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(March 2004)

The Triumph of Middle Earth
J.R.R. TolkienWe’re so pleased that Peter Jackson’s The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King won hugely at this year’s Academy Awards with 11 Oscars including Best Picture. The movie is a truly magnificent cap to the “Lord of The Rings” trilogy: The Fellowship of The Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of The King (2003). The novels by J.R.R. Tolkien from which this trilogy was taken have been a favorite of ours for years. From growing up with Nordic tales in the Midlands of England, to his studies in linguistics at Oxford, to his service during World War I in the Lancashire Fusiliers, Tolkien, with spectacular imagination, crafted wonderful tales of Shires and Hobbits, with invented languages, all taking place in ‘Middle Earth’

Peter Jackson and his New Zealand crew have brought to the screen these striking fantasy tales with fidelity and excitement. They all deserve the awards and adulation they’re now receiving. One question though: Why wasn’t The Return of The King nominated for Best Cinematography? This is not to say that the winner in this category, Master and Commander: The Far Side of The World didn’t deserve the award. It’s Peter Jacksonjust that the cinematography in The Return of The King was equal in audacity and technical achievement and deserved, at least, to be considered. And if it had won it would have set a record for number of awards for a single film with 12.

Renée Zellweger won the award for Best Supporting Actress in the movie Cold Mountain. It is said that the third time is a charm. Previously nominated for Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) and Chicago (2002), this was her third time at the plate and with a de-glamorized but flashy performance she came up a winner. It was interesting to us here at The Toast that during her acceptance speech, among many acknowledgements, she mentioned Vincent D’Onofrio with thanks for help in the craft of acting. Their first film together happens to be a favorite of ours; The Whole Wide World, the 1996 biopic of Robert E. Howard- creator of Conan The Barbarian. Since we like this movie so much and in particular, we enjoy the interplay between Zellweger and D'Onofrio, we believe this was the set were he mentored her in the thespian arts.

For many years most movie actors cut their teeth and got their training in legitimate theatre. An interesting aspect of honoring actors is to take note of those who have won the Tony award for distinguished achievement in theatre and an Oscar for playing the same role in a movie. Below is the list. Notice the last such double winner was over 30 years ago to Joel Grey for Cabaret.

  • José Ferrer- Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) “Cyrano de Bergerac”
  • Shirley Booth- Come Back Little Sheba (1952) “Lola Delaney”
  • Yul Brynner- The King and I (1956) “King Mongkut of Siam”
  • Anne Bancroft- The Miracle Worker (1962) “Annie Sullivan”
  • Rex Harrison- My Fair Lady (1964) “Professor Henry Higgins”
  • Lila Kedrova- Zorba The Greek (1964) “Madame Hortense”
  • Joel Grey- Cabaret (1972) “Master of Ceremonies”

Nowadays movie actors come from many different places other than Broadway. For example from this year’s Academy Awards in acting:Renée Zellweger

  • Sean Penn- Best Actor, grew up in a family of performers and had his professional debut on an episode of television’s Barnaby Jones in the late 1970s.
  • Charlize Theron, the Best Actress winner, was a dancer and model before her first movie role in Children of The Corn III (1995).
  • The Best Supporting Actor, Tim Robbins, graduated with honors in drama from UCLA in 1981 and started working in television in 1983. In the two years between he did little avant-garde theatre.
  • Renée Zellweger, our little-ol’-gal from Texas, on graduating from the University of Texas started auditioning for movie parts around the Lone Star state.

Not a Broadway baby in the bunch.

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