When we started out we had no stars, no power or muscle to do what we wanted. But what we had was a script that had mad love and a genius director ... and we had partners in Film4, Pathe and Fox Searchlight."

Celador chief Christian Colson's words after hoisting aloft the best picture Oscar on Sunday night for Slumdog Millionaire encapsulated the rags-to-riches tale of the big winner at the 81st Annual Academy Awards.

Here was emphatic vindication of taste and commercial guts for the various UK backers of a picture that for a while looked destined for a distinctly unglamorous direct-to-DVD ride until the moribund Warner Independent Pictures passed it on to Fox Searchlight.

This was a UK triumph to savour, with victories in eight categories overall including best director for Danny Boyle.

Kate Winslet kept the bandwagon rolling by winning the lead actress prize for her portrayal of an indicted Nazi war criminal in The Reader. "It's a dream, it's a dream, it's a dream," Winslet mused to the massed ranks of the press corps backstage after finally converting her sixth nomination in 13 years. "It's sort of dawning on me now that I just won an Oscar. It's only starting to sink in right now, actually. Oh my God."

Winslet was asked how her husband Sam Mendes felt about the sexual content in both The Reader and Revolutionary Road (which Mendes directed).

"The person who was the most professional getting through the intimate moments in Revolutionary Road was Sam," Winslet said. "You know, I was pathetic."

When Penelope Cruz went backstage to parade her supporting actress Oscar for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, the discussion turned to an innovative feature in the awards show whereby previous winners appeared on stage to pay tribute to the night's nominees. "It was amazing to see all those women up there, the women I admire so very much," Cruz said. "And about all the things they said about all of us, all the nominees, and especially when that happens, that was a magical moment, and it happened a second before they opened the envelope, and I didn't know if I was going to survive it."

"You commie, homo-loving sons of guns!" Sean Penn's mischievous remark on collecting his lead actor award for Milk seemed long ago by the time the two-time Academy Award winner appeared in front of the press. When asked for his thoughts on President Barack Obama's stance on gay marriage, Penn delivered a sobering response. "We know his public position as far as the specific issue of gay marriage has not been, let's say, officially supportive of that ... I don't think that he or that any of us, and in particular our president, will long be able to take that position. It's inevitable ... because it's not a human luxury; these are human needs and they will be gotten. So he's going to have to adapt."

Philippe Petit, the high-wire artist and mercurial subject of James Marsh's documentary winner Man On Wire, revealed something of his upcoming plans after entertaining the Kodak Theater audience with a disappearing coin trick and a spot of on-stage chin juggling. "Well, actually, I have a secret, and if you are going to keep a secret, that will be fine," Petit said. "I am going to work in New York City in the fall, in a high-wire walk to a library. I won't tell you which one and it will be the beginning of a series of walks for literacy around the country to inspire the kids to read."

Slumdog Millionaire's sound mixing co-winner Resul Pookutty offered an insight into the sacred Indian syllable 'om' after taking the stage to share the award with Ian Tapp and Richard Pryke. "(We) believe om is a word that encompasses the whole experience of the universe. Indians can just listen, can just close your eyes and listen to the pains of living just by the sound of om. That relates to me on a very personal level, being a sound person. That's why I live for that."

The sound of silence told supporting actor winner Heath Ledger's sister Kate everything she needed to know when she discussed the role of the Joker in The Dark Knight with her brother shortly before his death in January 2008. "No-one had really seen it, but he knew. And I said to him, 'I have a feeling this is it for you. You're going to get a nomination for this, you know, for the Academy.' And he just looked at me and smiled. So he knew."


Best picture Slumdog Millionaire, Christian Colson

Best actor Sean Penn, Milk

Best actress Kate Winslet, The Reader

Best director Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

Best foreign-language film Departures (Japan)

Best supporting actress Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Best supporting actor Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Best documentary Man On Wire, James Marsh and Simon Chinn

Best original screenplay Dustin Lance Black, Milk

Best adapted screenplay Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire

Best animated feature Wall-E, Andrew Stanton

Best animated short La Maison En Petits Cubes, Kunio Kato

Art direction The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Donald Graham Burt (art direction) and Victor J Zolfo (set decoration)

Costume design The Duchess, Michael O'Connor

Make-up The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Greg Cannom

Cinematography Slumdog Millionaire, Anthony Dod Mantle

Best live-action short Toyland (Spielzeugland), Jochen Alexander Freydank

Best documentary short subject Smile Pinki, Megan Mylan

Visual effects The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron

Sound editing The Dark Knight, Richard King

Sound mixing Slumdog Millionaire, Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty

Film editing Slumdog Millionaire, Chris Dickens

Original score Slumdog Millionaire, AR Rahman

Original song Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire, music by AR Rahman and lyrics by Gulzar.