2003 Academy Awards®
Winners and History
Introduction, 1927/8-39, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s
Academy Awards Summaries
"Best Picture" Oscar®, "Best Director" Oscar®, "Best Actor" Oscar®, "Best Supporting Actor" Oscar®,
"Best Actress" Oscar®, "Best Supporting Actress" Oscar®, "Best Screenplay/Writer" Oscar®
The big winner this year was a predictable favorite - New Zealander director Peter Jackson's majestic fantasy - the final chapter in New Line's franchise of trilogy films: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. It led the nominations race with 11 nominations (mostly in technical categories), including Best Picture and Best Director, and achieved a clean sweep with 11 Oscar wins. Its 11 wins tied it with two other blockbuster films, Ben-Hur (1959) (with 12 nominations) and Titanic (1997) (with 14 nominations). This was the first time a film received that many nominations without any acting recognition. And it is one of ten films in Oscar history that won Best Picture without receiving a single acting nomination. It was also the first fantasy film to ever win the top Oscar prize. The film grossed $1 billion in just 9 weeks and 4 days, a new record, and it was the top grossing film of its year, at $377 million (domestic) and $1.1 billion (worldwide).
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King joins two other Best Picture winners that have experienced clean sweeps - they have won every award for which they were nominated (and none of the films were nominated for acting awards!) - and Rings topped them all with more wins:
Besides Best Picture and Best Director, its other nine wins were Best Original Music Score, Best Song ("Into the West"), Best Visual Effects, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, and Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) (for the script based on J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy classic).
The film was the second film trilogy in Oscar history (after Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather pictures in 1972, 1974, and 1990) to have all three of its movies nominated for Best Picture - and the only one to have its third installment win the top prize. It was also the third sequel in Oscar history to be nominated for Best Picture, taking its place after The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) - which lost, and The Godfather, Part II (1974) - which won. [It should be noted that a second 'sequel' The Godfather, Part III (1990) was also nominated for Best Picture - and lost; similarly, the original 'sequel' The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) was also nominated for Best Picture - and lost.]
This film's clean-sweep was thought to be in recognition of the entire trilogy. In regards to the three parts of the Rings trilogy, the series had a total of 30 nominations and a total of 17 Oscar wins:
Two other Best Picture nominees were major contenders (Trivia Note: there were no acting nominations among the casts of the top three nominated films):
The other two Best Picture nominees were smaller films:
Pixar's $340-million, computer-animated blockbuster Finding Nemo (with four nominations and one win), the year's highest-grossing film and thought at one time to be a possible Best Picture nominee, was the Oscar-winner for Best Animated Feature Film. (The other nominees were Brother Bear and Sylvain Chomet's beguiling, inventive French film The Triplets of Belleville, also with an Oscar-nominated song, Belleville Rendez-vous.)
Of the five Best Picture nominees, unlike the previous year, only Rings was released in the last month of the year. Also, four of the pictures had their directors nominated, except for Gary Ross, for Seabiscuit. The fifth nominated director was Fernando Meirelles (with his first nomination) for the semi-documentary, sub-titled (Portuguese-language) Brazilian film City of God (with four nominations) - a broad, violent look at drug gang wars inside a Rio de Janeiro slum. [When submitted by Brazil for last year's Oscar race, it failed to receive a Best Foreign Film nomination. Miramax kept this 2002 film alive by opening it in January 2003 - in order to make it eligible in other Oscar categories, and the film was maintained in limited release for much of the year.] (This unusual kind of nomination has happened before - one foreign-language Best Director nomination unexpectedly thrown in (e.g., Federico Fellini for 8 1/2 (1963), Constantine Costa-Gavras for Z (1969), Jan Troell for The Emigrants (1972), Ingmar Bergman for Fanny and Alexander (1983), Krzysztof Kieslowski for Red (1994), and Ang Lee for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)).)
32 year-old Sofia Coppola was only the third (and the youngest!) woman ever to be nominated for Best Director - and this was for her second film (following The Virgin Suicides (1999)). (The others, both unsuccessful, were Lina Wertmuller for Seven Beauties (1976) and Jane Campion for The Piano (1993). Coppola became the first American woman nominated for director. Coppola joins Campion as the only other female director to have been nominated for Best Picture and Best Director.) She was also nominated for a third Oscar for her film - Best Original Screenplay - and this was her only win this year.
Sofia Coppola's win made her part of the second family of three-generation Oscar winners (her father is a five-time winner and her grandfather, Carmine Coppola, won for musical score on The Godfather Part II (1974)), following the example of the Huston family (Walter, John, and Anjelica). In addition, Sofia Coppola's cousin is Oscar-winning Nicolas Cage. [Another second-generation nominee was Samuel Goldwyn, Jr., who earned a nomination for producing Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World - he's the son of Samuel Goldwyn, Sr., who produced the Best Picture winner The Best Years Of Our Lives (1947).]
With his second Best Director nomination, Peter Jackson won the Best Director Oscar for his acclaimed film. He had received a Best Director nomination two years earlier for the first part of the trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), but lost, and he was overlooked for the second film. Jackson also co-won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, and an Oscar for producing the film - in total, a 3 Oscar-win 'hat-trick.' Along with Jackson, Fran Walsh became the first woman to receive three awards for the same film, winning in the Best Picture, Original Song, and Writing categories.
Regarding the other Best Director nominees - Clint Eastwood received his sole Best Director Oscar eleven years earlier for Unforgiven (1992). Australian Peter Weir's nomination for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World was his fourth as Best Director (previous nominations were for Witness (1985), Dead Poets Society (1989), and The Truman Show (1998)). Although Gary Ross was nominated for Best Original Screenplay honors twice before (for Big (1988) and Dave (1993)), this was his first Best Picture nomination.
In all of the acting nominations, newcomers or first-time nominees made up 10 of the 20 spots, often in debut films for various directors. They were competing against big-name actors - many of whom appeared in small films. An array of international locales were represented among the nominees - Iran, Japan, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, West Africa, etc. All of the acting winners were first-timers in their categories.
Sean Penn (with his fourth Best Actor nomination and first win - he was previously nominated for Dead Man Walking (1995), Sweet and Lowdown (1999), and I Am Sam (2001)) won the Best Actor award as reformed ex-hoodlum and working class Boston father Jimmy Markum, who seeks revenge over his teenage daughter Katie's murder in Mystic River.
The other Best Actor nominees included:
South African-born actress Charlize Theron (with her first nomination and Oscar win) won Best Actress as emotionally-damaged and abused real-life prostitute-turned-serial killer Aileen Wuornos in writer-director Patty Jenkins' crime drama (and feature film debut) Monster (with only one nomination - this one). She was the first-ever acting Oscar winner from South Africa, in a year when she and African-born Best Supporting Actor nominee Djimon Hounsou were the first African-born actors to be nominated for an Oscar.
The other Best Actress nominees included:
Tim Robbins (with his first acting nomination and first performance Oscar) won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Dave Boyle, a deeply-disturbed man tormented and traumatized by childhood abuse (with a remarkable monologue about persecution by vampires), and suspected of murder as an adult in Mystic River.
The other Best Supporting Actor nominees were:
Renee Zellweger (with her third consecutive nomination and first win) won the Best Supporting Actress Award for her role as Ruby, a chubby-faced, feisty, tough, and salty Confederate handywoman-farm girl who befriends neighbor Ada (Nicole Kidman) in Cold Mountain. The other Best Supporting Actress nominees were:
Director Blake Edwards, whose films included Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), Days of Wine and Roses (1962), Experiment in Terror (1962), 10 (1979), Victor/Victoria (1982), That's Life (1986), and The Pink Panther movies, received an Honorary Oscar for career achievement.
Oscar Snubs and Omissions:
Although Miramax's heavily-financed Civil War saga Cold Mountain had seven nominations, it failed to get nominations for Best Picture, Best Director for Anthony Minghella (who won Best Director for The English Patient (1996)), or Best Actress for Nicole Kidman as prim Southerner Ada (it would have been her third consecutive Best Actress nomination). It did, however, have two performance nominations - for Jude Law and for the ultimate winner Renee Zellweger. [This ended Miramax's 11-year run (from 1992-2002) of having at least one Best Picture contender each year. This was the longest streak for any studio since the Academy limited the number of Best Picture nominees to five in 1944.]
Tim Burton's Big Fish (with one nomination) was sorely overlooked, as was director Ridley Scott's Matchstick Men, Gurinder Chadha's coming-of-age British sports (football/soccer) film Bend It Like Beckham (2002, UK) (that reached US audiences almost a year after its debut in the UK in 2002), Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Robert Benton's The Human Stain, Ron Howard's The Missing, Jim Sheridan's In America (although it had two acting nominations and a screenplay nomination) Norman Jewison's The Statement, David Gordon Green's All The Real Girls, the British romance anthology Love Actually, the biographical comedy-drama American Splendor, Thomas McCarthy's The Station Agent, Jane Campion's In the Cut, and Edward Zwick's The Last Samurai (with four nominations).