‘Titanic’ tally ties Oscar record

Hunt, Nicholson nab trophies

“Titanic” blew everybody else out of the water.

Hollywood’s biggest, costliest, most effects-laden pic ever — and the film that’s raked in the most bucks at the B.O. — also entered the Oscar record books Monday night: After tying the 1950 “All About Eve” with a record 14 nominations, the pic nabbed 11 wins, tying with the 1959 “Ben-Hur” for the most gold ever given to one film.

Among the prizes were three for James Cameron, who became the first person in Oscar history to take home trophies for producing (along with Jon Landau), directing and editing (with Conrad Buff and Richard A. Harris) in one night.

The biggest surprise was how few surprises there were. Aside from the predicted “Titanic” sweep, many Oscar-watchers expected the acting wins for Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt for “As Good As It Gets” — the seventh time the best actor and actress prizes went to the same film. Nicholson marked his third win, making him only the fourth thesp ever to win that many; interestingly, each time he’s won, his female co-star also took home the prize.

By the script

The screenplay wins were also widely predicted: Brian Helgeland & Curtis Hanson for the adaptation of “L.A. Confidential” and “Good Will Hunting’s” Ben Affleck & Matt Damon, whose original screenplay win marked the fourth consecutive year that actor-writers took home a scripting nod.

“Good Will,” “L.A.” and “As Good As It Gets” won two Oscars apiece, the only films other than “Titanic” to take home more than one.

“Titanic” becomes the third consecutive film to take home top prize without a screenplay trophy — but the first pic since 1965’s “The Sound of Music” to win best pic without even a nomination for script.

It’s also the second time in three years (after 1995’s “Braveheart”) that the top prize went to a film shared by Fox and Paramount (which have the film overseas and domestically, respectively). It’s Par’s third win in four years, including the 1994 “Forrest Gump.”

Despite its triumphs, “Titanic” is the least likely best-pic winner in decades to see a significant B.O. upturn from its Oscars: Already playing in virtually every territory overseas, the pic has chalked up $1.2 billion globally, and there presumably aren’t great numbers of people who haven’t already seen it (see separate story).

Unlike such past best-pic recipients as “Unforgiven,” “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Rain Man,” it follows in the tradition of big epic pics like “Ben-Hur,” “Gandhi,” “Braveheart” and last year’s winner, “The English Patient.”

Traditional winner

The pic also follows two other recent traditions: For the last seven years, none of the best-film winners has had a conventional happy ending (“The Silence of the Lambs,” “Unforgiven,” “Schindler’s List,” “Forrest Gump,” “Braveheart” and “The English Patient”). And, like the last three, “Titanic” is a spectacle/love story in which at least one of the protagonists dies.

All five best-pic nominees won at least one award: “As Good As It Gets” for actress and actor, “The Full Monty” for score, “Good Will Hunting” for supporting actor Robin Williams and original screenplay; and “L.A. Confidential” for supporting actress Kim Basinger and adapted screenplay.

Since Cameron had won the Directors Guild of America nod, his helming win was expected. Only four times has there been a difference between the winner of the DGA and the directing Oscar.

Call him ‘king’

In accepting his directing prize, Cameron ended his speech by raising his arms and whooping a line from the film — “I’m king of the world!” — which is sure to raise apprehension to whoever is financing his next picture.

Despite the fact that everyone was getting antsy from a show that went 40 minutes over its allotted time, Cameron wrapped up the evening by asking everyone to sit still for a few moments of silence for those who’d died 86 years ago on the boat.

In other categories:

Acting

All four winning actors are American, the second time that’s happened in three years.

On his 11th nomination, Nicholson is now tied with Ingrid Bergman for two lead wins and one supporting. Walter Brennan has three supporting prizes, and Katharine Hepburn holds the lead with four best actress Oscars.

Nicholson also joins Dianne Wiest as the only actors to win two Oscars with the same writer-director: She won the support-ing nod for two Woody Allen films; he also won a supporting prize for the James L. Brooks-helmed “Terms of Endearment.”

Nicholson won for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975) and for his supporting turn in “Endearment” (1983). Louise Fletcher and Shirley MacLaine, respectively, also won as best actress for those films.

The actor and actress prizes have gone to the same films six times previously: “It Happened One Night,” “Cuckoo’s Nest,” “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Network,” “Coming Home” and “On Golden Pond.” (Only the first three also won best pic.)

In winning for TriStar’s “As Good,” Hunt joins Goldie Hawn and Cloris Leachman as people who won while simultane-ously appearing in a TV series. In what seems to indicate the state of roles for women at the major studios, this is the first time in five years that the best actress win came from a major.

While James L. Brooks missed out on a directing nom for “As Good,” he now has helmed four actors to Oscar wins after directing only four films, a remarkable batting average.

Williams (“Good Will Hunting”) became a real rarity: an above-the-title actor, who gets first billing, but won in the supporting race. On his fourth nom, and first in the supporting category, comic Williams was surprisingly sober in his acceptance speech — reflecting a role that is mostly dramatic, as were his best-actor bids: “Good Morning, Vietnam,” “Dead Poets Society” and “The Fisher King.”

Screenplay

“Hunting’s” Affleck & Damon join Paddy Chayefsky (“Marty”) and Emma Thompson (“Sense & Sensibility”) as Oscar winners for their first produced screenplay. This is the fourth consecutive year in which actors won for scripts of films in which they also appeared: the two follow Quentin Tarantino (co-scripter of 1994’s “Pulp Fiction”), Thompson (“Sense & Sensibility”), and Billy Bob Thornton (“Sling Blade”).

It’s also the fifth time in six years that Miramax has taken one of the screenplay nods (after 1992, “The Crying Game”; 1993, “The Piano”; 1994, “Pulp Fiction”; 1996, “Sling Blade”).

In contrast with Williams’ subdued speech, the pair borrowed the exuberance of last year’s winner Cuba Gooding Jr., rattling off a frenzied list of thanks concluding with a tribute to Gooding for his speech techniques.

Also on their first nominations, Helgeland and Hanson won for the adapted screenplay of “L.A. Confidential,” repeating their Writers Guild awards. (Hanson this year was also nominated as helmer and a producer of the pic.)

Music

On her first nomination, Anne Dudley won the original musical or comedy score prize for “The Full Monty.” With Rachel Portman’s win last year for “Emma,” this marks the second consecutive win for a woman after a 50-year spell of all-male nominations in this category.

Makeup

Rick Baker and David LeRoy Anderson won their second consecutive Academy Awards for makeup, this year for “Men in Black.” They won last year with “The Nutty Professor” (Anderson’s first nom), and this is Baker’s seventh nom and fifth win.

Foreign-language film

The Netherlands won its third foreign-language film Oscar on its fifth nom, for “Character,” a First Floor Features production being released by Sony Pictures Classics.

When host Billy Crystal entered on a set simulating the prow of the Titanic, it was clear which pic was the front-runner. The Cameron film hit its first chunk of ice with the first award handed out, as “Titanic’s” Gloria Stuart lost to Basinger, on her first nom. (The two had tied for the Screen Actors Guild nod in that category.)

But in the second category of the evening, Deborah Scott won for her costume design for the sea epic, starting a streak of technical wins, including sound, sound effects and visual effects. The pic went on to win additional tech awards for editing, score, song, art direction, cinematography.

Accepting his award, d.p. Russell Carpenter reminded people that principal photography on the pic wrapped a year ago to the day from the pic’s Oscar sweep.

It failed only to triumph in the actress, supporting actress and makeup categories. By comparison, “All About Eve,” with 14 noms, went home with six trophies, including best picture, director and screenplay.

Also no surprise was the fact that several prizes went to many of the individuals who had received multiple nominations, aside from Cameron’s three wins and Hanson’s one.

Of the nine people who got two noms, three went home with trophies: After no wins on his five previous nominations, James Horner won both his nominations, for dramatic score for “Titanic,” and for song on that pic (“My Heart Will Go On”) with lyrics by Will Jennings. Jennings has two previous noms and one previous win (“Up Where We Belong,” from 1982’s “An Officer and a Gentleman”).

Damon lost as best actor but took the script prize, and Tom Johnson was part of the sound team that won for “Titanic,” meaning he beat himself on the “Contact” nom.

The Oscarcast itself was similar to “Titanic”: really long, with the outcome a foregone conclusion. But there were some fun twists along the way. Emotional highlight was the assembly of past acting winners, from Shirley Temple and Luise Rainer (1936-37) to this year’s quartet. Runner-up moment was Stanley Donen’s singing and tap dancing to “Cheek to Cheek” as part of his acceptance for his lifetime achievement recognition.

While Crystal kept announcing that the show was behind schedule, that didn’t stop him from inserting one-liners at every possible moment, or the leisurely pace of most presenters, or the frequent succession of film clips — some of which were pertinent (the Donen montage) and some of which were hard to explain (a group of animal stars in films).

The show marked the debut of Jerry Goldsmith’s Oscar fanfare, a brief and effective piece of music that’s intended to be an aural equivalent of the Oscar statuette: something immediately recognizable.

The Oscars, voted on by members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, were presented Monday at the Shrine Auditorium in L.A. Gilbert Cates produced the kudocast, which was broadcast live on ABC starting at 6 p.m. PST.

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