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Friday, 23 February, 2001, 15:16 GMT
Julie Walters wins Olivier
Julie Walters: Nominated for an Academy Award
Julie Walters has won the Laurence Olivier award for best actress for her performance in Arthur Miller's play All My Sons.

She beat off strong competition from Jessica Lange and Helen Mirren to triumph at the awards held at the Lyceum Theatre on Friday.

The award marks her return to the London stage after almost 10 years and next month she is in the running for a best supporting actress Academy Award.

All My Sons was the big winner with four awards in total; Howard Davies won for best director, William Dudley for best set design and Ben Daniels for best supporting actor.

'Fattest cherry'

In the play Walters portrayed the wife of an aircraft manufacturer in 1940s America, caught between the pursuit of money and the ethics of selling dangerous equipment.

She was unable to receive the award in person and sent a message to the audience instead, saying the prize was the "biggest, fattest cherry on the loveliest cake".

The Laurence Olivier Awards honour outstanding performances in London theatre.

They were established in 1976 as The Society of West End Theatre Awards, and the late Lord Olivier agreed to have his name associated with them in 1984.

They are regarded by many as the most prestigious awards in London theatre.

Musical honours

The musical Merrily We Roll Along, by Stephen Sondheim, walked off with three awards.

It took the prize for best new musical - beating Lord Lloyd-Webber's The Beautiful Game - while Daniel Evans and Samantha Spiro won the best actor and actress awards for their performances in the production.

Conleth Hills won the award for best actor, for his role in Stones In His Pockets - which won the best new comedy award - and Pauline Flanagan won the best supporting actress award for Dolly West's Kitchen.

Julia Ormond, Helen Mirren, Ben Elton, Trevor Nunn and Amanda Donohue were among celebrities at the awards.

The BBC award for the best new play went to Joe Penhall's highly-acclaimed Blue/Orange.

Penhall has already picked up the top prize at the Evening Standard and Critics' Circle theatre awards.

The Royal Opera's staging of The Greek Passion won the award for best new opera production.

The ceremony will be screened on BBC Two on Saturday at 2005GMT.

See also:

23 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Olivier award winners in full
13 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Julie Walters: From stage to celluloid
18 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Lange in line for Olivier
27 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Colourful play wins accolade
18 Feb 00 | Entertainment
O'Toole honoured at Oliviers
06 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Lange returns to West End
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