The Aviator, this year's most nominated Oscar contender with 11, soared on Saturday at Britain's equivalent of the Hollywood competition: the British Academy Film Awards.
Director Martin Scorsese's epic biography of eccentric industrialist and moviemaker Howard Hughes was named best picture and picked up three additional awards, more than any other film – but Scorsese and star Leonardo DiCaprio left empty handed.
Despite the turn of events, and the movie's so-so box-office response in America, DiCaprio – who lost to absentee Ray star Jamie Foxx as best actor – told reporters: "The film has gone so far beyond our expectations. And I had huge expectations for this movie. We had a lot stacked up against us. It was a lot to pull off, but we pulled it off with flying colors."
The director's prize went to Britain's Mike Leigh for Vera Drake, which also scored best actress honors for Imelda Staunton. As for Leigh's Oscar chances come Feb. 27, when he and Scorsese face off again in the race for best director, he says: "I think we should have rather less chance of winning something there. We're the outsiders."
The Oscar Best Picture nominee Sideways was recognized for its best adapted screenplay by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor.
Another BAFTA winner was supporting actress Cate Blanchett, who plays Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator, the same role for which she is Oscar nominated. "I'm going through that horrendous pressure of choosing a frock," the Australian actress lamented when asked about the Hollywood ceremony.
One more BAFTA winner up for an Oscar was Closer supporting actor Clive Owen – who took his time reacting to the announcement, until his wife Sarah-Jane elbowed him. He then leapt out of his seat and told the giggling crowd from the podium: "I didn't hear my name get called."
Speaking afterwards, Owen, who also took home the Golden Globe, said his slow reaction might have had something to do with his having never won anything before this awards season.
Aviator, But Not Leo, Wins British Oscars
02/14/2005 AT 08:00 AM EST