Teen pregnancy dramedy “Juno” delivered three key wins at Saturday’s Independent Spirit Awards: best picture, actress (Ellen Page) and first screenplay (Diabo Cody).
“I would like to thank (manager) Mason Novick, who introduced me to Jason Reitman, who introduced me to Ellen Page, who introduced me to this motherfucker,” said Cody, hoisting her statuette.
Fox Searchlight, which won last year’s top prize for “Little Miss Sunshine,” was the big winner at the annual kudofest, held on the beach in Santa Monica. The specialty label also celebrated two wins for “The Savages,” with Philip Seymour Hoffman nabbing the actor award and Tamara Jenkins tapped for her screenplay.
“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Fox Searchlight, because they made my first movie and my second movie, and hopefully, they’ll make my third movie if I ever write it,” said writer-director Jenkins, who joked that she can now do bicep work by using her statuette along with husband and previous winner Jim Taylor’s trophy.
Searchlight also scored something of an upset by earning foreign film honors for Ireland’s “Once,” which bested such heavyweights as “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” and “Persepolis.”
Julian Schnabel landed the director statuette for “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” beating out Jenkins, “Juno’s” Reitman, “I’m Not There’s” Todd Haynes and “Paranoid Park’s” Gus Van Sant.
“I thought this was definitely going to Jason Reitman because he got the biggest applause,” Schnabel said. “This is for you, Jason.”
“Diving Bell” also landed a win in the cinematography category for Janusz Kaminski.
Supporting thesp winners were Chiwetel Ejiofor for “Talk to Me” and Cate Blanchett for “I’m Not There.” Blanchett dedicated her award to the film’s Heath Ledger, whom she referred to as “probably one of the most beautiful independent spirits of all.”
Other presenters and winners spoke of loss of the late actor, a previous Independent Spirit Award nominee. “We were lucky to live in Heath’s time,” presenter Patricia Clarkson said.
Director Scott Frank drew the first-feature nod for his debut effort “The Lookout,” a heist drama starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, while Dan Klores nabbed the documentary trophy for “Crazy Love.”
The laidback affair, held the day before the Oscars every year, drew the usual mix of indie darlings, such as Steve Buscemi, and Hollywood stars, including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Host Rainn Wilson, who played a small role in “Juno,” kept the mood light with jokes aimed at the crowd of “indie weirdos.”
“August Evening” writer-director Chris Eska, who landed the John Cassavetes Award for feature made for less than $500,000, delivered one of the funniest and most fitting lines of the day. “I’d like to thank my agent, but I don’t have an agent,” he said. “Hopefully, that will change.”
Other winners included “Chop Shop” helmer Ramin Bahrani (the IFC/ACURA Someone to Watch Award), “The Unforeseen” director Laura Dunn (Truer Than Fiction Award) and “Paranoid Park” and “Old Joy’s” Neil Kopp (producer award). Helmer Todd Haynes and casting director Laura Rosenthal received the Robert Altman Award, which was previously announced, for “I’m Not There.”
“Juno” – Producers: Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich, Mason Novick, Russell Smith
Julian Schnabel – “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”
Philip Seymour Hoffman – “The Savages”
Ellen Page – “Juno”
Chiwetel Ejiofor – “Talk To Me”
Cate Blanchett – “I’m Not There”
Tamara Jenkins – “The Savages”
Diablo Cody – “Juno”
“The Lookout” – Director: Scott Frank; Producers: Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber, Laurence Mark, Walter Parkes
“Once” (Ireland) – John Carney
“Crazy Love” – Director: Dan Klores
Janusz Kaminski – “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”
Neil Kopp, producer of “Paranoid Park” and “Old Joy”
Truer than Fiction Award
Laura Dunn for “The Unforeseen”
IFC/ACURA Someone to Watch Award
Ramin Bahrani, director of “Chop Shop”
Robert Altman Award
“I’m Not There”
Director: Todd Haynes; Casting Director: Laura Rosenthal; Ensemble Cast: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Bruce Greenwood, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw
John Cassavetes Award:
(Given to the best feature made for under $500,000)
“August Evening” – Writer/Director: Chris Eska; Producers: Connie Hill, Jason Wehling