The box-office smash "Titanic" and romantic comedy "As Good as It Gets" steamed off with top honors at the 55th annual Golden Globe Awards presentation Sunday night in Beverly Hills, in what turned out to be a wild evening by staid awards show standards.
Fulfilling its epic scope, "Titanic" took home a quartet of trophies, more than any other film. The movie began its voyage early in the broadcast by winning for best musical score and the song "My Heart Will Go On," later garnering honors as best dramatic picture and director.
"As Good as It Gets," meanwhile, nabbed three awards. In addition to the movie being chosen as best musical or comedy, stars Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt each won in the lead comedy acting categories.
"I warned Jim this would give me another decade of not having to behave myself," said Nicholson, who mockingly mooned the crowd a la fellow nominee Jim Carrey. Nicholson dedicated his award to the film's director, James L. Brooks, while Hunt thanked Nicholson, calling him "my hero as an actor."
Director James Cameron seemed to feel especially vindicated claiming his award after many wrote off "Titanic" as reports surfaced that the production had spiraled wildly over budget, becoming the most expensive movie ever made. Since then, the 3-hour-plus epic has become a huge box-office hit, grossing more than $235 million domestically thus far.
"So does this prove once and for all that size does matter?" Cameron quipped.
The director rattled off the names of several studio executives who gave their approval to the unlikely story line, adding that the evening was "a night to remember"--a reference to the title of an earlier film about the Titanic.
Cameron also brought the cast--including the film's young stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet--on stage, though the movie was shut out in acting categories, which turned into a celebration of comebacks and Hollywood veterans.
Peter Fonda and Judi Dench were named best dramatic actor and actress, respectively, for playing a beekeeper and Queen Victoria in two movies of considerably more modest scale, "Ulee's Gold" and "Mrs. Brown."
"God, it's great to be back," said an emotional Fonda, and, in closing, "I wish my dad were here tonight"--referring to the late screen actor Henry Fonda.
The night opened with Burt Reynolds striking a similar comeback chord when he was announced as best supporting actor for "Boogie Nights," in which he played a director of porn movies. The supporting actress award went to Kim Basinger for her portrayal of a bombshell prostitute in the 1950s police drama "L.A. Confidential"--the only award for that film, which has topped numerous critics' lists.
"If you hang on to things long enough, they get back in style," said Reynolds, who added that his career has been "real quiet, for about three years." Basinger--a surprise winner, since many critics have given the nod to "Titanic's" Gloria Stuart--said she was "totally overwhelmed."
Actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck won best screenplay for the movie "Good Will Hunting," in which they also starred. Affleck said the award was "a little overwhelming for two guys who never even won a raffle," noting backstage that the pair "feel like impostors--like the Milli Vanilli of screenwriters."
Shirley MacLaine received an extended ovation after being presented the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in an affectionate recollection of her career. She thanked "the two Jacks"--former co-stars Lemmon and Nicholson--"for making me everything I am today."
Some within Hollywood resent the importance affixed to the Golden Globes, which are handed out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. The group consists of roughly 90 members--some of them only part-time journalists--and has developed a reputation for being influenced by such factors as which studio provides the most lavish junkets.
Still, the industry has embraced the ceremony primarily as a marketing tool, based in large part on its proximity to the Academy Awards, nominations that will be announced next month. In addition, the Globes have proven a reasonably good predictor for Oscars, honoring 13 of the last 18 best picture winners.
The Golden Globes' exposure also has grown, with the ceremony televised live Sunday by NBC for the third consecutive year.
Though television generally plays a supporting role at the event, the night's most poignant and unusual moments occurred in those categories.
The wildest highlight came when Ving Rhames--openly weeping as he accepted a Golden Globe for his showy performance as fight promoter Don King in the Home Box Office movie "Don King: Only in America"--beckoned fellow nominee Jack Lemmon to the stage and gave the trophy to him.
"I feel that being an artist is about giving, and I'd like to give this to you, Mr. Jack Lemmon," Rhames said, bringing many in the room to their feet.