The box-office smash "Titanic" and romantic comedy "As Good as It Gets" steamed off with top honors at the 55th annual Golden Globe Awards presentation Sunday night in Beverly Hills, in what turned out to be a wild evening by staid awards show standards.
Fulfilling its epic scope, "Titanic" took home a quartet of trophies, more than any other film. The movie began its voyage early in the broadcast by winning for best musical score and the song "My Heart Will Go On," later garnering honors as best dramatic picture and director.
"As Good as It Gets," meanwhile, nabbed three awards. In addition to the movie being chosen as best musical or comedy, stars Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt each won in the lead comedy acting categories.
"I warned Jim this would give me another decade of not having to behave myself," said Nicholson, who mockingly mooned the crowd a la fellow nominee Jim Carrey. Nicholson dedicated his award to the film's director, James L. Brooks, while Hunt thanked Nicholson, calling him "my hero as an actor."
Director James Cameron seemed to feel especially vindicated claiming his award after many wrote off "Titanic" as reports surfaced that the production had spiraled wildly over budget, becoming the most expensive movie ever made. Since then, the 3-hour-plus epic has become a huge box-office hit, grossing more than $235 million domestically thus far.
"So does this prove once and for all that size does matter?" Cameron quipped.
The director rattled off the names of several studio executives who gave their approval to the unlikely story line, adding that the evening was "a night to remember"--a reference to the title of an earlier film about the Titanic.
Cameron also brought the cast--including the film's young stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet--on stage, though the movie was shut out in acting categories, which turned into a celebration of comebacks and Hollywood veterans.
Peter Fonda and Judi Dench were named best dramatic actor and actress, respectively, for playing a beekeeper and Queen Victoria in two movies of considerably more modest scale, "Ulee's Gold" and "Mrs. Brown."
"God, it's great to be back," said an emotional Fonda, and, in closing, "I wish my dad were here tonight"--referring to the late screen actor Henry Fonda.
The night opened with Burt Reynolds striking a similar comeback chord when he was announced as best supporting actor for "Boogie Nights," in which he played a director of porn movies. The supporting actress award went to Kim Basinger for her portrayal of a bombshell prostitute in the 1950s police drama "L.A. Confidential"--the only award for that film, which has topped numerous critics' lists.
"If you hang on to things long enough, they get back in style," said Reynolds, who added that his career has been "real quiet, for about three years." Basinger--a surprise winner, since many critics have given the nod to "Titanic's" Gloria Stuart--said she was "totally overwhelmed."
Actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck won best screenplay for the movie "Good Will Hunting," in which they also starred. Affleck said the award was "a little overwhelming for two guys who never even won a raffle," noting backstage that the pair "feel like impostors--like the Milli Vanilli of screenwriters."
Shirley MacLaine received an extended ovation after being presented the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in an affectionate recollection of her career. She thanked "the two Jacks"--former co-stars Lemmon and Nicholson--"for making me everything I am today."
Some within Hollywood resent the importance affixed to the Golden Globes, which are handed out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. The group consists of roughly 90 members--some of them only part-time journalists--and has developed a reputation for being influenced by such factors as which studio provides the most lavish junkets.
Still, the industry has embraced the ceremony primarily as a marketing tool, based in large part on its proximity to the Academy Awards, nominations that will be announced next month. In addition, the Globes have proven a reasonably good predictor for Oscars, honoring 13 of the last 18 best picture winners.
The Golden Globes' exposure also has grown, with the ceremony televised live Sunday by NBC for the third consecutive year.
Though television generally plays a supporting role at the event, the night's most poignant and unusual moments occurred in those categories.
The wildest highlight came when Ving Rhames--openly weeping as he accepted a Golden Globe for his showy performance as fight promoter Don King in the Home Box Office movie "Don King: Only in America"--beckoned fellow nominee Jack Lemmon to the stage and gave the trophy to him.
"I feel that being an artist is about giving, and I'd like to give this to you, Mr. Jack Lemmon," Rhames said, bringing many in the room to their feet.
A somewhat flustered Lemmon called it "one of the nicest, sweetest moments I've ever known in my life." Rhames refused to take the award back despite Lemmon's efforts, and Lemmon eventually relented, saying backstage that he would keep the award, with the Hollywood Foreign Press agreeing to provide Rhames with another.
Rhames said of Lemmon, "Jack has given so much to the world. . . . I've become a better man by watching his work." In the initial confusion, Nicholson could be seen in the crowd mouthing, "Give it to me."
In perhaps the night's biggest upset, Fox's first-year series "Ally McBeal"--a one-hour program that some felt belonged in the drama category--was selected outstanding comedy, also nabbing honors for its relatively unknown star Calista Flockhart. Series creator David E. Kelley noted that a few pundits had dismissed the program about a young lawyer as "too different for its own good."
Fox's "The X-Files" also claimed outstanding drama for the second consecutive year. Executive producer Chris Carter conveyed special thanks to the program's production crew in Vancouver, many of whom will likely be looking for jobs next season should the series proceed with tentative plans that would shift production to Los Angeles.
Another out-of-the-ordinary moment happened when Christine Lahti was named best lead actress for the CBS drama "Chicago Hope." After a lengthy delay, a frazzled Lathi emerged from the ladies' room to claim her prize.
"I was in the bathroom, Mom!" Lahti said.
The other dramatic acting award went to "ER's" Anthony Edwards for his role as Dr. Mark Greene. Edwards recited a thank-you list that included NBC, "who gives us lots of money." The network just renewed the top-rated program for three more years at an unprecedented $13 million per episode.
Michael J. Fox, honored as best actor in a comedy for ABC's "Spin City," lauded the other nominees in general and especially Jerry Seinfeld, whose long-running sitcom will come to an end this season.
"I wouldn't be coming back and doing television if you hadn't been doing what you've been doing for the past 10 years," Fox said to Seinfeld. "It's just amazing and inspiring."
TNT's biographical "George Wallace" took TV movie honors as well as a supporting actress award for Angelina Jolie, the daughter of actor Jon Voight, who was on hand as a nominee for "John Grisham's The Rainmaker."
Times staff writers Greg Braxton and Robert W. Welkos contributed to this story.
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"Christine is indisposed at the moment."
--Michael J. Fox, after announcing that Christine Lahti of "Chicago Hope" had won for best performance by an actress in a television drama series, and learning that the winner was in the ladies' room.
"I was just flushing the toilet and someone said, 'You won,' and I thought, 'What a terrible joke.' "
--Christine Lahti, after finally making it to the stage.
"When you gotta go, you gotta go."
"I guess I could just pee right here."
--Anthony Edwards, "ER" star and winner for best performance by an actor in a drama series, following Lahti to the stage.
"This is how the foreign press would have been 40 years ago, except they would have followed the woman into the bathroom."
--Shirley MacLaine, winner of the Cecil B. DeMille Award for "outstanding contribution to the entertainment field"
"We should all give a big round of applause to the people who had the huevos to make this movie. What the hell were they thinking?"
--James Cameron, winner for best director--motion picture, whose "Titanic" passed the $235-million mark at the box office this weekend.
"I love dogs. I love this dog particularly."
--Jack Nicholson, winner for best actor--musical or comedy, admiring his statuette.
--David E. Kelley, whose "Ally McBeal" was named best TV series--musical or comedy, when asked what he has done with this show that he has not with other series.