Veteran character actor Tommy Lee Jones, who thrilled audiences with his portrayal of Dr. Richard Kimble's dogged nemesis in "The Fugitive," was named best supporting actor Monday night as the 66th Academy Awards got under way in Los Angeles.
Jones, a Texas-born Harvard graduate, thanked his "dear, courageous" family and friends, and his co-star, Harrison Ford.
Meanwhile, two movies directed by Steven Spielberg, a heavy favorite in several categories, collected early Oscars. Allan Starski and Ewa Braun won for best art direction for their work in the black-and-white Holocast epic "Schindler's List."
And Dennis Muren, Stan Winston, Phil Tippett and Michael Lantieri took home the visual effects award or their work on the summer dinosaur blockbuster "Jurassic Park." Gary Rydstrom and Richard Hymns, who did the sound editing work on that movie, also won an Oscar.
The makeup team from "Mrs. Doubtfire--Greg Cannom, Ve Neill and Yolanda Toussieng--won the best makeup award.
And the best animated short and live action short film awards went to Nicholas Park for "The Wrong Trousers" and Pepe Danquart for "Black Rider," respectively.
For Spielberg, who has created some of Hollywood's most popular movies, from "E.T.: The Extraterrestrial" to "Raiders of the Lost Ark," the story of Oskar Schindler was seen as his best chance to win his first Academy Award as best director.
Vying for best picture against "Schindler's List," which garnered 12 Oscars nominations overall, were "The Piano," "In the Name of the Father," "The Remains of the Day" and "The Fugitive."
The evening's early acting award went to Jones, who picked up his first Oscar for his role as the relentless federal marshal Sam Gerard in "The Fugitive," a film based on the popular 1960s TV series. The actor had been the favorite going in, having won the Golden Globe and the Los Angeles Film Critics awards.
In accepting his golden statuette, the actor, his head shaven, quipped that the only thing he could say at such a was, "I am not really bald."
In her debut run as the show's first woman and first African American solo host, Oscar-winning actress Whoopi Goldberg added the expected accent to the show with acerbic remarks.
At one point, she joked about "Jurassic Park," saying Spielberg wanted to call the movie about a failed amusement park where everything runs amok "Euro Disney."
ABC-TV, which broadcast the show, wanted to impose a three-second delay to avoid any off-color remarks that might be made, but the academy fought it in the name of spontaneity.
In the best actor category, Tom Hanks, who portrayed a lawyer with AIDS in "Philadelphia," was considered a front-runner.
The other nominees were Daniel Day-Lewis, for his role as a Belfast youth imprisoned for an IRA bombing ("In the Name of the Father"); Laurence Fishburne, a first-time nominee for his role as rocker Ike Turner ("What's Love Got to Do With It"); Irish actor Liam Neeson, another first-time nominee, for his portrayal of German industrialist Oskar Schindler ("Schindler's List") and Anthony Hopkins for his role as a proper English butler ("The Remains of the Day").
In the best actress category, Holly Hunter, who plays a mute mail-order bride in "The Piano," was the clear favorite.
Other nominees were Angela Bassett, for her role as singer Tina Turner ("What's Love Got To Do With It"), Stockard Channing, a first-time nominee, for her role as a New York society matron ("Six Degrees of Separation"); Emma Thompson, for her role as a lovelorn housekeeper ("The Remains of the Day") and Debra Winger, for the role of American poet Joy Gresham ("Shadowlands").
Nominated in the race for best supporting actress were Winona Ryder ("The Age of Innocence"), Rosie Perez ("Fearless"), Anna Paquin ("The Piano") and double nominees Hunter ("The Firm") and Thompson ("In the Name of the Father").
In addition to Spielberg, the nominees for best director included Jane Campion ("The Piano"), Robert Altman ("Short Cuts"), James Ivory ("The Remains of the Day") and Irish director Jim Sheridan ("In the Name of the Father").
The ceremonies were held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, a day after a 5.3-magnitude aftershock from the Jan. 17 Northridge earthquake rumbled under Los Angeles.