'The Lord of the Rings' Big British Awards Star - FOTR wins 5 BAFTA Awards including Best Picture!!
Sun Feb 24, 5:21 PM ET
By Paul Majendie
LONDON (Reuters) - "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" landed five top prizes on Sunday at the British Academy Film Awards and now the epic fantasy has its sights firmly set on next month's Hollywood Oscars.
"It is thrilling the movie has been so well received by audiences around the world," said actor Sir Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf the Wizard in the film which toppled the other hot favorite, "Moulin Rouge."
"The Lord of the Rings," which has already earned 13 Oscar nominations, was picked as best film at the British awards, seen as an important indicator of how Hollywood will vote next month.
The first in a $270 million trilogy of films based on the J.R.R. Tolkien classic landed awards for direction, special effects and make-up and hair. The public also chose the film as the best of the year -- it picked up over 30,000 votes.
"It is a labor of love made by fans of the book," said the film's director, Peter Jackson. "We had the most wonderful cast and they gave the movie its heart and soul."
Despite torrential rain in London, the stars turned out in force for the glitzy awards ceremony -- and Russell Crowe and Judi Dench were rewarded with the top acting prizes.
Crowe won his best actor award for playing mathematical genius and Nobel laureate John Forbes Nash Jr in "A Beautiful Mind" which graphically depicts his struggle with schizophrenia.
Crowe was frankly astounded afterwards, confessing: "I love my job and I don't think I do it that well -- but keep on disagreeing with me."
POINTER TO OSCARS
And the film did the double when Jennifer Connelly landed the best supporting actress for her part in "A Beautiful Mind."
Close to tears, she said on receiving her award: "I am really shocked and very much honored...I am kind of flabbergasted."
Dench won her award for playing another damaged genius with her memorable portrayal of writer Iris Murdoch "sliding into the darkness" with Alzheimer's disease in the poignant "Iris."
Dench revealed that she had jokingly bet her agent one million pounds ($1.4 million) just beforehand that she would not win the award. "So I was very shocked," she said.
Jim Broadbent, acclaimed for his role in "Iris" opposite Dench, ended up landing the best supporting actor award for his memorable performance in "Moulin Rouge," which also landed the best music and best sound awards.
Robert Altman's ebullient murder mystery "Gosford Park" was picked as British film of the year, defeating box office blockbuster "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone."
"Amelie," a quirky French comedy which has become an international hit, won the best original screenplay award.
But in the best foreign film category "Amelie" lost out to the Mexican movie "Amores Perros."
The British film awards ceremony was switched last year to February and it immediately gained international status as a valuable industry pointer to who will win an Oscar.
Check out the BAFTA website below for a complete list of winners.