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Rock ‘n’ Romans

Globes tap D'Works duo, 'Wing' and 'Sex' in TV

HOLLYWOOD — It was an evening of Roman slaves and roamin’ rockers at the 58th annual Golden Globe Awards Sunday night, as “Gladiator” and “Almost Famous” took home top prizes for drama and comedy film.

DreamWorks was a big winner, since it shares both the films: with Universal and Columbia, respectively.

Many Oscar pundits look to the Globes as a clue to Academy Award voting but, in a year with no critical consensus, members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. may have confused things even more. Though the group org went with some favorites (Julia Roberts for “Erin Brockovich,” etc.), it also offered some surprising choices, including Ang Lee as best director (for Sony Pictures Classics’ “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), Tom Hanks (drama actor, Fox-DreamWorks’ “Cast Away”) and Renee Zellweger as musical/comedy actress (for USA Films’ “Nurse Betty”).

Golden doubles

The awards were spread wide, with no pic taking home more than two nods. USA Films’ “Traffic” was a multiple winner, for scripter Stephen Gaghan and supporting actor Benicio Del Toro; aside from Lee’s win, “Crouching Tiger” won as top foreign-language film. “Almost Famous” also won for supporting actress Kate Hudson, while “Gladiator” also took home honors for the score by Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard.

As with last year, cable dominated the TV kudos — though just barely, winning six of the 11 TV prizes. HBO’s “Sex and the City” and its star Sarah Jessica Parker repeated their wins from 2000. NBC’s “The West Wing” and its star Martin Sheen took home drama series and actor prizes. In all, HBO won four; NBC, three; Showtime, two; and ABC and Fox one apiece. (Last year, HBO won eight, Showtime two, and ABC took home the lone award for broadcasters)

One factor in the Golden Globes’ popularity (and the emphasis on film winners) is its timing: The prizes are handed out when Oscar voters have ballots in hand.

Party time

But another key to their success, especially with viewers, is the whoop-de-doo party atmosphere. As the announcer said at the top of the show, it’s “a night where anything can happen!”

Presenting the final prize for best drama pic, Elizabeth Taylor opened the envelope and began to read the winner before audience members shouted out that she hadn’t listed the six nominees. She seemed totally perplexed: “What? I don’t open this? I just read from up there? I’m new at this!”

Winner Brian Dennehy jokingly thanked James Woods for taking his medication. Presenter Nicole Kidman congratulated winner George Clooney for bringing the room to life with his comical speech. He shrugged, “They’re all drunk, it’s easy.”

Renee Zellweger was nowhere to be found when her name was called to accept her award, but after a few moments she exuberantly ran to the stage, and gushed, “I have lipstick on my teeth!”

And, in what MIGHT be construed as a compliment, Cecil B. De Mille Award winner Al Pacino concluded his seemingly impromptu speech by thanking the “Hollywood Foreign Press. You’re such an interesting group of people! You know they are, they really are …”

One factor in the loosey-goosey atmosphere is the scarcity of drinking water at the tables, while champagne proliferates.

HFPA voters went with star power in their acting choices (Julia Roberts for “Erin Brockovich,” Hanks, etc.) While the group distinguishes between comedy and drama films, many of the winners defy such easy classifications: “Almost Famous” and “Nurse Betty” were tagged as comedies, “Brockovich” and “Wonder Boys” as dramas, though all could have easily switched categories.

Empty hands

Among the films with multiple noms that came home empty-handed were “Chocolat,” with four bids, and “Sunshine,” with three.

In terms of studio tallies, USA Films got three, with “Traffic” and “Betty”; Sony Pictures Classics got two for “Crouching Tiger”; and Paramount got one, for “Wonder Boys.” Beyond that, studio tallies are difficult, since many of the winners are shared (e.g., aside from “Gladiator” and “Almost Famous,” there are “Cast Away,” Fox-DreamWorks; “Erin Brockovich,” Universal-Col; and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Touchstone and Universal.

Brisk pace

The kudocast got off to a fast start, handing out a quartet of awards within the first 15 minutes, and half of the 23 prizes were handed out within the first hour.

The first recipients set the tone for the evening, blurting out, rapid-fire, a roster of people to thank. Sarah Jessica Parker, also a winner last year, gasped, “I’m ill-prepared again!” She then cited dozens of people, including HBO execs, agent Kevin Huvane, the crew, the grips, her driver, her co-stars and her husband.

In his litany of thanks, Brian Dennehy (best actor in a miniseries or TV movie, for Showtime’s “Death of a Salesman”) interrupted himself to point out fellow nominee James Woods in the audience: “By the way, Jimmy, thanks for taking your medication tonight.”

Immediately following that speech, the cameras cut to Dick Clark backstage enthusing, “This is what makes the Globes so much fun tonight!” though he admitted he didn’t understand the Woods reference.

Showtime was a double winner this year, also taking home the miniseries/telefilm nod for “Dirty Pictures,”

Winners thanked the usual selection of co-workers, agents and studio/network execs, but families came in for special mention.

Benicio Del Toro gave a nod to “my dad, my mother, my godmother, my brother, all those people.” Bob Dylan, winning for best song (“Things Have Changed” from “Wonder Boys”) said, “Thanks everybody in my family … and that’s about it.”

Julia Roberts thanked her relatives: “It can’t be easy to be related to me, trust me.” The exuberant actress also chided whoever was controlling the time-limit monitor for speeches, saying, “You can turn that timer off, cuz I’m just gonna go! … I’m just shamelessly filled with joy!”

Ang Lee, seeming genuinely surprised, gasped, “I don’t have anything prepared to say. I guess I start with my wife.” He got a big laugh when he thanked her for being a role model “for the tough women I portray in my movie.”

Lee seemed almost as surprised as presenter Roberts, who starred in the Steven Soderbergh-helmed “Erin Brockovich”; she said she resisted the urge to peek in the envelope, and said there was a lot of personal emotion in the winner. Since Soderbergh was a double nominee in that category, some pundits thought he had double the chances of winning.

Lee was also one of the few foreign-born winners, despite the international tone of the evening. (The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. covers Hollywood for overseas publications.) Other non-U.S.-born winners: Del Toro; Judi Dench and Vanessa Redgrave, for telefilm roles; and Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard, for their “Gladiator” score.

Pacino’s Cecil B. DeMille award was presented by Kevin Spacey, after an impressive display of film clips. Near the wrap of his loose, thoughtful speech, Pacino mused about acting, “It’s a privilege. OK,” he shrugged with a touch of self-deprecation. “I’m just doing an acting thing here. As long as I don’t do a Robin Williams thing.”

The Globes are in synch with the Academy Awards in years when there are clear front-runners (e.g., 1993, “Schindler’s List”; 1994, “Forrest Gump”; 1997, “Titanic”). But in wide-open years, there are discrepancies: last year, eight of 13 Golden Globe winners went on to win Oscars; two years ago, it was only four of the 13.

TV trophies

On the TV side, Kelsey Grammer won for comedy series actor for NBC’s “Frasier”; Sela Ward won for drama lead for ABC’s “Once and Again”; and Robert Downey Jr. was named supporting actor (in a category that covers series, minis and telepics) for Fox’s “Ally McBeal.”

Higher profile

Over the years, the HFPA has worked hard to maintain its credibility, hitting a low point in the 1980s. Since then, its profile has taken quantum leaps and the event — held annually at the Beverly Hilton’s International Ballroom — has become a much-sought-after ticket.

The venue seats only 1,100 (about one-fifth of the Shrine Auditorium, for example), and the HFPA has resisted suggestions to move it to a bigger site: The intimate setting and table-hopping help jazz up the mood.

The event, held Sunday at the Beverly Hilton, was broadcast live in the East on NBC and tape-delayed in the West. The HFPA said the awards will be seen by more than 250 million viewers in more than 130 countries worldwide. After years of airing on cable, the kudocast was picked up by NBC in 1996; last year, it scored an average of 22.1 million viewers, making it the year’s third most-watched kudocast (trailing only the Oscars and Grammys).

The spec was produced by Dick Clark Prods. in association with the HFPA. Dick Clark and Barry Adelman were exec producers. Al Schwartz and Ken Shapiro, producers; Ron Weed, co-producer.

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