LOS ANGELES — Kathryn Bigelow played field commander to bring her raw, relentless Iraq War thriller “The Hurt Locker” to the screen.
After her film triumphed at the Academy Awards with six prizes and made her the first woman ever to win the directing Oscar, she graduated to diplomat with her deft handling of some uncomfortable personal questions from reporters after the show.
Bigelow’s rivals included a man from her past — ex-husband James Cameron, whose science-fiction epic “Avatar” also was nominated for the best picture and director that she won.
Backstage, Bigelow judiciously handled reporters’ queries about Cameron, who was seated right behind her at the Oscars and joined the standing ovation she received, clapping heartily and saying, “Yes, yes” after she won best director.
“Jim is very inspiring. I think he inspires filmmakers around the world, and for that, I think I can speak for all of them. We’re quite grateful,” Bigelow said.
Asked what she might say to Cameron about winning over him, Bigelow gave a big laugh and shrugged off the question.
“You left me speechless,” Bigelow said. She and Cameron were married from 1989-91, and Cameron won best director and picture for his 1997 blockbuster “Titanic.”
First-time winners took all four acting prizes: Sandra Bullock as best actress for “The Blind Side”; Jeff Bridges as best actor for “Crazy Heart”; Mo’Nique as supporting actress for “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”; and Christoph Waltz as supporting actor for “Inglourious Basterds.”
Bigelow downplayed descriptions of herself as a female filmmaker throughout awards season. After the Oscars, she reiterated that sentiment but made it clear she was eager for other women to follow her lead in winning Hollywood’s top filmmaking honor.
“I hope I’m the first of many, and of course, I’d love to just think of myself as a filmmaker. And I long for the day when that modifier can be a moot point,” Bigelow said. “But I’m very grateful if I can inspire some young, intrepid, tenacious male or female filmmaker and have them feel that the impossible is possible, and never give up on your dream.”
Bullock’s win came a day after she won worst-actress for her romantic comedy flop “All About Steve” at the Razzies, a spoof of the Oscars that mocks Hollywood’s low-points of the year.
The Razzie win makes Bullock the only actress to receive that dubious prize and an Oscar on the same weekend. Bullock became one of the few Razzie winners ever to collect her trophy in person, showing up at the ceremony Saturday pulling a little red wagon filled with DVDs of “All About Steve” for the audience there.
Where will she keep her Oscar and Razzie?
“They’ll sit side by side on a nice little shelf somewhere. The Razzie maybe on a different shelf. Lower,” said Bullock, who was a great sport throughout awards season, joking about her worst-actress Razzie nomination. “You take the good with the not-so-good.”
The Oscar marks a career peak for Bridges, a beloved Hollywood veteran who had been nominated four times in the previous 38 years without winning. Describing his long career, he borrowed some lines from one of his most endearing and enduring characters, the laid-back bowler the Dude from “The Big Lebowski.”
“Ups and downs. What does the Dude say? Strikes and gutters, man,” Bridges said backstage. “I’m big on the Dude. I love him.”
Known mainly for brazen comedy routines and roles in lowbrow films, Mo’Nique startled audiences with a dark turn as a reprehensible welfare mother in “Precious.”
Asked backstage if things would change for her, Mo’Nique declared, “I am a standup comedian who won an Oscar.”
Austrian-born Waltz, a veteran TV and stage actor in Europe but virtually unknown in Hollywood before Quentin Tarantino cast him in “Inglourious Basterds,” reflected on his sudden Oscar celebrity.
“It’s mind-boggling. It’s fantastic. It’s very intense,” Waltz said. “And tomorrow I’ll probably be sorry it’s over,” he said.
“The Hurt Locker” scored a victory for war-on-terror dramas, which until now had found little favor with audiences shell-shocked by nightly news coverage of the action in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The film stars Jeremy Renner as the ace leader of a bomb-disposal unit in Iraq, a man whose addiction to the adrenaline rush of war endanger his colleagues (Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty).
War films normally are the arena of male directors, but Bigelow has made action and stories about tough men a specialty, her films including the Keanu Reeves-Patrick Swayze thriller “Point Break” and Harrison Ford’s submarine adventure “K-19: The Widowmaker.”
“K-19” was a 2002 flop, and it took Bigelow years to get back in action with “The Hurt Locker,” which premiered at the Venice and Toronto film festivals in September 2008.
While it pulled in $12.6 million domestically, a respectable showing for an independent film without big stars, “The Hurt Locker” is the lowest-grossing best-picture winner in this modern era of detailed box-office bookkeeping.
It took in less than one-fourth the haul of 2005 best-picture winner “Crash,” itself one of the least commercially successful recipients of the top Oscar.
Along with “Avatar,” the biggest modern blockbuster with $720 million domestically, the best-picture competition included the $200 million smashes “Up” and “The Blind Side” and the $100 million hits “District 9” and “Inglourious Basterds.”
Like “Crash,” ”The Hurt Locker” was a rare film that swooped in from outside the Hollywood studios to earn the industry’s highest tribute. “The Hurt Locker” was acquired by Summit Entertainment after the film played at the Toronto festival, where “Crash” also was bought by distributor Lionsgate.
Joining Bigelow to collect the best-picture Oscar were “Hurt Locker” producers Mark Boal, who also won the prize for original screenplay, and Greg Shapiro.
A fourth producer — financier Nicolas Chartier, a key money man behind the film — was barred from attending as punishment for violating awards rules by sending e-mails to Oscar voters urging them to back “The Hurt Locker” over “Avatar.”
Oscar overseers said Chartier still will receive his best-picture Oscar, but at a later time.
“We haven’t spoken to him yet,” Shapiro said. “He sent me a very beautiful e-mail. He had a party thrown for him, and I think he’s very pleased.”