As expected American Beauty won the major Oscars at the 72nd annual Academy Awards ceremony, winning in five categories - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography.
The $15m production which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year was the first film to win the Best Picture Oscar for six-year-old movie studio DreamWorks SKG. It also marked a personal victory for British theatre director Sam Mendes who made his feature debut with American Beauty. It was the first time a debut film director has won an Oscar since Kevin Costner for Dances With Wolves in 1990. Mendes is now the sixth filmmaker in Academy history to win the director prize with their very first go behind the cameras.
Kevin Spacey won his second Oscar for American Beauty ' he previously won the supporting actor prize in 1995 for The Usual Suspects. "This is the highlight of my day. I hope it is not all downhill from here," he joked. Spacey had won the SAG award but Denzel Washington had also been a favourite for The Hurricane. Washington won the Golden Globe over Spacey.
But in the best actress category, American Beauty fell short. Hilary Swank completed all but a clean sweep of actress awards for her portrayal of Brandon Teena in Boys Don't Cry, a Killer Films/Hart Sharp Productions picture backed by the Independent Film Channel and distributed by Fox Searchlight domestically and 20th Century Fox internationally. A heavily pregnant Annette Bening had won the SAG award for American Beauty a fortnight ago, casting doubt on what was once considered a shoo-in for Swank; but it was Swank's win on the night.
Pedro Almodovar won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for All About My Mother (see separate story), bringing Spain its third victory in this category.
As expected Angelina Jolie won the best supporting actress Oscar for Girl, Interrupted. For her performance as the sociopathic inmate at a mental institution, she beat Australia's Toni Collette and the UK's Samantha Morton to the prize as well as Catherine Keener and Chloe Sevigny, who had taken the Independent Spirit Award in the same category on Saturday for her role in Boys Don't Cry.
Britain's Michael Caine won his second best supporting actor Oscar for The Cider House Rules, an award that was greeted with a standing ovation. Caine, who won previously in 1986 for Hannah And Her Sisters, thanked Harvey and Bob Weinstein and Meryl Poster at Miramax Films, director Lasse Hallstrom and producer Richard Gladstein as well as paying generous tribute to his fellow nominees Haley Joel Osment, Tom Cruise, Michael Clarke Duncan and Jude Law. The category was one of the most hotly contested of the evening.
John Irving won The Cider House Rules' second Oscar for his screenplay adaptation of his own novel. Irving thanked Miramax Films for supporting a film about abortion and "everyone at Planned Parenthood and the Abortion Rights League."
Meanwhile another British triumph was Mike Leigh's Topsy-Turvy which walked away with two craft awards ' for costume design and makeup. Veteran costume designer Lindy Hemming thanked Leigh, for whom she did her first feature work in 1981 on TV's Meantime. Her other credits include Leigh's films High Hopes, Life Is Sweet and Naked as well as modern British classics My Beautiful Launderette, Four Weddings And A Funeral, Hear My Song and the last three James Bond pictures.
Also winning for Topsy-Turvy were makeup artists Christine Blundell and Trefor Proud who saluted Leigh in their acceptance speech.
European talent also won the Best Documentary Feature Oscar ' UK director Kevin Macdonald shared the prize with veteran Swiss producer Arthur Cohn for One Day In September, while the film's other producer, Britain's John Battsek, appeared backstage alongside them. Wim Wenders' hit film The Buena Vista Social Club was favourite to win the Best Documentary Feature Oscar, but Cohn made indirect reference to that film by thanking the Academy for not being influenced by box office success in its selection.
Narrated by Michael Douglas, One Day In September documents the events leading up to the PLO terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games. Cohn has won two Oscars before this one ' for documentary feature American Dream in 1991 (shared with director Barbara Kopple) and Le Ciel Et La Boue in 1962 (shared with director Rene Lafuite).
Russian Alexandre Petrov won the Best Animated Short Film prize ' the third time he had been nominated ' for The Old Man And The Sea backed by Les Productions Pascal Blais (Canada), Panorama Studios (Russia) and three Japanese companies, Imagica Corp, Dentsu Tech and NHK Enterprises. Adapted from Ernest Hemingway's novel, the 40-minute film took Petrov two years to make ' he painted each glass plate himself. The film has also been nominated for a BAFTA in the same category.
Legendary Polish director Andrzej Wajda was awarded a lifetime achievement Oscar, receiving a standing ovation from the Hollywood audience as Jane Fonda presented him with the award. "I have been working for films for 46 years and I think people wanted to thank me for all that I've done in films," he told press backstage.
Technical categories were dominated by Andy and Larry Wachowski's smash hit The Matrix which won editing, visual effects, sound and sound effects editing Oscars to become the second most honoured film of the evening. It beat out Star Wars: Episode 1 ' The Phantom Menace in each category.
72nd Annual Academy Awards: Full List of Winners
(US and international distributor listed where appropriate)
American Beauty (DreamWorks SKG/UIP)
Bruce Cohen & Dan Jinks, producers
Sam Mendes, American Beauty (DreamWorks SKG/UIP)
Kevin Spacey, American Beauty (DreamWorks SKG/UIP)
Hilary Swank, Boys Don't Cry (Fox Searchlight/20th Century Fox)
Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules (Miramax/Miramax International)
Angelina Jolie, Girl, Interrupted (Columbia/Columbia TriStar)
Foreign Language Film
All About My Mother (Sony Classics/United Artists Films)
Pedro Almodovar, director
Screenplay (written directly for the screen)
Alan Ball, American Beauty (DreamWorks SKG/UIP)
Screenplay (based on material previously produced or published)
John Irving, The Cider House Rules (Miramax/Miramax International)
Conrad L Hall, American Beauty (DreamWorks SKG/UIP)
Zach Staenberg, The Matrix (Warner Bros)
Music (Original Score)
John Corigliano, The Red Violin (Lions Gate Films/New Line International)
Music (Original Song)
"You'll Be In My Heart" from Tarzan (Buena Vista)
Music and lyrics by Phil Collins
Rick Heinrichs (Art Direction), Peter Young (Set Decoration), Sleepy Hollow
Lindy Hemming, Topsy-Turvy (USA Films/United Artists Films)