“Unforgiven,” the moody, brooding revisionist western that capped Clint Eastwood’s dramatic resurgence, rode off into the sunset with a wagonload of Oscars, winning four awards, including two for Eastwood.
In addition to Eastwood’s awards for producer of the best picture of the year and best director, the Warner Bros. film also roped in awards for Gene Hackman in the best supporting actor category and for best editing.
Al Pacino took the best actor award for his role as the embittered blind military officer in “Scent of a Woman,” his first win in eightnominations. And Emma Thompson, a first-time nominee for her role as the free-thinking intellectual in the period English drama “Howards End,” took the best actress award.
“Unforgiven” is only the third Western in Academy history to win a best picture Oscar, following on the heels of 1990’s “Dances With Wolves” and 1931’s “Cimarron.”
With his win as best director, the enduring Eastwood becomes only the second director in Academy Awards history to win that award for directing a Western — the other being Kevin Costner for “Wolves.” Ironically, “Unforgiven” shares another noteworthy statistic with “Wolves”– directors Eastwood and Costner were also nominated in the best actor category for their films, only to both go home empty-handed in that category.
“Unforgiven,” screenwriter David Webb Peoples’ dark tale of reluctant gunslinger William Munny, not only marked Eastwood’s powerful return as a box office star, but he also finally received recognition from the Academy, which has ignored him throughout his career. Until this year, Eastwood, last of the great Western heroes, had never received an Oscar nomination.
Eastwood, long considered to be the odds-on favorite to take home the best directing Oscar, especially in light of his Directors Guild of America trophy win several weeks ago, received a standing ovation as he made his first-ever walk to the winner’s circle.
“I’ve been around for 39 years and I’ve enjoyed it,” Eastwood told the audience. “I’ve been lucky.” Eastwood thanked Peoples and Warner Bros. for “sticking with the film” and also thanked the film critics, who, he said, “touted the film early.”
A few minutes later, Eastwood received his second standing ovation as he made his second trip to the Oscar well as producer of the film that won the best picture Oscar.
After singling out Warner executives Bob Daly, Terry Semel and Joe Hyams, Eastwood paid tribute to late Time Warner co-chairman Steve Ross.
“He predicted this outcome,” Eastwood said, “and I dedicate this award to Steve Ross.”
One of the biggest surprises of the night came early when the best supporting actress award was handed out to long-shot Marisa Tomei, who played the feisty girlfriend in Fox’s comedy “My Cousin Vinny.”
It was the first nomination for Tomei, the former soap opera and TV sitcom actress who beat out heavily favored Judy Davis and Joan Plowright. Tomei, who was mostly unknown before “Vinny,” was the sole American among the five best supporting actress nominees.
Before announcing the winner, Jack Palance, last year’s best supporting actor winner, quipped that all five women were foreign –“four English and one from Brooklyn.” He was partially right — Davis is Australian.
Going into last night’s Oscar ceremony, the best supporting actor category had undoubtedly caused the biggest flurry of interest — and speculation. Although Hackman was considered somewhat of a favorite, it looked like a toss-up between the veteran actor and the newcomer, Jaye Davidson, for his sexually ambiguous role in “The Crying Game.”
For veteran actor Hackman, who won the best supporting actor Oscar for his role as the brutal, cold-blooded sheriff in “Unforgiven,” he becomes the eighth actor to win an Academy Award in both leading and supporting actor categories, joining Helen Hayes, Jack Lemmon, Ingrid Bergman, Maggie Smith, Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson.
Hackman, 63, who has been nominated in the past for supporting actor roles in “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967) and “I Never Sang For My Father” (1970), and for best actor in “Mississippi Burning” (1988), previously won a best actor Oscar in 1971 for his role as police Detective Popeye Doyle in “The French Connection.”
“You have broken my streak,” an emotional Pacino joked. “This is a proud and hopeful moment for me.” Pacino went on to thank director Martin Brest and screenwriter Bo Goldman, who Pacino said “wrote an actor’s dream part.” Pacino also thanked Lee Strasberg, Charles Laughton and Universal exex Tom Pollock and Casey Silver.
Although Eastwood’s “Unforgiven” was heavily favored in the Oscar race — to the point that many were talking about a sweep — it didn’t dominate the competition.
“Howards End,” which, like “Unforgiven” received nine nominations, ended up with three Oscars — for Thompson, adapted screenplay and art direction.
“Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” which received four nominations, also took home three Oscars — for costume design, sound effects editing and makeup.
The other heavily promoted film to receive numerous nominations, “The Crying Game,” collected six nods but received only one award — for Neil Jordan’s original screenplay.
Of films that received four or more nominations this year, all got at least one Oscar, except for box office champ “A Few Good Men,” which was shut out of the Oscar derby.
The studio Oscar scorecard was evenly divided among Warner Bros., Sony Pictures Classics and Columbia Pictures, which each received four. Buena Vista, Universal, 20th Century Fox each received two awards.
“Aladdin” received two awards, for best original score, which went to Alan Menken, and best original song, “A Whole New World,” written by Menken and Tim Rice. Menken had won in the score and song category two other times with “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
This marks the second consecutive year for Menken for his song, putting him in the select company of Henry Mancini, who won two years in a row with the songs “Moon River” and “Days of Wine and Roses,” written with lyricist Johnny Mercer. Menken also won for score in the past two ceremonies.
Menken, who wrote this year’s winning song with lyricist Rice, with whom he collaborated after the death of his longtime partner Howard Ashman, said, “Aladdin was a major transition for me, from my longtime collaborator and friend , Howard Ashman, to a new role and new songwriting partner in Tim Rice.”
Rice paid tribute to Ashman, saying, “I feel extremely lucky to be standing in his shoes. I know he’d be here today if he were still alive.” Rice also paid tribute to legendary lyricist Sammy Cahn, who died earlier this year, adding, “He was my inspiration for many years.”
Among the emotional highlights of the evening was the presentation of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to Sean Hepburn Ferrer, who accepted for his mother, Audrey Hepburn, who died in January.
Gregory Peck, co-star of Hepburn’s Oscar-winning “Roman Holiday,” presented the award on behalf of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to Ferrer.
“She believed every child has the right to health, to hope, to tenderness and to life. On her behalf, I dedicate this to the children of the world,” Ferrer said.
The other winner of this year’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award was Elizabeth Taylor, cited for her work with AIDS causes. Taylor was introduced by Angela Lansbury.
Taylor received the evening’s third standing ovation, telling the audience, “I have been on this stage as a presenter. I have sat in the audience as a loser. And I have had the thrill and honor of being a winner. This is the highest accolade I could receive from my peers. I am filled with pride and humility. I accept this award in honor of all the men, woman and children with AIDS who are waging an incredibly valiant battles for their lives. They are the real heroes of the pandemic of AIDS.”
The only controversy that seemed to be brewing this year was the Academy’s on-again, off-again decision to drop the live-action shorts and documentary shorts categories from Oscar competition. It was expected that at least one of the winners in those categories would address the subject, but the winners used the time to thank colleagues and relatives instead.
Of course, as is the case almost every year, the winners of the documentary feature Oscar, “The Panama Deception,” made an impassioned, long-winded political statement that obviously went on longer than show producer Gilbert Cates’ limit of 45 seconds. This year it was by Barbara Trent, one of the producers of the film.
The foreign-language film Oscar went to “Indochine,” which was considered something of a surprise. This year, there were only four nominated films after the disqualification of “A Place in the World.”
Sophia Loren introduced Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini, who received a special Oscar, calling him, “a towering force in movie history. I am honored to be a part of this celebration and the career of this great man.”
Fellini received an extended standing ovation from the audience in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
“I really did not expect this or perhaps, I did, but not before another 25 years. It’s better now. To be here now with you, makes me feel at home. I want to thank all of you for making me feel this way.” Fellini also thanked his wife, actress Giuletta Masina, seated in the audience.