Fox Searchlight was the big winner Saturday at Film Independent's Spirit Awards as Black Swan collected four awards, for best feature, actress (Natalie Portman), director (Darren Aronfosky) and cinematography (Matthew Libatique) while a tired-looking James Franco, who is not only co-hosting Sunday's Oscars but threw a post-Gagosian show party Friday night, won best actor for 127 Hours.
"Independent film is important to me, so this means a lot," Franco said, thanking climber Aaron Ralston for his "big big gift" of trusting Danny Boyle with his story. "The crew, director and writer became my costars," said Franco. "It was a crazy, crazy experience that I don't think I'll ever repeat."
As usual, Oscar nominees dominated the winners; Aronofsky reminded that Black Swan was a hard film to make, and thanked Fox Searchlight for "putting their necks out." It all comes down to the actors' "fearless performances," he added. Portman, who is favored to win an Oscar as well, said it was her first Spirit Awards. "We had the bond company on set for the last two months," she said. "And it was a two-and-a-half month shoot." She went on to praise the women in the room, including her fellow nominees and directors Debra Granik and Lisa Cholodenko, who collected best screenplay for The Kids Are All Right. Cholodenko raised her Jameson Whiskey bottle and thanked co-writer Stuart Blumberg, "the most powerful sperm donor I've ever met."
A full list of winners is below; backstage interviews are here.
Winter's Bone also collected wins for supporting actress Dale Dickey and supporting actor John Hawkes. After a night of torrential rain, it was cold and gusty at the Santa Monica beach as the Spirits returned to the big tent. As the afternoon turned chill, inside the tent, attendees were shivering, pouring hot coffee, and collected around a few available heaters. Presenter Terrence Howard asked Film Independent: "Can't we afford some heat?" (The Academy sent a warning email to press covering the Oscar red carpet Sunday to dress for cold weather.) For the first time, the kudo show was taped with commercial breaks, which broke the momentum; attendees got out of their chairs and networked as the announcer said, "Seriously, back to your seats!" IFC will air the R-rated show at 10 PM Saturday.
In an odd conjunction of Spirits and Oscars, The King's Speech won best foreign film. Director Tom Hooper thanked his producers, the Weinsteins and UK's Momentum for backing "a movie that nobody wanted to make."
Sony Pictures Classics grabbed wins for Best First Feature Get Low and Please Give, which won the Robert Altman ensemble casting award. Writer-director Nicole Holefcener said she couldn't imagine what her films would have been like without Catherine Keener, who has starred in them all. Accepting the doc prize for another Oscar nominee, Exit Through the Gift Shop, the star of the film, Mr. Brainwash, said, "I'd like to give this to Banksy."
Host Joel McHale took a few shots at the celebs on hand, fumbling the pronunciation of unknown Australian actress Nicole Kid-man, and calling Franco and Danny Boyle's 127 Hours the "the most harrowing-ever Mountain Dew commercial."
Film Independent's Dawn Hudson kicked things off with a couple of pre-show prizes. Anna Kendrick and Josh Rattner presented the first Spirit for best first screenplay, won by Lena Dunham for Tiny Furniture (isn't this her second film?). "I feel so lucky to have been born to my two best friends," Dunham said of her artist parents. Black Swan's Matthew Libatique, also the favorite, won cinematography for Black Swan, which went on to win three more prizes.
McHale's opening video skit starred Dickey, Alex Trebek, John Waters and a chainsaw. It was funny. In the flesh, McHale told the casually dressed crowd, "You look like shit," then launched into a fusillade of cunnilingus jokes. Wonder if Franco will touch that theme Sunday?
Here's a complete list of Spirit winners:
Best Feature Fox Searchlight
Black Swan Producers: Scott Franklin, Mike Medavoy, Arnold W. Messer, Brian Oliver
Best Director Fox Searchlight
Darren Aronofsky Black Swan
Best Screenplay Focus Features
The Kids Are All Right Writers: Stuart Blumberg & Lisa Cholodenko
Best First Feature Sony Pictures Classics
Get Low Director: Aaron Schneider
Producers: David Gundlach, Dean Zanuck
Best First Screenplay IFC Films
Lena Dunham Tiny Furniture
John Cassavetes Award IFC Films
(For the best feature made under $500,000) Writers/Directors: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
Daddy Longlegs Producers: Casey Neistat, Tom Scott
Best Supporting Female Roadside Attractions
Dale Dickey Winter’s Bone
Best Supporting Male Roadside Attractions
John Hawkes Winter’s Bone
Best Female Fox Searchlight
Natalie Portman Black Swan
Best Male Fox Searchlight
James Franco 127 Hours
Best Cinematography Fox Searchlight
Matthew Libatique Black Swan
Best Foreign Film The Weinstein Company
The King’s Speech Director: Tom Hooper
Best Documentary Producers Distribution Agency
Exit Through The Gift Shop Banksy
2011 FILM INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARD WINNERS BY DISTRIBUTOR
Fox Searchlight 5
IFC Films 2
Roadside Attractions 2
Focus Features 1
Producers Distribution Agency 1
Sony Pictures Classics 1
The Weinstein Company 1