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The Return of the King wins 11 out of 11 Oscars

Story by: Jack Foley

THE Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King dominated the 2004 Oscars ceremony, winning 11 awards from 11 nominations, including the much sought after best film and best director prizes.

The clean sweep surpassed expectations and helped the epic to equal the record trophy tally at the Hollywood ceremony, which was held , jointly, by Ben Hur and Titanic.

The film, which marks the final part in Peter Jackson's trilogy of Tolkien's books, also won for best score, song, film editing, make-up, costume design, best adapted screenplay, art direction, visual effects and sound mixing.

In doing so, it also became the first fantasy film to win best picture.

Needless to say, Jackson was overwhelmed, describing the achievement as 'unbelievable', and adding:

"I'm so honoured that the Academy and its members have seen past the trolls and the wizards and the hobbits and are recognising fantasy this year."

He had earlier praised his 'wonderful cast', which included the likes of Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen and Orlando Bloom.

The film had been expected to triumph in the two main categories at the ceremony - but few dared to predict it would make the clean sweep.

Yet it signalled Hollywood's desire to reward Jackson and his team for making three ground-breaking and hugely popular movies, particularly as Academy members had been slated for 'snubbing' the two previous Lord of the Rings films in the major categories.

The awards haul adds to the film's tremendous Box Office success, where it is officially now the second highest grossing film of all time, behind Titanic, with more than $1bn (£534m) in global receipts.

A night of few surprises...

In a night of few surprises, all four of the main acting honours went to pre-ceremony favourites.

Sean Penn and Tim Robbins secured a double delight for Clint Eastwood's Mystic River, winning best actor and supporting actor, respectively, while the hotly-tipped Charlize Theron won best actress for Monster.

Oscar favourite, Renee Zellweger took the best supporting actress statuette for Cold Mountain - which marked Harvey Weinstein's only real success of the night.

Penn's award, which many believed had been a long time in coming, paid tribute to his peers, while also touching on the politics for which he has become renowned.

"If there's one thing actors know - other than that there aren't any WMDs - it's that there is no such thing as 'best' in acting," he joked.

While his co-star, Robbins, declined to become in any way political, saying: "This is really a lovely honour. I'd like to thank my fellow nominees, who were all spectacular."

As usual, it was the women who became emotional, with Theron's voice faltering as she thanked her mother.

The South African born actress, who plays serial killer, Aileen Wuornos in Monster, described her year as 'incredible', before telling her mum: "You have sacrificed so much for me to be able to live here and make my dreams come true."

And Cold Mountain star, Zellweger, also said she was 'overwhelmed', before thanking her 'immigrant mom and dad' for 'never saying 'don't try'.

Of the other winners, Peter Weir's Master and Commander took two statuettes, for best sound editing and best cinematography, while Sofia Coppola (who had, 24 hours earlier, triumphed at the Independent Spirit Awards) picked up the best original screenplay prize, for her film, Lost In Translation.

Finding Nemo won best animated feature, as widely expected, while The Fog of War was named best documentary feature.

Its producer, Errol Morris, gave the night's most political speech, stating that: "Forty years ago this country went down a rabbit hole in Vietnam and millions died - I fear we're going down a rabbit hole once again."

Best foreign language film went to French-Canadian comedy drama, The Barbarian Invasions.

The glittering ceremony was hosted by comedian, Billy Crystal, who has now compèred eight times, and who cracked plenty of jokes, including one at the expense of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.

And there were also tributes to Bob Hope and Katharine Hepburn - who both died during the last 12 months.

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