Oscar panel gives the Game away

THE TANTALISING secret at the heart of the highly successful British film The Crying Game was blown wide open yesterday, ending months of self-imposed censorship by most of the world's film critics.

For once, it was not the fault of a traitor within their ranks, but of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and its practice of discriminating between the sexes by giving Oscars to actors and actresses, as opposed to Acting Persons.

When the film was released last year, its London-based makers, Scala Productions, and its US distributors begged reviewers to keep mum about the movie's big surprise, for fear of spoiling the plot for the public.

Uncharacteristically, the media (with the exception of the sensation-seeking Financial Times) observed the black-out, although not without self-congratulation. After pleas from the film's director, Neil Jordan, even cinema-goers emerged from screenings with their lips sealed.

But yesterday Hollywood ruined everything. Jaye Davidson, who plays the androgynous character Dil, won a nomination as Best Supporting Actor. Until yesterday, film reviewers had been sworn to secrecy about the true sex of Dil - a femme fatale who horrifies the audience by unveiling her true manhood half way through, but who remains sexually ambiguous until the end. Now the cat is out of the bag for ever.

Mr Davidson's success is thus something of a mixed blessing. However, this is unlikely to dull the jubilation among the makers of The Crying Game, a romantic thriller which cost only pounds 2.8m. In a year notable for British successes, it earned six nominations - including Best Actor for Stephen Rea, Best Picture and Best Director.

The top two films, with nine each, were Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven and the British-made Howards End, which won nominations for Best Actress (Emma Thompson), Best Director (James Ivory) and Best Picture.

Three British actresses dominated the 'best supporting' category - Joan Plowright (Enchanted April), Miranda Richardson (Damage) and Vanessa Redgrave (Howards End).

But Davidson, 24, is likely to relish the triumph more than most. Before his debut in The Crying Game, he was an unknown fashion designer, who was once heard to lament that 'there aren't many parts for people who aren't really the norm'. There may, however, be an Oscar.

(Photograph omitted)