Hollywood has begun loving fugitive director Roman Polanski again, applauding his artistry and putting behind memories of his statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl over 25 years ago.
For weeks, the big speculation was if newcomer Rob Marshall would walk away with an Oscar for creating the dazzling musical Chicago, cutting off veteran Martin Scorsese whose Gangs Of New York, a gritty, fabulous story of immigrants in 19th century New York, had received 10 nominations.
Chicago, the hugely successful musical, received 13 nominations. While Chicago grossed about $225 million worldwide and counting, Gangs, on its last leg, earned about $190 million.
In a stunning upset, Polanski won the Best Director Oscar for the Holocaust survival drama, The Pianist, at the 75th Annual Academy Awards on Sunday night. There was hushed silence for a minute and prolonged applause with one Polanski pal whistling in delight (Jack Nicholson who else!). Also nominated in the Best Director category were Stephen Daldry for the psychological drama about three women The Hours and Pedro Almodovar for the unusual Spanish love story Talk To Her.
The Pianist also won Oscars for Best Adapted Script (for Ronald Harwood ) and Best Actor (Adrien Brody). The movie, which has done moderate business in America with a $20 million gross and solid business abroad with about $60 million and counting, was also nominated for Best Picture.
Brody, 29, reportedly the youngest actor to win the Best Actor Award, was a huge surprise. After having acted in nearly a dozen movies, including Affair Of The Necklace that hardly made an impact, he landed the part in Polanski's movie two years ago. He says he was so engrossed in the film that he did not consider any other movie project for months after the shooting was over.
Many expected Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays a brutal slumlord in Gangs, to be a winner. Other nominees were Jack Nicholson for About Schmidt, Michael Caine for The Quiet American and Nicolas Cage for Adaptation.
The lavishly made Gangs went home without a single Oscar while Chicago, about two glamorous murderesses in Chicago in the 1920s and their flashy mercenary lawyer, took home six, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Zeta-Jones).
Polanski, who has not set foot in the United States since he fled the country for France following a statutory rape conviction in 1977, won the Oscar on his third directing nomination (the others were Chinatown and Tess). He also received a writing nomination for Rosemary's Baby based on an Ira Levin novel.
Polanski, whose life is littered with personal tragedy, has said he will never forget the murder of his mother by the Nazis and the only closure would be when he dies. His pregnant wife Sharon Tate was murdered in 1969 by Charles Manson and his cult. The dozen plus movies he has made in the last 25 years in France have not been well received by critics and audiences.
Nicole Kidman, who won the Best Actress Oscar for her work as the tragic novelist Virginia Woolf in The Hours, was also nominated last year for her work in Baz Luhrmann's musical Moulin Rouge. The Hours, a decent but medium success at the box-office ($50 million and counting) was nominated in major categories, including Best Picture and Director but clocked only one.
Other major winners were Caroline Link's Nowhere In Africa, which told the story of a Jewish family in Germany that emigrates to Kenya shortly before the Second World War (Best Foreign Film), and Michael Moore's Bowling For Columbine, a humorous and sharp observation of violence and gun culture in America (Best Documentary); Spirited Away, a splendid Japanese film about the adventures of a 10-year-old girl (Best Animated Movie). Best Picture winner Chicago also won for Best Art Direction, Sound, Costume Design and Film Editing.
Studio-wise, the big winner was Miramax, which produced Chicago and Frida (which received two Oscars for Music and Makeup), and co-produced The Hours with Paramount. Miramax had received 40 nominations for its movies.