'American Beauty' Smells Like a Rose to the Golden Globes

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

In a wide open awards year, a quirky, ironic film helmed by a British theater director and written by a newcomer garnered the most nods Monday when the 57th Annual Golden Globe Awards nominations were announced in Beverly Hills. DreamWorks SKG's "American Beauty" got six nominations--the most ever for the studio--including best motion picture (drama), best director, best actress and actor (drama) and best screenplay.

Disney's "The Insider" and Paramount/Miramax's "The Talented Mr. Ripley" tied for second place, with five nominations each. But smaller, less star-studded films also broke through, with USA Films' "Being John Malkovich" and Fox Searchlight's "Boys Don't Cry," earning multiple nominations.

The Globe nominations also came up big for Sony Pictures' "The End of the Affair," which tied with "Malkovich" with four, and Universal Pictures' "The Hurricane" and "Notting Hill" with three nominations each.

Notably underrepresented were three Warner Bros. films. The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., which bestows the Golden Globes, passed over the star of "The Green Mile," Tom Hanks, giving the film a single supporting actor nomination for Michael Clarke Duncan. "Eyes Wide Shut," Stanley Kubrick's final film, also received just one nod--for best original score--despite its A-list cast: Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. And "Three Kings," a critical favorite, was ignored altogether.

Then there were the surprises: Sigourney Weaver got a best actress nomination (in the drama category) for her role in the indie film "A Map of the World," while her co-star, Julianne Moore, got two best actress nods for portraying Brits in other projects: the Miramax comedy "An Ideal Husband" and the drama "The End of the Affair."

"It's kind of overwhelming," said Moore, who said the chance to be in director Neil Jordan's "The End of the Affair"--her first love story--was a fantasy come to life. "I had 50 to 100 presents I was going to wrap today and suddenly my publicist is telling me I have so many calls to make. But it's a nice problem to have."

Winners of the Golden Globes will be announced Jan. 23 in a live telecast airing on NBC. The awards are commonly seen as early indicators for the Academy Awards, which are presented in March. But because the Globes split best picture, best actor and best actress nominations in two--giving nominees in both drama and in musical/comedy--there are many more Globe nominees than Oscar hopefuls.

For those involved with "American Beauty"--which was modestly budgeted and difficult to market--it was a blissful morning. In Los Angeles, nominated screenwriter Alan Ball (this is his first produced script) drank Dom Perignon over breakfast with the film's producers, while in New York, nominated director Sam Mendes was on his way to raise a glass with best actor nominee Kevin Spacey. A groggy Annette Bening, the best actress nominee who is 5 1/2 months pregnant with her fourth child, was awakened by the news, which she celebrated by indulging in a caffeinated cup of coffee.

"The thing that gets me that I haven't experienced before is the cross-section of people who really get the movie, and I don't take that for granted," she said. "I was in the park one day and a teenager came up to me and said, 'I've snuck into it five times.' "

For his part, Mendes said he hoped the nominations proved that "a story is the only special effect that will never go out of fashion."

Among the breakout performances of the year was Hilary Swank's portrayal of a young Nebraska woman who posed as a man in "Boys Don't Cry." Swank has swept the critics awards so far, yet she seemed surprised when she was nominated for best actress (drama).

"I never thought I was a shoo-in," said Swank, 25, who said switching genders was a challenge that taught her "a lot about humanity and a lot about myself." Before she accepted the role, she said, she experimented on her neighbors to see if she could pass for male.

"I'm a very feminine girl. There's times when I wear my Levi's, but I really like my makeup and my high heels and my skirts. So when I was offered this role I knew that if I couldn't pass for a boy on the street I couldn't do it," she said.

Another notable performance was that of 11-year-old Haley Joel Osment, who received a best supporting actor nod for playing a rivetingly haunted child in Disney's "The Sixth Sense." He'd stayed up late Sunday night--10 p.m.--so his dad let him sleep later Monday and delivered the good news when he got up.

"I'm awake now--this is a big honor," said the sixth-grader, who ate a bowl of Life cereal to help his nomination sink in. Asked how he managed to appear so terrified in the movie, he said, "I had to invent thoughts and feelings because he's so different than I really am."

Richard Farnsworth, the oldest best actor nominee for his role in Disney's "The Straight Story," had less inventing to do. The 79-year-old former stuntman, who has been acting on the big screen for more than 61 years, drew on his own experience with getting older to play a 73-year-old man who rides a lawn mower more than 300 miles to visit his brother.

"I sure appreciate it," the soft-spoken actor said of his nomination (the third of his career) for the David Lynch film. "I hope I win!"

Win or lose, the nominations will boost especially smaller movies at the box office.

"This will help people hear about us, and we need all the help we can get," said Sigourney Weaver, who said she was "thrilled" to be nominated for "A Map of the World," which opens nationwide next month.

Also sure to benefit are films that are about to open, such as "The Talented Mr. Ripley," which hits theaters Christmas Day. The film was nominated for best picture (drama), best director, best actor (drama), best supporting actor and best original score.

"This is a very big Christmas present for me and for everybody involved in the film. And it probably means I'll get another job," said a modest Anthony Minghella, "Ripley's" director.

For "The Insider," the drama about tobacco whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand and "60 Minutes" that opened last month and has done poorly at the box office, the five Globe nominations offered a sort of vindication--and some hope of luring a bigger audience.

"It's gratifying. People seem to like it. That's what one gathers," said a wry Michael Mann, who was nominated for best director and for co-writing the screenplay with Eric Roth. The film also got nods for best picture (drama), best actor (drama) and best original score.

"When Eric and I started doing this we wanted people who saw it not to have to check their cerebral cortex at the door," said Mann, adding that they also wanted to excite moviegoers' emotions. Praising a competitor, he added, "I experienced 'American Beauty' with all my faculties, and I set out to construct a similar experience with 'The Insider.' "

The Golden Globe announcements, while exciting, didn't catch all the nominees at the top of their game. Both Michael Caine (who got a best supporting actor nod for "The Cider House Rules") and his fellow Brit Janet McTeer (a best comedic actress nominee for "Tumbleweeds") had the flu Monday and were home in England recuperating. McTeer said she was having lunch when she got the news, so "I had a very large pudding to celebrate."

Caine, meanwhile, who won a Golden Globe last year for best actor in "Little Voice," was on his way to try to sweat out his illness in the sauna.

"I feel like rubbish, but I don't really because I've just been nominated, which is wonderful, especially when I see the company I'm in," he said.

In that company is Cruise, nominated for his supporting actor role in "Magnolia," and first-time supporting actor nominee Michael Clarke Duncan ("The Green Mile"). Duncan had seen best actor (drama) nominee Denzel Washington ("The Hurricane") at church the day before the announcements, and they compared strategies for dealing with the pre-award jitters.

"Denzel said, 'Don't worry about it. Just let it happen,' " Duncan recalled. "Then Bruce Willis called me and he said, 'Just take it as it comes.' They are just more cool about this than I am. Just being nominated, you kind of figure, 'Man, I must have died and gone to heaven.' "

For his part, Washington seemed prouder that "The Hurricane" had garnered best picture (drama) and best director nods than of his own nomination (which is his third best actor nomination).

"I'm especially proud that [director] Norman Jewison was recognized," Washington said.

Reese Witherspoon, who was nominated for best actress (comedy) for her role in "Election," had a different kind of perspective. As the mom of a 3-month-old, she said, she had been "in kind of a delirious coma" from sleep deprivation when the phone rang Monday.

"I had such a wonderful time on this movie. I don't think a lot of women's roles are written so well, so it was a great opportunity," she said, adding that her nomination--her first--was "wonderful and humbling and flattering. But no matter how good you feel about yourself, when you look down and see spit-up all over your shirt, it's back to real life."

In the television categories, HBO led the list of nominations with 18, with ABC following with 14. Best TV dramatic series nominations went to NBC's "ER," ABC's "The Practice," HBO's "The Sopranos" and two new series, NBC's "The West Wing" and ABC's "Once and Again." Fox's "Ally McBeal," ABC's "Dharma & Greg," HBO's "Sex and the City," ABC's "Spin City" and NBC's "Will & Grace" are vying for best television series musical or comedy.

And for the first time in Golden Globe history, an actor was competing with himself in the same category: Jack Lemmon was nominated for best performance in a miniseries or motion picture for "Inherit the Wind" and "Oprah Winfrey Presents Tuesdays With Morrie."

Times staff writer Susan King contributed to this report.

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