Oscars: 'Rings' Rules Them All

02/29/2004 AT 06:48 PM EST

Best Picture of the year "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" commanded Oscar night, scoring a clean sweep with 11 wins and placing it alongside such all-time record-holders as 1959's "Ben-Hur" and 1997's "Titanic."

Charlize Theron was named Best Actress for her role as the real-life prostitute and serial killer Aileen Wournos, while Sean Penn was named Best Actor for "Mystic River." (Check out a complete list of winners.)

In addition to the top honor and Best Director Peter Jackson, the third and final installment of the J.R.R. Tolkien epic fantasy grabbed the gold for adapted screenplay, art direction, costume design, visual effects, makeup, sound mixing, film editing, Howard Shore's original score, and the Shore-Fran Walsh-Annie Lennox collaboration on original song ("Into the West").

"It's a clean sweep," announced Steven Spielberg as he opened the Best Picture envelope. In all, the three chapters of "The Lord of the Rings" series has won 19 Oscars, clearly one for the record books.

"Do you know that people are moving to New Zealand just to be thanked?" host Billy Crystal cracked earlier in the evening, in reference to the shooting location of "Rings."

Denise Robert, the producer of the Best Foreign Film, Canada's "The Barbarian Invasions," also joked, "We're so thankful that 'Lord of the Rings' did not qualify in this category," as the crowd chuckled in appreciation.

In accepting his Best Director Oscar, Peter Jackson thanked his parents, who did not live to see any of his three "Rings" movies, as well as his studio, New Line, for accepting the gamble of such a large undertaking. (New Line, like PEOPLE, is part of Time Warner.)

Clutching her Best Actress trophy, a very tanned Theron said: "This has been such an incredible year. I can't believe this." She thanked director Patty Jenkins, costar Christina Ricci, boyfriend Stuart Townsend and "everyone in South Africa, my home country. They're all watching tonight."

She then nearly broke into tears as she thanked her mom for the sacrifices she made in letting Theron come to the states, but then said, "I'm not going to cry." But Mom, in the audience, did.

Penn, winning his first Oscar after four nominations, received a standing ovation before he told the crowd, "If there's one thing that actors know, (it's) that there's no such thing as best in acting, which is proved by these great actors I was nominated with."

He thanked "Mystic River" director Clint Eastwood "personally and professionally for coming into my life" and "Ma, Dad, and (wife) Robin, for being an undying emotional inspiration on this roller coaster I'm learning to enjoy."

Penn's victory meant a loss for "Lost in Translation" star Bill Murray, who was kissed by his wife and admonished by Billy Crystal from the stage: "Bill, don't leave. Don't leave. We love you."

"Mystic River" was another multiple winner of the night, with supporting actor Tim Robbins also honored. Supporting Actress winner was Renee Zellweger, for "Cold Mountain."

Shut out of the winner's circle was "Seabiscuit," which went into the night with seven nominations, including Best Picture. And Peter Weir's "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World," which was up for 10 awards, won just two -- for cinematography and sound editing.

Sofia Coppola took the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for "Lost in Translation," saying, "Thank you to my Dad for everything he taught me." (Her dad, of course, is "The Godfather" director Francis Ford Coppola.) She also thanked her brothers -- who kept her going when her script "was only up to 12 pages" -- and she paid tribute to such inspirational directors as Bob Fosse and Jean-Luc Godard.

"And every writer needs a muse," said Coppola. "Mine was Bill Murray." She also thanked her mother, Eleanor Coppola, for "always encouraging me to be artistic."

All told, comedy ruled Sunday's long day's journey into night. Will Ferrell and Jack Black sang a comedy number set to the tune that cues winners to get off the stage for talking too long during their acceptances. In part, it went as follows:

"This is it, Your time is through, You're boring.

"... No need to thank your parakeet You're boring. Look at Catherine Zeta-Jones, she's snoring ..."

Still, the evening nearly ended on time, coming in at just under three hours, 45 minutes. Hooray for Hollywood.

Check out PEOPLE's complete Oscar coverage.

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