The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fantasy rules world of make-believe

Los Angeles, March 1 (Reuters): Hollywood bowed to an army of hobbits and a pair of convicts as The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won a record-tying 11 Oscars, including best picture, while Sean Penn and Charlize Theron nabbed top acting prizes for killer performances.

In addition, the Academy Awards made Sofia Coppola, the daughter of Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, an offer she couldn’t refuse — an Oscar for best original screenplay for Lost in Translation, a sign that she has not only entered the family business but might take it over some day.

The three-and-a-half-hour-plus show televised around the world held no surprises and seemed to sag whenever host Billy Crystal wandered off stage so that the Academy could hand out awards to what seemed to be an endless army of people from New Zealand or who worked for people from New Zealand.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the conclusion to the fantasy trilogy based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien and directed by New Zealander Peter Jackson, won all 11 awards for which it was nominated.

That tally tied the record for most Oscars for a single movie shared by two other epics, 1959’s Ben-Hur and 1997’s Titanic, not bad for a film that almost did not get made when Disney’s Miramax films wanted to fire Jackson or have another studio take over the project. Time Warner Inc.’s New Line Cinema stepped in and saved the day for Jackson on their way to taking in nearly $3 billion at the global box office.

It was the first time in Oscar history that a fantasy film had won the top prize and that distinction was not lost on Jackson.

“I’m so honoured, touched and relieved that the...members of the Academy supported us and have seen past the trolls and the wizards and hobbits and are recognising fantasy this year. Fantasy is an F-word that hopefully the five-second delay won’t do anything with,” he said, referring to a tape delay imposed on the show for the first time.

ABC imposed the delay as a safeguard against unscripted obscenity in reaction to Janet Jackson’s flash of flesh in a Super Bowl performance.

They should have been so lucky. Jackson might have livened things up on a night devoid of surprises or controversy, Hollywood put on its best behaviour and spread the prizes among first-time nominees and some oft-snubbed favourites.

Penn won for the first time in four nominations and Theron won on her first try. An actor known for his explosive power, Penn was rewarded for his portrayal of a hoodlum out for revenge after his daughter is killed in Clint Eastwood’s tragedy Mystic River.

Also winning for the first time were Tim Robbins, who was named best supporting actor for Mystic River, and Renee Zellweger, who received best supporting actress Oscar for Cold Mountain.

Theron won for her performance as a serial killer prostitute in Monster and that Oscar is likely to change her career.

The South African-born former model said she took the risky role, in part, to force Hollywood to take her seriously as an actress.

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