Golden Globe winners Hilary Swank and Angelina Jolie also became doubly honored, taking BFCA wins for best actress and best supporting actress, respectively.
All about 'American Beauty'
But the awards luncheon was mostly about praising "American Beauty" and its creators. Director Mendes was jubilant over his film's success. "The first time I realized the movie was getting the kind of enthusiasm that it has received was in that first day, in the room with all of you guys interviewing us," he said. "Thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you've done for me. It makes me so proud to be standing here again for my first movie -- in a year when so many of my heroes have made films."
The film's stars, Annette Bening and Kevin Spacey, were on hand to praise both Mendes and screenwriter Ball.
"Sam, you went into the deepest part of my heart," Spacey told the director. "You showed me so much, and out of that (came) this extraordinary poem you have made and we are all grateful to you."
Bening, who has known Ball for many years, said, "We all did the movie because of you, because of the words that were there."
Tearful acceptances from Swank, Jolie
Hilary Swank, who took top honors as best actress for her work in "Boys Don't Cry," was tearful as she accepted her award. She portrayed Teena Brandon in the film based on the true story of a woman struggling with her sexual identity, who was raped and murdered after it was discovered that she was posing as a young man.
"This has been an experience that has made me grow so much as a human being," Swank said. "Thank you for your beautiful reviews for a story that obviously means so much."
Also choking back tears was best supporting actress winner Angelina Jolie. Her showy role in "Girl, Interrupted" cast her as a charismatic sociopath in a mental hospital.
Comparing the life of her character, who had been abandoned by her family, to her own life, the actress sobbed, "My mom is such a beautiful woman and she told me she loved me and accepted me all my life. She always told me that I was cared for. And my dad (actor Jon Voight) -- I watch him try and be a better person everyday and I admire that."
Best supporting actor winner Michael Clarke Duncan, who won for his role as the condemned gentle giant John Coffey in "The Green Mile," crowed, "this is my first award ever as an actor!"
Russell Crowe, the best actor winner for "The Insider," proved to be a man of few words, simply saying, "Thanks very much for this."
Hanks, Spielberg get special awards
Other winners included writer/director Frank Darabont for best screenplay adaptation of Stephen King's "The Green Mile." Spike Jonze won Breakthough Performer for his acting work in "Three Kings" and his directorial debut with "Being John Malkovich."
Two special one-time only awards were given to Tom Hanks as actor of the decade and Steven Spielberg as director of the decade.
But the highlight of the afternoon was young Haley Joel Osment, who won for best child performance for his work in "The Sixth Sense." Standing on a chair at the podium, he charmed the entire room full of journalists when he said, "I think I have a few more child performances in me, so I'll try to live up to this in the next few years."
The Broadcast Film Critics Association is the largest critics group in the nation.
Editor's note: Correspondent Paul Clinton is a founding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.
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