‘Heart’ beats for Cesars

'Beat' goes on despite protesters

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Continuing its kudos cleanup in Gaul, Jacques Audiard’s “The Beat That My Heart Skipped” swept the boards at France’s Cesar Awards on Saturday — but protesting showbiz workers stole the show.

In an unprecedented move, noisy demonstrators outside Paris’ Chatelet Theater came inside, took to the stage and refused to budge, holding up the start of the televised ceremony by 20 minutes to mixed reactions from heckling tuxedo-clad attendees.

Once most had been persuaded to leave — including those carried out, struggling, by guards — the kudos unspooled with “The Beat,” a Gallic remake of James Toback’s “Fingers,” picking up eight out of 10 potential nods, including director and film.

The only major prize that eluded the film was actor, which went not to Romain Duris but to Michel Bouquet for his presidential turn in “The Last Mitterrand.”

Audiard’s thank-you speech included a mention for Toback, whose movie he saw in 1978.

Pic was recently named best French film at the Golden Stars press awards and by the Syndicat de la Critique.

With “The Beat” winning on practically every front, there were few kudos left to distribute among so many other movies.

Oscar-nominated “Joyeux Noel” and Michael Haneke’s “Hidden” both came away empty-handed, while international box office smash “The March of the Penguins” had to settle for the sound award.

“Live and Become” drew the original screenplay nod.

Nathalie Baye won actress kudos for “The Young Lieutenant” — her first Cesar in 23 years, she pointed out.

Foreign film honors went to “Million Dollar Baby”; first film plaudits went to the Oscar-nominated docu “Darwin’s Nightmare.”

Hugh Grant and Gallic vet comic actor Pierre Richard received honorary Cesars.

Speaking in French with only a slight Brit accent, Grant told French film folk: “I don’t win many prizes, especially in my own country. Thank you, France. You’ve been nice to me for a long time.”

Saturday’s protests were part of a long-running dispute between showbiz workers — everyone from actors to secretaries — and the French government, which wants to reform the social benefits system unique to the biz.

Even France’s top-paid stars are subject to the same system, and several of Saturday night’s prize winners expressed sympathy with the protesters.

“The hardest part of being an actress is when the phone doesn’t ring,” Baye said.

And the nominees are…

Best Film
“The Beat That My Heart Skipped”

Best Director
Jacques Audiard “The Beat That My Heart Skipped”

Best Actor
Michel Bouquet “The Last Mitterrand”

Best Actress
Nathalie Baye “The Young Lieutenant”

Best original screenplay
Radu Mihaileanu, Alain-Michel Blanc “Live and Become”

Best adaptation
Jacques Audiard, Tonino Benacquista “The Beat That My Heart Skipped”

Best foreign film
“Million Dollar Baby”

Best first film
“Darwin’s Nightmare”

Best cinematography
Stephane Fontaine “The Beat That My Heart Skipped”

Best supporting actor
Niels Arestrup “The Beat That My Heart Skipped”

Best supporting actress
Cecile de France “Russian Dolls”

Best male newcomer
Louis Garrel “Regular Lovers”

Best female newcomer
Linh-Dan Pham “The Beat That My Heart Skipped”

Best original score
Alexandre Desplat “The Beat That My Heart Skipped”

Best editing
Juliette Welfling “The Beat That My Heart Skipped”

Best sound
Laurent Quaglio, Gerard Lamps “The March of the Penguins”

Best set design
Olivier Radot “Gabrielle”

Best costumes
Caroline de Vivaise “Gabrielle”

Best short film
“After Shave” Hany Tamba