nods, including best picture, in the 54th annual awards nominations.
"Evita," "Shine" and "The People vs. Larry Flynt" came in second with five nominations apiece. The Golden Globes will be given out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. on Jan. 19 and broadcast on NBC.
For best drama, the romantic wartime epic "The English Patient" is competing against "Breaking the Waves," a bleak look at obsessive love; "Secrets & Lies," the story of a young woman's reunion with her birth mother; "Shine," a tale of genius and madness; and the bio-picture "The People vs. Larry Flynt." Of those, all but the last (which was made by Sony) were made by smaller independent film companies and were not major star vehicles.
Though the musical/comedy nominations were dominated by the major studios, independent productions also made their mark in this category. "Fargo," a black comedy about an ill-fated kidnapping, and the Woody Allen musical "Everyone Says I Love You," were the low-budget nominees vying with "The Birdcage", a remake of "La Cage aux Folles"; "Jerry Maguire," a romantic comedy set in the sports world; and the film version of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Evita."
In a departure from the norm, a majority of the five best drama nominees--"Shine," "Secrets & Lies" and "Breaking the Waves"--were foreign-made.
Australian stage actor Geoffrey Rush, already chosen as best actor by the New York and Los Angeles film critics, continued his run, joining Ralph Fiennes ("The English Patient"), Mel Gibson ("Ransom"), Woody Harrelson ("Larry Flynt") and Liam Neeson ("Michael Collins") as nominees in the best actor, drama category.
Rush chose the part of troubled pianist David Helfgott as his first motion picture starring role. "There's some primal undercurrent running through this film," Rush said Thursday. "You can almost feel the audience trolling through the memories of their own childhood. . . . David is bobbing along life's stream and you're not sure where the whirlpools and eddies are going to take him. . . . You talk to people within the industry who are pretty hardened in their business practices and they're the ones who wept the loudest."
Fellow nominee Gibson, who was raised in Australia, once shared a house with Rush while the two worked on stage. Still, he said, he did not expect to be in Rush's company this year.
"When my publicist called and asked if I wanted to be woken up for the awards, I said, 'Nah. I'm not going to get one,' " recalled Gibson, who won the best director Golden Globe for "Braveheart" last year.
"English Patient" director Anthony Minghella was one of five best director nominees, a category that also included Joel Coen ("Fargo"), Scott Hicks ("Shine"), Alan Parker ("Evita") and Milos Forman ("Larry Flynt"). The director category combines drama and comedy/musical nominees.
Minghella said Thursday that he was so moved by Michael Ondaatje's award-winning novel that he embarked on a crusade. "There was a group of us who were extremely passionate about it and it was hard to convey that passion to the people we wanted to," said the director, who shopped it around to various studios before Miramax Films signed on. "On paper it seemed a very difficult and ambitious project, and it was a beautiful and opaque novel," he said.
Forman pointed out that "Flynt" was made for $34 million--a tight budget for Hollywood, where the average studio film costs about $40 million.
"I'm proud that we are the only [dramatic] film representing a big studio," he said. "When the rumor started that we had a chance [at being nominated], I was surprised because the subject matter might be misinterpreted easily as a glorification of pornography, which is absolute nonsense."
Concern that audiences would not take to the material was also uppermost in the mind of "Evita" producer Andrew Vajna. "This has been one of the most exciting risk-reward movies that I've done--creating a new musical for the '90s, a new art form, since it's not a stop-and-sing musical, but totally sung through," he said.
"Evita" director Parker was offered the chance to direct 'Evita" in 1979 but turned it down because he had just shot another musical, "Fame."
"This was a gigantic movie--the hardest I've done," he said of "Evita." "When we arrived in Buenos Aires, there were signs saying 'Alan Parker, go home,' 'Madonna, go home'--so I was doubly scared. We knew Madonna could sing and act, but hoped that Madonna, the icon, wouldn't get in the way. Every morning, she'd put in brown contact lenses and false teeth, which changed the structure of her face. She couldn't see anything and was forever tripping into things. When I watched the finished film, though, I couldn't see anyone else in the part."
Tripping was also an occupational hazard for Nathan Lane, best actor nominee in the comedy/musical category for his role as Robin Williams' gay partner in "The Birdcage."
"It was a tough road to walk because of the heels alone," Lane said. My character was supposed to be flamboyant and effeminate. Though some have called it a stereotype, I can't say I have met people like him. The challenge was not to let his flamboyance overwhelm the human being. Though he had the temperament of a diva, I wanted to play him with dignity in an endearing way."
This year brought a particularly strong field of best actress nominees, who many industry insiders believed got juicier roles than their male counterparts.
"When I started in the business, we had great female roles," said best actress, comedy/musical, nominee Debbie Reynolds, who played Albert Brooks' nagging mom in "Mother," her first screen appearance in 27 years. "There were people like Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford," she said. "You had a wonderful roster of great female stars, and that's happening again today."
Joining Reynolds in the best actress, comedy/musical, category were Glenn Close ("101 Dalmatians"), Madonna ("Evita"), Frances McDormand ("Fargo") and Barbra Streisand ("The Mirror Has Two Faces"). Best actress nominees for drama included Brenda Blethyn ("Secrets & Lies"), Courtney Love ("Larry Flynt"), Meryl Streep ("Marvin's Room"), Kristin Scott Thomas ("The English Patient") and Emily Watson ("Breaking the Waves").
In the area of television, best dramatic series nominees were: "Chicago Hope," "ER," "NYPD Blue," "Party of Five" and "The X-Files." James Woods was the only actor nominated for both film and television honors for his roles as Medgar Evars' killer in "Ghosts of Mississippi" and as a Southern lawyer in TV's "The Summer of Ben Tyler."
There were some notable omissions in the balloting. Neither Daniel Day-Lewis nor Winona Ryder were nominated for their roles in "The Crucible," nor was the movie itself. The four-hour "Hamlet" was also overlooked. Shirley MacLaine was passed over for her portrayal of Aurora Greenway in "The Evening Star," a sequel to "Terms of Endearment." Also, Denzel Washington was passed over for "Courage Under Fire" as was Diane Keaton for "Marvin's Room."
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* The Golden Globe Awards, presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., will be handed out Jan. 19 at the Beverly Hilton in a presentation televised by NBC. The Globes are considered an early barometer of how films will fare in the more prestigious Academy Award nominations, which will be announced Feb. 11.
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Golden Globe Nominees
The nominees for the 54th annual Golden Globe Awards:
Motion Picture, Drama: "Breaking the Waves," "The English Patient," "The People vs. Larry Flynt," "Secrets & Lies," "Shine."
Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy: "The Birdcage," "Everyone Says I Love You," "Evita," "Fargo," "Jerry Maguire."
Actress, Drama: Brenda Blethyn for "Secrets & Lies," Courtney Love for "The People vs. Larry Flynt," Meryl Streep for "Marvin's Room," Kristin Scott Thomas for "The English Patient," Emily Watson for "Breaking the Waves."
Actor, Drama: Ralph Fiennes for "The English Patient," Mel Gibson for "Ransom," Woody Harrelson for "The People vs. Larry Flynt," Liam Neeson for "Michael Collins," Geoffrey Rush for "Shine."
Actress, Musical or Comedy: Glenn Close for "101 Dalmatians," Madonna for "Evita," Frances McDormand for "Fargo," Debbie Reynolds for "Mother," Barbra Streisand for "The Mirror Has Two Faces."
Actor, Musical or Comedy: Antonio Banderas for "Evita," Kevin Costner for "Tin Cup," Tom Cruise for "Jerry Maguire," Nathan Lane for "The Birdcage," Eddie Murphy for "The Nutty Professor."
Foreign-Language Motion Picture: "The Eighth Day (Le Huitieme Jour)," Belgium; "Kolya," Czech Republic; "Luna E L'altra," Italy; "Prisoner of the Mountains," Russia; "Ridicule," France.
Supporting Actress: Joan Allen for "The Crucible," Lauren Bacall for "The Mirror Has Two Faces," Juliette Binoche for "The English Patient," Barbara Hershey for "The Portrait of a Lady," Marianne Jean-Baptiste for "Secrets & Lies," Marion Ross for "The Evening Star."
Supporting Actor: Cuba Gooding Jr. for "Jerry Maguire," Samuel L. Jackson for "A Time to Kill," Edward Norton for "Primal Fear," Paul Scofield for "The Crucible," James Woods for "Ghosts of Mississippi."
Director: Joel Coen for "Fargo," Milos Forman for "The People vs. Larry Flynt," Scott Hicks for "Shine," Anthony Minghella for "The English Patient," Alan Parker for "Evita."
Screenplay: "The People vs. Larry Flynt," Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski; "Fargo," Ethan Coen and Joel Coen; "The English Patient," Anthony Minghella; "Shine," Jan Sardi; "Lone Star," John Sayles.
Original Score: "Michael Collins," Elliot Goldenthal; "The Mirror Has Two Faces," Marvin Hamlisch; "Shine," David Hirschfelder; "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," Alan Menken; "The English Patient," Gabriel Yared.
Original Song: "Because You Loved Me" from "Up Close and Personal"; "For the First Time" from "One Fine Day"; "I've Finally Found Someone" from "The Mirror Has Two Faces"; "That Thing You Do!" from "That Thing You Do"; "You Must Love Me" from "Evita."
Series, Drama: "Chicago Hope," "ER," "NYPD Blue," "Party of Five," "The X-Files."
Series, Musical or Comedy: "3rd Rock From the Sun," "Frasier," "Friends," "The Larry Sanders Show," "Mad About You," "Seinfeld."
Actress, Drama Series: Gillian Anderson for "The X-Files," Christine Lahti for "Chicago Hope," Heather Locklear for "Melrose Place," Jane Seymour for "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," Sherry Stringfield for "ER."
Actor, Drama Series: George Clooney for "ER," David Duchovny for "The X-Files," Anthony Edwards for "ER," Lance Henriksen for "Millennium," Jimmy Smits for "NYPD Blue."
Actress, Musical or Comedy Series: Brett Butler for "Grace Under Fire," Fran Drescher for "The Nanny," Helen Hunt for "Mad About You," Cybill Shepherd for "Cybill," Brooke Shields for "Suddenly Susan," Tracey Ullman for "Tracey Takes On . . . . "
Actor, Musical or Comedy Series: Tim Allen for "Home Improvement," Michael J. Fox for "Spin City," Kelsey Grammer for "Frasier," John Lithgow for "3rd Rock From the Sun," Paul Reiser for "Mad About You."
Miniseries or Motion Picture: "Crime of the Century," "If These Walls Could Talk," "Gotti," "Hidden in America," "Losing Chase," "Rasputin."
Actress, Miniseries or Motion Picture: Ashley Judd for "Norma Jean & Marilyn," Helen Mirren for "Losing Chase," Demi Moore for "If These Walls Could Talk," Isabella Rossellini for "Crime of the Century," Mira Sorvino for "Norma Jean & Marilyn."
Actor, Miniseries or Motion Picture: Armand Assante for "Gotti," Beau Bridges for "Losing Chase," Stephen Rea for "Crime of the Century," Alan Rickman for "Rasputin," James Woods for "The Summer of Ben Tyler."
Supporting Actress, Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for TV: Christine Baranski for "Cybill," Kathy Bates for "The Late Shift," Cher for "If These Walls Could Talk," Kristen Johnston for "3rd Rock From the Sun," Greta Scacchi for "Rasputin."
Supporting Actor, Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for TV: Ian McKellen for "Rasputin," David Paymer for "Crime of the Century," David Hyde Pierce for "Frasier," Anthony Quinn for "Gotti," Noah Wyle for "ER."