New heroes for movie buffs

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The Independent Online
David Lister

It is not just the success of The English Patient that is the talk of Hollywood today. The Oscars have given movie buffs a host of new heroes, stars who will now command multi-million dollar salaries although they were virtually unknown a year ago.

Geoffrey Rush, the Australian actor who played the pianist David Helfgott in Shine, will now be wooed by the Hollywood studios previously unaware of his existence.

And a new breed of actress could at last grace Hollywood movies following the triumph of Frances McDormand whose delightfully whimsical performance as the pregnant police chief in the comedy thriller Fargo won her best actress, beating off British opposition from Kristin Scott Thomas, Brenda Blethyn and Emily Watson.

Leading British film producer David Parfitt commented yesterday that one outcome of this year's Oscars would be to make Hollywood studios more daring. Interesting actresses such as McDormand and Blethyn - far from the typical Beverly Hills glamourpusses - will make the studios choose less bland fare, he predicted.

The principal award winners at the Oscars were: best film The English Patient; best director Anthony Minghella (The English Patient); best actor Geoffrey Rush (Shine); best actress Frances McDormand (Fargo); best supporting actor Cuba Gooding (Jerry Maguire); best supporting actress Juliette Binoche (The English Patient).

There was British success for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice for best original song for "You Must Love Me" in Evita, and for Rachel Portman for best original musical or comedy score for Emma - the first time a female composer had even been nominated.

British producer Eric Abraham also set a precedent by winning an Oscar for best foreign language film with Kolya, a low-budget Czech film. The biggest British disappointment was Mike Leigh's Secrets And Lies which failed to win any award despite five nominations.

Lauren Bacall failed to make best supporting actress category, but there were cheers for younger old favourite, Muhammad Ali. When We Were Kings, about his 1974 fight with George Foreman, won best documentary feature.

Best original screenplay went to Ethan and Joel Coen for Fargo; screenplay adaptation to Billy Bob Thornton for Sling Blade; and visual effects to Independence Day.