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‘Gods’ a Monster of a Hit at Indie Awards

TIMES STAFF WRITER

“Gods and Monsters,” distributed by Lions Gate Films, won top honors Saturday at the Independent Spirit Awards, taking best picture, best actor and best supporting actress awards.

Veteran actor Ian McKellen won for his role as a tortured horror movie director and Lynn Redgrave for her supporting role as a Hungarian housekeeper.

“It’s very odd being a foreigner in your country at this time of year,” said the British lead actor, referring to the pre-Oscar media frenzy. “I’ve enjoyed every minute, but I don’t think I want to do it again.”

McKellen and Redgrave also received Oscar nominations for their performances in the sentimental drama, which cost $4 million to make.

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“This is really something because you are our family,” said “Gods and Monsters” producer Gregg Fienberg, referring to the independent film supporters who attended the Santa Monica event. “This is where I think we really belong.”

The awards are sponsored by the Independent Feature Project/West, an organization created to support independent filmmakers. Nominees and winners were selected by the organization’s 5,000 members.

The award ceremony, held under a tent at the beach, was laced with insider jokes about the challenges of making independent films in a time of major studio blockbusters.

“My first movie . . . cost $60,” said John Waters, keynote speaker and veteran director of such cult classics as “Pink Flamingos.” “We showed it at a B-movie house. We passed the hat and collected $40, but with video and foreign [revenue], one day I hope to break even.”

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The presenters also made some jabs at Miramax Films, which, while still a distributor of independent movies, is now owned by one of the biggest Hollywood studios--Walt Disney Co.

“Bob and Harvey were unavailable. They were pressing Gwyneth’s dress,” said presenter Illeana Douglas, poking fun at the Weinstein brothers, founders of Miramax, and their muse, actress Gwyneth Paltrow.

The filmmaking toast of Saturday was the critically acclaimed “Gods and Monsters,” based on the life of gay director James Whale.

“You don’t know how much this means to me right now,” said an emotional Redgrave, referring to reports of her marital problems. “I began in independent films 140 years ago. Then I had a long time in Siberia. I’ve had a renaissance, and my new life in films has been due to independent films.”

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Joining Redgrave in a comeback was a triumphant Ally Sheedy, who was chosen best female lead for her role as a drug-addicted lesbian in “High Art.” Sheedy, who became famous in the 1980s as a member of the “Brat Pack” group of young actors, had not worked in film for more than a decade.

“Oh, my God!” she squealed. “You have no idea how long this road has been--at least 12 years of not being able to get an audition for a sitcom. This movie is an absolute sending from God.”

Bill Murray, the veteran comic actor rarely honored for his work, won best supporting male for “Rushmore.” He did not attend the ceremony.

“Rushmore” director Wes Anderson was voted best director for his second feature film.

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The Danish movie “Celebration,” which was snubbed by the Oscars, won for best foreign film.

“This is a great thing, really,” said the film’s leading actor, Ulrich Thomsen. “Hip hip hurray for the independent industry.”

In a surprise win, “The Opposite of Sex” director Don Roos took the best screenplay award, beating out “Gods and Monsters’ ” Bill Condon and veteran screenwriter David Mamet for “The Spanish Prisoner.” Roos also took home the award for best first feature.

For best cinematography, Maryse Alberti won for “Velvet Goldmine.” The Someone to Watch Award, a $20,000 prize given to a promising young director, went to David Williams, who directed “13.” Susan Stover, producer of “High Art,” received the $20,000 Producers Award.

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Barbara Sonneborn won best documentary for the searing “Regret to Inform,” and Darren Aronofsky garnered best first screenplay for his film “Pi.” Evan Adams won best debut performance for his performance in “Smoke Signals.”


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