'Shakespeare' lives! Romantic film takes home seven Oscars
Web posted on: Monday, March 22, 1999 1:22:31 AM EST
(CNN) -- In the battle of pen versus sword, Elizabethan times versus World War II, romantic comedy versus graphic drama, "Shakespeare in Love" versus "Saving Private Ryan," the Bard came out on top.
"Shakespeare in Love" took home seven Oscars on Sunday night at the 71st Academy Awards, including best picture, best actress and best original screenplay. The film beat out "Saving Private Ryan," Steven Spielberg's war epic, which took home five honors.
"This is a movie about life and art, and art and life combining is magic for me," said "Shakespeare" producer Harvey Weinstein. "It was a passion for five years."
Gwyneth Paltrow, who took home her first Oscar for best actress for her role as young Will Shakespeare's inspiring lover, was overcome with emotion when she accepted her award.
"I would not have been able to play this role if I had not understood love of a tremendous magnitude and for that I thank my family," a tearful Paltrow said. "To my mother, Blythe Danner, who I love more than anything ... Especially to my father, Bruce Paltrow, who has surmounted insurmountable obstacles this year. I love you more than anything."
Spielberg, meanwhile, settled for best director honors.
"Am I allowed to say I really wanted this? This is fantastic," Spielberg said. "I would like to thank, very sincerely, the families who lost sons in World War II. We tried to show a story of one such family and it turns out there were a number of such families."
The Academy Awards, celebrating the best films of 1998, were held at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. The event was televised on ABC and hosted by Whoopi Goldberg.
Aside from "Shakespeare in Love" and "Saving Private Ryan," Roberto Benigni, who wrote, directed and acted in the Holocaust tragi-comedy "Life Is Beautiful," stole the first half of the show. The gracious Italian filmmaker won Oscars for best actor and best foreign film.
"Thank you! This is a moment of joy and I want to kiss everybody, the makers of the joy," said Benigni, after winning the foreign film award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He dedicated it to his wife and co-star Nicoletta Braschi.
Then, after winning best actor, Benigni strode to the stage again.
"This is a terrible mistake because I used up all my English!" said Benigni, who is the first actor in a foreign film to win the best actor Oscar since Sophia Loren won the honor in 1962 for "Two Women." "I'm not able to express all my gratitude. ... it is a colossal moment of joy."
One of the most anticipated moments of the ceremony -- the controversial presentation to Elia Kazan of a lifetime achievement award -- passed without much notice.
The plan to give Kazan the award had sparked heated debate in the Hollywood community. Kazan had long been neglected by the film establishment because he revealed the names of his former Communist Party comrades before the House Un-American Activities committee in 1952.
When Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro announced the award, many in the audience stood and clapped. A few notable stars, like Ed Harris and Nick Nolte, sat without expression, hands resting silently.
"I want to thank the Academy for its courage and generosity," Kazan said.
Dench, Coburn win supporting Oscars
Earlier in the evening, Dame Judi Dench took the Oscar for best supporting actress -- despite the least amount of screen time among her fellow nominees -- for her role as Queen Elizabeth in "Shakespeare in Love."
"I feel for eight minutes on screen I should only get a bit of him," said a grateful Dench of her Oscar. She was nominated for best actress last year for playing Queen Victoria in "Mrs. Brown."
James Coburn was named best supporting actor by the Academy for his role in the movie "Affliction." Coburn, 71, played an abusive, alcoholic father in the low-budget film.
"My, my, my ... I've been doing this work for over half my life and I finally got one right," said Coburn, who has starred in over 70 films. "Some (movies) you do for money, some you do for love. This is a love child."
The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award was presented to longtime producer-director Norman Jewison, whose credits include "The Cincinnati Kid," "In the Heat of the Night," "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Moonstruck."
"I accept this great honor in the names of all those people who have contributed to my life's work," said Jewison, who has won 12 Oscars.
Goldberg, meanwhile, kept the audience entertained with her caustic wit and wardrobe, which included her dressing up like a character from the film "Pleasantville" and in the title role of "Beloved," along with her stint as a white Elizabeth at the beginning of the show.
"Good evening, loyal subjects. I am the African queen," Goldberg said at the start of the show. "Some of you may know me as the virgin queen, but I can't imagine who."
Along with a Sunday night airing, the strong competition could lead to tremendous ratings for ABC. Last year's Oscars offered no suspense, as "Titanic" sailed to a record-tying 13 awards.
After years of presenting the Oscars on Monday, the Academy switched to Sunday, which delivers bigger audiences and, therefore, more money to ABC. The Academy presented a half-hour pre-show, hosted by actress Geena Davis, and highlighted by the famous red-carpet walk, when the movie industry's top stars sport glamorous fashions for the overwhelming numbers of media in attendance.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been dishing out its golden "Oscar" statuettes since 1929, with the Academy's 5,500 voters picking their favorites.
CNN Interactive Special: The 71st Annual Academy Awards
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