Nation/World

Oscar Goes Independent ‘English Patient’ Wins Nine Academy Awards

“The English Patient,” a romantic war epic that Hollywood didn’t want to make, won nine Oscars Monday night, including best picture, director and supporting actress.

“I said my cup was full before. Now it runneth over,” producer Saul Zaentz said as he accepted the night’s top award.

It was a night for independent filmmaking as Geoffrey Rush, the mentally disturbed concert pianist of “Shine,” won best actor and Frances McDormand, the pregnant Midwestern cop in “Fargo,” was named best actress at the Academy Awards on Monday night.

Anthony Minghella won best director for “The English Patient,” and its co-star, Juliette Binoche, claimed the supporting actress statuette.

The last time a film won as many as nine Oscars was “The Last Emperor” at the 1988 Oscar show. “The English Patient,” which had the most nominations with 12, also won for cinematography, dramatic score, film editing, sound, costume and art direction.

Concluding his thanks, Rush gave special tribute to “the unstoppable David Helfgott - you truly are an inspiration.” “Shine” told the story of the real-life Helfgott’s struggle to overcome a mental breakdown.

McDormand strutted to the stage and exclaimed: “What am I doing here? Especially considering the extraordinary group of women with whom I was nominated.” She also complimented producers who allow directors to make “autonomous casting decisions” not based on “market value.”

The top acting honors prevented a sweep by “The English Patient,” a burn victim’s tortured recollections of his misdeeds in time of war. But it was enough to put it among Hollywood’s elite. The all-time winner was 1959’s “Ben-Hur” with 11 Oscars.

“I’m so surprised,” said Binoche, who, like many, thought the statuette would go to Lauren Bacall. “I didn’t prepare anything. I thought Lauren was going to get it. And I think she deserves it.”

Binoche portrayed the compassionate Canadian nurse in “The English Patient.” Bacall, a star since 1944 but never before nominated, was named for her role as a domineering mother in “The Mirror Has Two Faces.”

Besides “The English Patient’s” competitive Oscars, Zaentz received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his career. He also produced previous Oscar-winners “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Amadeus.”

Zaentz ran into financing problems after beginning production on “The English Patient” and shut it down. Twentieth Century Fox, which supported the film early on, decided it wanted more commercial casting to make it more of a box-office movie.

Reportedly, the studio wanted Demi Moore in the female lead. Zaentz declined any change in casting and won financing from Miramax.

The only major award for Hollywood studios went to Cuba Gooding Jr., the football star who repeatedly asks his faltering agent to “Show me the money!” in “Jerry Maguire.” He won the supporting actor Oscar.

After hugging “Jerry Maguire” star Tom Cruise on his way up to the stage, Gooding shouted out thank-yous and I-love-yous and jumped around like he had just caught a game-winning touchdown.

The Shrine Auditorium audience loved his exuberance and applauded as he yelled out thanks to his family and everyone connected to the movie.

“I know I have a little bit of time so I’m going to rush and get in everyone. You can cut away, I won’t be mad at you,” the excited Gooding warned the audience as he exceeded the 40-second acceptance speech limit.

Another award “The English Patient” didn’t get went to Billy Bob Thornton, for his adapted screenplay of “Sling Blade,” in which he also starred and directed.

Besides McDormand’s award, “Fargo” also won for original screenplay.

Oscar specializes in sentiment, and a high point was reached when the documentary feature Oscar was presented to the producers of “When We Were Kings,” which depicts a key fight in the career of former boxing champion Muhammad Ali.

When the producers gave credit to Ali, who was seated in the audience with his wife, the crowd applauded wildly in a standing ovation.

Ali, who has Parkinson’s syndrome, made his way hesitantly to the stage along with one-time opponent George Foreman, who is also in the film.

“Well, thank heavens there wasn’t a song in ‘The English Patient’ is all I can say,” said Andrew Lloyd Webber as he and Tim Rice collected the original-song Oscar for “You Must Love Me” from “Evita.”

Before the show, the contenders for top honors were largely unknown to most Americans.

Except for Cruise, Diane Keaton, Bacall and a couple of others, most of the 20 acting nominees hadn’t gotten much play in Peoria.

In fact, three were nominated for their very first movies: Emily Watson, “Breaking the Waves”; Edward Norton, “Primal Fear”; and Marianne Jean-Baptiste, “Secrets and Lies.” Fourteen others were never before nominated.

And in the best picture category, four of the five nominees were independent films with relatively small audiences: “The English Patient,” “Fargo,” “Shine” and “Secrets & Lies.” Only “Jerry Maguire” was released by a major Hollywood studio.

But the scarcity of big names and blockbuster movies among this year’s Oscar contenders didn’t dampen enthusiasm for Hollywood’s 69th rite of spring.

“We’re going to see some stars!” said Elmer Armstrong, 54, of St. Louis, one of hundreds of fans who had camped outside the Shrine Auditorium since Saturday. “We have some wonderful seats here.”

After a three-year absence, comedian Billy Crystal returned as host of the three-hour-plus ceremony, telecast live on ABC. He received a standing ovation for an opening act that put him in scenes of the night’s big films.

MEMO: These 2 sidebars appeared with the story:

1. OSCARS SCORECARD The top 10 grossing movies of 1996 and the number of Academy Awards and nominations each received: 1. “Independence Day,” 20th Century Fox, $306.1 million, one award, two nominations. 2. “Twister,” Warner Bros./Universal, $241.7 million, no awards, two nominations. 3. “Mission: Impossible,” Paramount, $180.9 million, no nominations. 4. “The Rock,” Disney, $134.1 million, no awards, one nomination. 5. “The Nutty Professor,” Universal, $128.8 million, one award, one nomination. 6. “The Birdcage,” MGM, $124 million, no awards, one nomination. 7. “Ransom,” Buena Vista, $120.3 million, no nominations. 8. “A Time To Kill,” Warner Bros., $108.7 million, no nominations. 9. “Phenomenon,” Disney, $104.4 million, no nominations. 10. “The First Wives Club,” Paramount, $102.1 million, no awards, one nomination. Associated Press

2. THE WINNERS Winners at the 69th annual Academy Awards on Monday night: Picture: “The English Patient.” Actor: Geoffrey Rush, “Shine.” Actress: Frances McDormand, “Fargo.” Supporting Actor: Cuba Gooding Jr., “Jerry Maguire.” Supporting Actress: Juliette Binoche, “The English Patient.” Director: Anthony Minghella, “The English Patient.” Foreign Film: “Kolya,” Czech Republic. Screenplay (based on material previously produced or published): Billy Bob Thornton, “Sling Blade.” Screenplay (written directly for the screen): Ethan Coen & Joel Coen, “Fargo.” Art Direction: “The English Patient.” Cinematography: “The English Patient.” Sound: “The English Patient.” Sound Effects Editing: “The Ghost and the Darkness.” Original Musical or Comedy Score: “Emma,” Rachel Portman. Original Dramatic Score: “The English Patient,” Gabriel Yared. Original Song: “You Must Love Me” from “Evita,” Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Costume: “The English Patient.” Documentary Feature: “When We Were Kings.” Documentary (short subject): “Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien.” Film Editing: “The English Patient.” Makeup: “The Nutty Professor.” Animated Short Films: “Quest.” Live Action Short Film: “Dear Diary.” Visual Effects: “Independence Day.” —- Oscar winners previously announced this year: Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award: Producer Saul Zaentz. Honorary Award: Choreographer Michael Kidd. Scientific and Technical Oscar: Imax Corp. for its large-format movies. Associated Press

These 2 sidebars appeared with the story:

1. OSCARS SCORECARD The top 10 grossing movies of 1996 and the number of Academy Awards and nominations each received: 1. “Independence Day,” 20th Century Fox, $306.1 million, one award, two nominations. 2. “Twister,” Warner Bros./Universal, $241.7 million, no awards, two nominations. 3. “Mission: Impossible,” Paramount, $180.9 million, no nominations. 4. “The Rock,” Disney, $134.1 million, no awards, one nomination. 5. “The Nutty Professor,” Universal, $128.8 million, one award, one nomination. 6. “The Birdcage,” MGM, $124 million, no awards, one nomination. 7. “Ransom,” Buena Vista, $120.3 million, no nominations. 8. “A Time To Kill,” Warner Bros., $108.7 million, no nominations. 9. “Phenomenon,” Disney, $104.4 million, no nominations. 10. “The First Wives Club,” Paramount, $102.1 million, no awards, one nomination. Associated Press

2. THE WINNERS Winners at the 69th annual Academy Awards on Monday night: Picture: “The English Patient.” Actor: Geoffrey Rush, “Shine.” Actress: Frances McDormand, “Fargo.” Supporting Actor: Cuba Gooding Jr., “Jerry Maguire.” Supporting Actress: Juliette Binoche, “The English Patient.” Director: Anthony Minghella, “The English Patient.” Foreign Film: “Kolya,” Czech Republic. Screenplay (based on material previously produced or published): Billy Bob Thornton, “Sling Blade.” Screenplay (written directly for the screen): Ethan Coen & Joel Coen, “Fargo.” Art Direction: “The English Patient.” Cinematography: “The English Patient.” Sound: “The English Patient.” Sound Effects Editing: “The Ghost and the Darkness.” Original Musical or Comedy Score: “Emma,” Rachel Portman. Original Dramatic Score: “The English Patient,” Gabriel Yared. Original Song: “You Must Love Me” from “Evita,” Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Costume: “The English Patient.” Documentary Feature: “When We Were Kings.” Documentary (short subject): “Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien.” Film Editing: “The English Patient.” Makeup: “The Nutty Professor.” Animated Short Films: “Quest.” Live Action Short Film: “Dear Diary.” Visual Effects: “Independence Day.” —- Oscar winners previously announced this year: Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award: Producer Saul Zaentz. Honorary Award: Choreographer Michael Kidd. Scientific and Technical Oscar: Imax Corp. for its large-format movies. Associated Press



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