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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 February 2006, 12:34 GMT
Thriller scoops France's Cesars
Jacques Audiard
Jacques Audiard won best director for the dark drama
Film thriller De Battre Mon Coeur S'est Arrete (The Beat That My Heart Skipped) has taken top honours at the Cesars, France's leading movie awards.

The tale of a man choosing between delinquency and music won eight awards, including best director for Jacques Audiard and best film.

Best foreign film was won by Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby, which dominated last year's Oscars.

British actor Hugh Grant won an honorary Cesar for his body of work.

Accepting the award in French, he joked that he was often cast playing the same sort of romantic lead.

"Despite that, you've given me this great honour. I don't win a lot of prizes, especially at home. Thank you France," he said.

Hugh Grant and Carole Bouquet
Hugh Grant received his prize from actress Carole Bouquet
Best actor was Michel Bouquet, for his part as late president Francois Mitterrand in Le Promeneur du Champs de Mars (The Stroller in the Champs de Mars), while best actress was Natalie Baye in Le Petit Lieutenant (The Little Lieutenant), a tale of a recovering alcoholic detective.

The Paris ceremony started late after a demonstration by film industry workers.

A dozen activists lobbying for greater rights for temporary contract workers ran onto the stage, delaying the opening of the ceremony by actress Carole Bouquet by 20 minutes.

Outside, a group of 200 other demonstrators also protested.

The Cesars are the last major film awards before next week's Academy Awards. War film Merry Christmas, up for best foreign film at the Oscars, was unsuccessful, while March of the Penguins, nominated for best documentary, had to make do with a technical award for best sound.

But another best documentary nominee, Darwin's Nightmare - a critique of globalisation - took the best first film Cesar for director Hubert Sauper.

Oscar favourite Brokeback Mountain, which was honoured at last week's Baftas, was not released in time to be considered for the Cesars.

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