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Renee loses out to Nicole for top prize

Kidman defied odds by snatching the best actress trophy for her role as Virginia Woolf in The Hours directed by Stephen Daldry

india Updated: Mar 24, 2003 14:05 IST

Australian star Nicole Kidman and newcomer Adrien Brody on Sunday won the top acting Oscars as the steamy musical "Chicago" dominated an Academy Awards show shaken by anti-war protests.

Kidman, 35, defied the odds by snatching the best actress trophy for her role as Virginia Woolf in the fraught drama "The Hours" that bookies and experts had predicted "Chicago's" Renee Zellweger would win.

And Oscars history was made when 29-year-old Adrien Brody won the best actor statuette for his role as a Holocaust survivor in "The Pianist," becoming the youngest ever recipient of the award and the only one ever to win in the face of competition from four previous Oscar laureates.

But "Chicago" remained ahead in the Oscars race after winning five statuettes including best supporting actress for Catherine Zeta-Jones in a show haunted by the spectre of conflict in Iraq.

Famed US documentary maker Michael Moore stunned the star-studded audience when he used his win of an Oscar for his anti-gun documentary "Bowling For Columbine" to launch a violent attack on US President George W. Bush and the war, drawing loud boos from the audience.

"We live in a time when we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons," he said.

"We are against this war Mr Bush. Shame on you. Shame on you!," he told the loudly booing audience of 3,500 people including most of Hollywood's royalty.

While other stars also made references to the war, which many Hollywood personalities oppose, Moore's protest was by far the most vitriolic.

Chris Cooper became the first celebrity to speak up for peace when he won the best supporting actor Oscar for his gritty best supporting actor role as horticulturalist John Laroche in the dark comedy "Adaptation."

And one of the Oscar presenters Gael Garcia Bernal, who starred in the Oscar nominated movie "Frida," broke the Oscars' cardinal rule this year by diverging from his script and speaking out against the war.

Even Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Frank Pierson evoked the conflict, with messages to both US troops in the Gulf and the Iraqi people.

"God speed and lets get you home soon," he said to the US forces, adding: "To the Iraqi people -- let's have peace soon and let you live without war."

The Oscars telecast was interrupted twice to bring live news of the bombing campaign in Iraq, while host Steve Martin began the evening by quipping about the lack of glitz at the toned-down red carpet arrivals ceremony.

Accepting her award in a long black evening gown, the redhead said she had been asked why she was attending the Oscar when the world was in such turmoil.

"Because art is important and because you believe in what you do and you want to honour that and it's a tradition that needs to be upheld," she said to thunderous applause.

Weeping, she spoke of the pain of families who lose relatives in wars, and then turned to her own family: "My whole life I've wanted to make my mother proud and now I want to make my daughter proud."

Welsh-born Catherine Zeta-Jones took the best supporting actress statuette for her role as a murderous songstress in "Chicago", adding to four others: best costume design, art direction, sound and best cinematography.

"Chicago," the tale of greed, murder and jazz in the Windy City in the 1920s is nominated for 13 Oscars and appeared to be heading for a definitive victory, tempered by Kidman's win..

Its competition included the drama "The Hours," with nine nods, "The Pianist" with seven 10-times nominated epic "Gangs of New York."

Brody, weeping as he received his statuette for his role in Roman Polanski's film, said he was saddened to accept at award "at such a strange time."

"Whoever you believe in, whether it is God or Allah, may he watch over you and let's pray for a swift resolution," he said to loud applause.

He won the Oscar from under the noses of movie greats and Oscar winners Jack Nicholson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Michael Caine and Nicholas Cage.

Hollywood's biggest night got underway after days of nail biting over whether war would derail the show, with stars turning out in force and in style, many flashing peace signs as they arrived or wearing peace badges.

But despite fears that top Tinseltown draws might boycott cinema's top honours, due to concerns they would appear insensitive in celebrating their industry while war is raging in Iraq, it was alright on the night.

Some celebrities did pull out, including actors Will Smith, Angelina Jolie, Cate Blanchett, "Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson whose film picked up the best visual effects and sound editing gongs.

While glamour and style were everywhere, the fashion tone at this year's Oscars was muted compared to other years.

First Published: Mar 24, 2003 10:53 IST