HOLLYWOOD – Alfonso Cuaron, who labored for four years creating “Gravity,” won the Oscar on Sunday for best director at the 86th Academy Awards.
The native Mexican filmmaker, who had already won the Golden Globe, the BAFTA and the Directors Guild Award, became the first Latin American to win the Academy Award in the category.
The director received a rousing reception when his name was announced. When he finally reached the stage after hugging and kissing several well-wishers, Cuaron shared a soulful handshake with presenter and Oscar winner Sidney Poitier.
“I want to thank ‘Gravity’ because for many of us involved in this film, it was definitely a transformative experience,” Cuaron said during his acceptance speech. He then quipped, “It’s good, because it took so long that if it was not, it would have been a waste of time.”
He made another joke in thanking Warner Bros., the studio behind the film. At first, he referred to them as “the wise guys of Warner Bros.” before correcting himself, saying “the wise people of Warner Bros.”
The directing award was the second Oscar of the night for Cuaron, who shared the editing award with Mark Sanger.
The suspenseful story starring Sandra Bullock as a desperate astronaut stranded in space dominated the technical categories, winning five other Oscars, including visual effects and cinematography.
Cuaron praised his son Jonas, who co-wrote the film, and paid special tribute to Bullock.
“Sandy, you are ‘Gravity,’ ” he said to the actress, whose portrayal won her a lead actress nomination. “You are the soul and heart of the film. You are the most amazing collaborator and one of the greatest people I have ever met.”
In the last several weeks, the director race had been one of the more competitive and closely watched of the awards season.
Cuaron was considered a front-runner for the Oscar along with “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen.
The filmmaker had spent four years working on “Gravity,” which presented numerous technical obstacles.
To create the illusion of Bullock and co-star George Clooney floating through space, Cuaron and his team strapped them into mechanized rigs designed to spin them around on command, while a camera was similarly mounted on a giant robotic arm.
But Cuaron has repeatedly said the technology was secondary to his goal of depicting a heartwrenching journey for Bullock’s character.
“I never thought about making a groundbreaking film,” Cuaron said last September at the Telluride Film Festival.
“It was just the only way to make this story about a woman overcoming adversity.”
“Gravity” is the latest in Cuaron’s impressive gallery of prestige films that include “Children of Men,” “Y Tu Mama Tambien” and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”