LOS ANGELES—“The King’s Speech” was crowned best picture Sunday at an Academy Awards ceremony as precise as a state coronation, the monarchy drama leading as expected with four Oscars and predictable favorites claiming acting honors.
Colin Firth as stammering British ruler George VI in “The King’s Speech” earned the best-actor prize, while Natalie Portman won best actress as a delusional ballerina in “Black Swan.”
The boxing drama “The Fighter” claimed both supporting-acting honors, for Christian Bale as a boxer-turned-drug-abuser and Melissa Leo as a boxing clan’s domineering matriarch.
“The King’s Speech” also won the directing prize for Tom Hooper and the original-screenplay Oscar for David Seidler, a boyhood stutterer himself.
“I have a feeling my career’s just peaked,” Firth said. “I’m afraid I have to warn you that I’m experiencing stirrings somewhere in the upper abdominals which are threatening to form themselves into dance moves.”
Among those Portman beat was Annette Bening for “The Kids Are All Right.” Bening now has lost all four times she’s been nominated.
“Thank you so much. This is insane, and I truly, sincerely wish that the prize tonight was to get to work with my fellow nominees. I’m so in awe of you,” Portman said.
Network censors bleeped Leo for dropping the F-word during her speech. Backstage, she jokingly conceded it was “probably a very inappropriate place to use that particular word.”
“Those words, I apologize to anyone that they offend. There is a great deal of the English language that is in my vernacular,” Leo said.
Bale joked that he was keeping his language clean. “I’m not going to drop the F-bomb like she did,” he said. “I’ve done that plenty of times before.”
But the Oscars, being a global affair, were telecast elsewhere in the world with Leo’s words uncensored. Viewers who watched the show on Star Movies, a major channel available throughout Asia, heard the F-word loud and clear.
Hooper, a relative big-screen newcomer best known for classy TV drama, took the industry’s top filmmaking prize over Hollywood veteran David Fincher, who had been a strong prospect for his Facebook drama “The Social Network.”
The prize was presented by last year’s winner, Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman to earn a directing Oscar.
“Thank you to my wonderful actors, the triangle of man love which is Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and me. I’m only here because of you guys,” Hooper said, referring to his film’s male stars.
Leo’s win capped an unusual career surge in middle age for the 50-year-old actress, who had moderate success on TV’s “Homicide: Life on the Street” in her 30s but leaped to big-screen stardom in her late 40s, a time when most actresses find good roles hard to come by.
In disbelief when she took the stage, Leo said, “Pinch me.” Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas, who presented her award, obliged with a little pinch on her arm.
Bale earned the same prize his Batman co-star, the late Heath Ledger, received posthumously two years ago for “The Dark Knight.” At the time, Bale had fondly recalled a bit of professional envy as he watched Ledger perform on set like a whirlwind as the diabolical Joker while the film’s star had to remain clenched up as the stoic, tightly wound Batman.
“The Fighter” gave Bale his turn to unleash some demons as Dicky Eklund, a boxer whose career unraveled amid crime and drug abuse. Bale delivers a showy performance full of tics and tremors, bobbing and weaving around the movie’s star and producer, Mark Wahlberg, who plays Eklund’s stolid brother, boxer Micky Ward.
The screenplay win capped a lifelong dream for “King’s Speech” writer Seidler, a boyhood stutterer born in London in 1937, a year after George took the throne. Seidler, who overcame his own stutter at age 16, had long vowed to one day write about the monarch whose fortitude set an example for him in childhood.