Jason Reitman‘s “Juno” led this afternoon’s Spirit Awards, presented by Film Independent, taking home awards for best feature film, best female lead Ellen Page and best first screenplay for Diablo Cody. The ceremony took place in Santa Monica, CA, inside a tent along the beach, and was hosted by Rainn Wilson, while Oscar nominee Javier Bardem was this year’s honorary chair. Joining “Juno” in the winner’s circle were double winners “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” “I’m Not There” and “The Savages.”
“This is the coolest award in the coolest category,” Cody exclaimed, accepting her best first screenplay award from “Juno” co-star Jason Bateman. Joining Cody in the winner’s circle was Juno herself, best lead female winner Ellen Page. “This pretty much all Diablo Cody’s fault,” Page cracked, thanking the writer for what she said was the best script she had ever read.
Appropriately, the rain began to fall in Southern California as Wilson took the stage and the Spirit Awards show kicked off at 2 p.m. local time. Unfortunately for those seated alongside indieWIRE at Table #316, a leak emerged from the roof and began to drip on a few attendees. But, spirits weren’t dampened as Dennis Hopper joined Wilson to open the ceremony. “Greetings indie weirdos!” Wilson welcomed the crowd.
Best screenplay winner Tamara Jenkins with big winner “Juno” director Jason Reitman at the 2008 Film Independent’s Spirit Awards. Image by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE.
Besides “Juno,” the Spirits awarded major awards to Tamara Jenkins‘ “The Savages,” which took awards for Jenkins’ screenplay and lead male Philip Seymour Hoffman. Julian Schnabel‘s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” also won two awards, including best director. “The idea that its an independent spirit is a good thing,” said Schnabel while accepting his award. Schnabel acknowledged those who have worked with him over the years and singling out producer Jon Kilik and his family. “There are so many people in this room who I admire that I don’t know… this is a nice community of people who have been very generous with me, and I appreciate that. Thank you.” “Diving Bell” also won an award for cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.
Accepting the John Cassavetes Award for best feature made under $500,000, Chris Eska spoke words of support for the immigrants in this country. This film is about an immigrant family, but its really about all of our families,” the “August Evening” director said. Eska said he would really like to thank his agent but, “I don’t have one yet…” He also encouraged those watching at home to make sure to see the truly indie films also nominated in the category.
“Once” director John Carney accepted his award for best foreign film by running through a long roster of the people who helped him along the way. “This is amazing to start making a little film for $100,000 with your mates in Dublin,” he said. “I guess that’s independent film.” The film beat out Cristian Mungui‘s “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” and Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi‘s “Persepolis.”
A very pregnant Cate Blanchett praised “I’m Not There” director Todd Haynes for his vision. “Its not just where the money comes from, its the creative thinking behind it,” she said. Accepting her award for Best Supporting Female, Blanchett also took a moment to dedicate her award to her late co-star Heath Ledger, who also acted in the film about the life of Bob Dylan.
“I’m Not There,” which debuted at the Telluride Film Festival back in September, also was the recipient of the previously announced and inaugural Robert Altman Award, which is given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast.
Praising the film’s casting director Laura Rosenthal and honoring the actors who worked on the film, Haynes accepted the Robert Altman award by relflecting on independent film, calling it “the hardest and scariest kind of filmmaking.” He went on to praise Heath Ledger, noting that the late actor had written and circulated a script that he himself was to direct. Ledger had approached Ed Lachman to shoot the movie and Laura Rosenthal to cast the the project. “I have no doubt he would have made an astounding director,” Haynes noted.
And the winners are…
Producers: Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich, Mason Novick, Russell Smith
Julian Schnabel, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”
BEST FIRST FEATURE
“The Lookout,” Director: Scott Frank
Producers: Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber, Laurence Mark, Walter Parkes
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
“August Evening,” Writer/Director: Chris Eska
Producers: Connie Hill, Jason Wehling
Tamara Jenkins, “The Savages”
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Diablo Cody, “Juno”
BEST FEMALE LEAD
Ellen Page, “Juno”
BEST MALE LEAD
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Savages”
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Cate Blanchett, “I’m Not There”
BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Chiwetel Ejiofor, “Talk To Me”
Janusz Kaminski, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”
“Crazy Love,” Director: Dan Klores
BEST FOREIGN FILM
“Once,” Director: John Carney (Ireland)
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD
“I’m Not There,” Director: Todd Haynes
Casting Director: Laura Rosenthal
Ensemble Cast: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Bruce Greenwood, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw
IFC/ACURA SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD
Ramin Bahrani, “Chop Shop”
TRUER THAN FICTION AWARDS
“The Unforseen,” Director: Laura Dunn
PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD
Neil Kopp, “Paranoid Park” and “Old Joy”
Get the latest from awards weekend anytime in indieWIRE’s special Awards Watch section.