By RUSSELL BAILLIE
LOS ANGELES - Peter Jackson was crowned king of the movie world yesterday when he and the New Zealand team behind The Lord of the Rings triumphed in a clean sweep of the Academy Awards.
In what will endure as the proudest moment in New Zealand film history, Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won all 11 awards for which it was nominated.
The sheer size of the film's Oscar haul was the surprise in a night short on upsets.
Jackson took away three Oscars - for best director, best motion picture with partner and co-writer Fran Walsh and co-producer Barrie Osborne, and best adapted screenplay with Walsh and Philippa Boyens.
Afterwards a dishevelled, tie-askew and overjoyed Jackson told the Herald he had been incredibly nervous all day.
"Your guts are all churned up and you've got butterflies the size of jumbo jets. You have to look cool but. ... "
He was stunned that the film won all 11 categories in which it was nominated.
"All 11 was amazing to me. It just showed there was incredible goodwill from the industry towards the films that we had made and that was really touching - that people wanted to vote for these movies and showed their appreciation with their votes."
Jackson becomes the fourth film-makers to take the triple crown of writer-producer-director in one night, after Billy Wilder (1960), Francis Ford Coppola (1974) and James L. Brooks (1983).
The Return of the King's eleven Oscars equal the record held by Ben Hur and Titanic, but Return of the King is the only one of the three films to win every category in which it was nominated.
Earlier, Jackson said the history behind the Oscars made the awards "so much more special than anything else".
And he had a message to the fans back home: "I hope they're all having a hell of a good time because they deserve it."
Accepting the best picture award, Jackson paid tribute to New Zealand's support of the trilogy.
"I just want to say a very few quick words, especially to the people of New Zealand, to the Government of New Zealand, the city councils and everyone who has supported us the length and breadth of the country."
Making reference to host Billy Crystal's running gag about New Zealand taking over the Oscars, he said: "Billy Crystal is welcome to come and make a film in the country any time he wants."
Jackson said he was "so honoured, touched and relieved that the academy and the members of the academy that have supported us have seen past the trolls and the wizards and the hobbits and recognised fantasy this year".
The Return of the King is the first fantasy or science fiction film to win a best film Oscar.
Jackson's Rings trilogy is a 9 1/2-hour saga that blends live action and computer animation, putting real actors alongside the mystical creatures of J.R.R. Tolkien's imagination.
The first two films in the trilogy won six Oscars in technical categories, and were nominated for best picture.
By the time The Return of the King had picked up Oscars for art direction, costume design, visual effects, make-up, sound mixing, musical score, editing, song, and best adapted screenplay in quick succession, an across-the-board sweep seemed likely.
Again and again, the New Zealand accent was heard around the world, thanking co-workers at home.
Weta Workshop's Richard Taylor, a double winner for the first film, The Fellowship of the Ring, again took away two Oscars.
As well as winning best make-up with Peter King, he was a winner for best costume design with Ngila Dickson, who was also nominated for her work on the New Zealand-shot movie The Last Samurai.
As Crystal noted early in the evening, "it's official, there is nobody in New Zealand left to thank".
As predicted, Whale Rider star Keisha Castle-Hughes - at 13 the youngest best actress nominee in Oscars history - lost to South African-born Hollywood star Charlize Theron for Monster.
The Return of the King overshadowed almost every other nominated film.
The nearest to it was Mystic River with two acting Oscars - best actor Sean Penn and best supporting actor Tim Robbins.
Master and Commander won in two categories for which The Return of the King was not nominated.
Jackson's three Oscars cap a career marked by leaps in style and scale.
His first feature was the DIY alien zombie movie Bad Taste, made in the hills of his childhood home north of Wellington.
It appeared his early career was destined for cultdom with the splatter-fest Meet the Feebles and Braindead.
On the Oscar stage, thanking friends who had stuck by him from his early film-making days, Jackson joked that these films were "wisely overlooked by the academy".
Jackson, with co-writer Walsh, served notice of better talent on Heavenly Creatures, which was nominated for a best-adapted-screenplay Oscar.
Jackson further honed his special effects skills on the Hollywood ghost story The Frighteners.
He then pulled off the movie deal of the decade, convincing the New Line movie studio to back a US$300 million ($434 million) three-movie New Zealand-filmed adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.
Jackson said New Line had done "the most risky thing I think anyone has ever done in this industry" in backing him.
The three movies are all now among the top 10 grossing movies, generating more than US$1 billion ($1.47 billion) at the box office.
Receiving the award for best adapted screenplay, Jackson said "hi" to children Billy and Katie "for putting up with their mum and dad working on this film all their lives, because they are only 7 and 8 years old". And he acknowledged his late parents, Bill and Joan.
"They supported me all the way through the years. I paid tribute tonight because my dad died during the pre-production on Lord Of The Rings and my mother passed away three days before Fellowship of the Ring was finished. She was hanging on to try and see it and she didn't quite make it."
On his lapel, Jackson wore a pin by US jeweller Paul Badali, who had previously created "good luck" pins for cast and crew of the three films.
Additional reporting: NZPA
Herald Feature: The Oscars
Red carpet picture gallery
2004 nominees and winners
Related information and links
By RUSSELL BAILLIE