“Precious” dominated Friday night’s Independent Spirit Awards, copping five trophies including best feature, director for Lee Daniels, actress for Gabourey Sidibe, supporting actress for Mo’Nique and first screenplay for Geoffrey Fletcher.
Jeff Bridges maintained his momentum with another actor victory for “Crazy Heart” and Woody Harrelson took the supporting actor nod for “The Messenger.” The gala featured a pair of notable shifts — a new location at the L.A. Live complex downtown rather than the usual beachside site and an evening start instead of its previous Saturday midday launch — as part of an effort by the Film Independent org to herald its 25th anniversary.
The Spirits maintained their free-wheeling tone, and Eddie Izzard emceed the show with his usual irreverence. “Before we start, I’d like to announce there is no God,” Izzard began. “So ‘God Bless America’ just means have a good time.”
“Precious” won every category in which it was nommed and topped “500 Days of Summer,” “Amreeka,” “Sin nombre” and “The Last Station” for the feature award — presented by Ben Stiller following a goofy intro that included a trio of scantily clad porn stars gyrating. Event was telecast live on IFC.
“We together have made an amazing film that will be our children’s legacy,” said “Precious” producer Sarah Siegel-Magness from the stage at the end of the ceremonies.
Only films made for $20 million or less are eligible for the Spirit Awards. “The Hurt Locker,” with nine Oscar noms this year, was absent from the Spirits since it unspooled in festivals in 2008; the war drama scored a pair of acting nods last year for Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie, but Kathryn Bigelow was shut out in the directing category.
An emotional Daniels said he had been in the midst of editing “Precious” while serving on one of last year’s Spirit Awards juries, then professed love for all those associated with the film.
Sidibe recalled saving up her money while in school to see “Welcome to the Dollhouse.” “To be corny, that’s when my independent spirit was born,” she said before crediting her castmates with showing her how to act.
“I still hardly know anything,” she added.
Mo’Nique said of Sidibe, “Gaby, you are a special gift to the universe.”
Fletcher, who won the evening’s first award for “Precious,” gave extensive thanks to his parents, the producers, Daniels, distrib Lionsgate, Sapphire (who penned the novel) and the cast, adding, “Every time I see them, I become any audience member again.”
Bridges also issued a lengthy list of acknowledgements in his acceptance after starting by saying, “It makes me weak in the knees.”
“An Education” won the foreign film award for director Lone Scherfig, who singled out lead actors Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard — “the best actor I’ve ever worked with.”
Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber won the screenplay trophy for “500 Days of Summer.” The duo wasn’t nommed in the Oscar original screenplay category. The best first feature trophy went to “Crazy Heart,” honoring director-producer Scott Cooper and producers T. Bone Burnett, Judy Cairo, Rob Carliner and Robert Duvall.
Cooper thanked the cast and distrib Fox Searchlight. “If not for Fox Searchlight, this would have gone straight to radio,” he added.
Roger Deakins won the cinematography trophy for “A Serious Man,” which also took the previously announced Robert Altman Award — recognizing director, casting directors and cast. “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” took the documentary award with director Sacha Gervasi — who crewed with the band as a teen — coming on stage with the Canadian heavy metal band to accept.
“When I was 15 years old, this band took me out on the road and they showed me a lot of things, some of which I can’t discuss on live television,” he said.
Lynn Shelton, the writer-director-producer of sex comedy “Humpday,” copped the John Cassavetes Award for a feature made for under $500,000. Shelton noted she was returning to the Spirits awards stage for the second year in a row; she won the Acura Someone to Watch trophy last year.
Bill Ross and Turner Ross won the Chaz and Roger Ebert Truer Than Fiction award for the documentary “45365.” The film critic was in attendance for presentation of the award, renamed because of a gift from the Eberts’ foundation, and received a standing ovation.
Karen Chien received the Piaget Producers kudo for producing “The Exploding Girl” and “Santa Mesa.” Kyle Alvarez, director of “Easier with Practice,” won the Acura Someone to Watch award.
“Precious” is the top domestic grosser among the Spirit winners with $47 million, followed by “300 Days of Summer” at $33 million and “Crazy Heart” at $30 million.
Complete winners list:
Best Feature Precious”
Best Director Lee Daniels, ‘Precious’
Best First Feature ‘Crazy Heart’
Best Screenplay Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber, ‘(500) Days of Summer’
Best First Screenplay Geoffrey Fletcher, ‘Precious’
John Cassavetes Award Humpday
Best Supporting Female Mo’Nique, ‘Precious’
Best Supporting Male Woody Harrelson, ‘The Messenger’
Best Female Gabourey Sidibe, ‘Precious’
Best Male Jeff Bridges, ‘Crazy Heart’
Best Cinematography Roger Deakins, ‘A Serious Man’
Best Foreign Film ‘An Education’
Best Documentary ‘Anvil! The Story of Anvil’
By David Mc Nary