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‘Patient’ win thrills Piccadilly

Latenight stalwarts — the final award came at 5:30 a.m. U.K. time —crowded into Planet Hollywood in London’s Piccadilly Circus, cheering “The English Patient’s” best pic win and the biggest crop of Brit Oscars in years.

Such was the enthusiasm that even the craft award victories, such as the costume design win by “The English Pa-tient,” elicited loud cheers.

The night’s fear was that the Academy would vote along national lines and favor Hollywood over the international competition. And even though many of the attendees had connections to “Secrets & Lies,” including director Mike Leigh’s children, the cynics were heartened by “The English Patient” achieving several early awards.

Those awake and sober enough to make it to the show’s end saw their hopes realized as the indies held the fort and “The English Patient” rolled to a total of nine wins.

Elated in Oz

In Sydney, the 500 Aussie film execs and industry types squeezed into the ballroom of the Sheraton on Hyde Park stood and erupted into deafening cheers as Geoffrey Rush was named best actor for “Shine” for his portrayal of pianist David Helfgott.

“I always felt fairly confident, even though there was stiff competition,” Andrew Pike, topper of “Shine’s” Oz dis-tribber Ronin Film, told Daily Variety. “I think it means Australian filmmaking is on the map and no apologies are needed.”

The champagne flowed freely at the lunchtime gathering, but the crowd was civilized. There was no booing or jeers when entries from Down Under helmers — “Romeo and Juliet” (art direction) and “The Portrait of a Lady” (costume design, Barbara Hershey for best supporting actress) — missed out on awards.

The $95-a-plate event was organized by film publicist Susie Pilkington and sponsored by Who Weekly, People magazine’s Australian sister publication.

Attendees included “Shine” thesps Sonia Hodd and Googie Withers; “Shine” publicist Tracie Mair; Miramax Oz rep Victoria Treole; an “Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” contingent including exec producer Rebel Penfold-Russell, co-producer Al Clarke, and co-costume designer Tim Chappel; “Muriel’s Wedding” thesp Sophie Lee; and actresses Miranda Otto (“Love Serenade”) and Jacqueline McKenzie (“Angel Baby”).

Gotham gatherings

In New York, the East Coast branch of the Academy held its eighth annual Oscar celebration at the famed “21” restaurant in Gotham.

Among the guests in attendance were Carol Channing and Arlene Dahl, who both mourned the fact that Debbie Reynolds was not nominated for her role in Albert Brooks’ “Mother.”

“Debbie Reynolds really broke new barriers in mother roles,” said Channing. “It’s such a shame that she wasn’t recognized.”

Many of the 150 Academy members at “21” had come from outside New York. Traveling from Charleston, S.C., was Kevin Doyle, who retired five years ago as director of publicity and promotions for Columbia TriStar Intl. after 32 years with the studio.

“I loved ‘The English Patient’ but if it had been made by a studio, it would have been ‘Lawrence of Arabia II,’ ” confessed Doyle. “It’s an exciting and innovative year, but it remains to be seen whether the studios will change their policies.”

The hottest ticket in town was Entertainment Weekly’s Oscar party at Elaine’s restaurant, now in its third year. “It’s really an A-list event,” said columnist James Brady. “Where else would you find Peter Jennings, Kurt Vonnegut, Mike Wallace and Walter Cronkite in the same room?”

Michael Caine was keeping his fingers crossed that Kristin Scott Thomas would bring home a gold statue for her role in “The English Patient.”

“She’s always played the girl that no one wants around,” said Caine. “Just look at her in ‘Four Weddings and a Fu-neral.’ But I’ve always known that she would soar if someone gave her a glamorous part.”

Also attending the Entertainment Weekly soiree were producer Jeremy Tannenbaum, Lauren Hutton, CBS prexy Peter Lund, Betty Buckley, Darren Star, ITT chairman Rand Araskog, sex columnist Candace Bushnell, Amanda Burden, Christopher Lawford, Phyllis George and Empire State Economic Development Corp. chairman Charles Gargano.

(Staff writers Erich Boehm in London, Mark Woods in Sydney and Monica Roman in New York contributed to this report.)

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