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Monday, March 22, 1999 Published at 13:51 GMT

Oscars glory for Brits

Dame Judi Dench is congratulated by her husband, Michael Williams

The Oscar for best picture of 1999 has unexpectedly been awarded to Shakespeare in Love, beating the hotly-tipped Saving Private Ryan.

Dame Judi Dench: "It's just a shame someone has to win"
In a night of high achievement for British films, the Elizabethan period drama took seven Oscars. The other six were for best actress, best screenplay, best supporting actress for Dame Judi Dench, best costume, score and art direction.

[ image:  ]
World War II epic Saving Private Ryan came second in the award tally with five statuettes, followed by Italian picture Life is Beautiful with three.

Including one award each for Elizabeth and Gods and Monsters, the British contingent in Hollywood took nine Oscars.

In a shock result, the Italian actor and director Roberto Benigni won best actor Oscar for his role in Life is Beautiful, beating strong favourite Tom Hanks.

In the process, he becomes the only foreign man ever to win a best actor Oscar for a performance in a foreign language film.

Gwyneth Paltrow: "It's a beautifully-written screenplay"
Gwyneth Paltrow, in floods of tears, picked up the best actress award. Making a traditional Oscars acceptance speech, she bravely attempted to speak through a torrent of emotion and thanked an unending list of people including family and friends.

[ image: Gwyneth Paltrow - more compsed than when she picked up her award]
Gwyneth Paltrow - more compsed than when she picked up her award
Best Director Oscar went to Steven Spielberg for Saving Private Ryan, who said: "I want to sincerely thank all the families who lost sons in World War II".

Equally as delighted as Paltrow, but without the sobbing, Benigni said he had used up all his English receiving the award for best foreign film and so he did not know what to say - "my body is in tumult".

"I don't really deserve this but I hope to win some other Oscars," he said as he claimed the film's third of the night.

Dame Judi Dench was the first British nominee to win one of the 1999 Oscars as best supporting actress for her role as Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love.

Oscars '99
Dame Judi said she was very moved by the award but felt that "the best bit of the Oscars is getting a nomination."

Referring to the short amount of time her character spent on screen in the film, which had 13 nominations in all, she said: "I feel I only deserve a little bit of him after only being on screen for eight minutes."

Shakespeare in Love writer Tom Stoppard: "It's romantic and it has good jokes"
Steven Spielberg's World War II epic Saving Private Ryan started strongly, picking up three Oscars in technical categories.

Benigni goes bananas

Roberto Benigni, the exuberant Italian actor/director who is the toast of Hollywood, was ecstatic at winning the best foreign film category.

[ image: Roberto Benigni celebrates - by jumping on the chairs]
Roberto Benigni celebrates - by jumping on the chairs
When the announcement was made, Benigni leapt from seat to seat, arms above his head, towards the stage before finally jumping up the steps to receive the award from Sophia Loren.

"I have the Oscar but I want you Sophia," he said "I feel I want to dive into this ocean of generosity, this hailstorm of kindness and gratitude."

Thanking his parents he said: "They gave me the best gift - poverty."

The BBC's Nick Higham on Oscars night - and Roberto Benigni's reaction
There was a note of controversy when veteran director Elia Kazan was given his lifetime achievement award.

Several big names, including Steven Spielberg, refused to join the standing ovation for the man who "outed" colleagues and friends as communists in 1952.

Whoopi wonderland

[ image: Steven Spielberg: Named as Best Director]
Steven Spielberg: Named as Best Director
The evening kicked off with all its customary glitz and glamour hosted by Whoopi Goldberg.

At the start of the ceremony she appeared on stage in full make-up dressed as Queen Elizabeth I - the first of many costume changes for the queen of the comic one liner.

Veteran actor James Coburn won best supporting actor for his performance in Affliction.

Coburn said: "I have been doing this for a long time, but I guess I have finally got one right. Some you do for money and some you do for love - and this one was for love."

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