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A royal night for 'The King's Speech'

The film about King George VI's fight to overcome a stammer won best picture, director, original screenplay, and its lead actor, Colin Firth, claimed the best actor trophy.
/ Source: TODAY staff and wire

"The King's Speech" enjoyed a royal night at the Academy Awards Sunday, taking home honors for best picture, original screenplay, director, and actor for star Colin Firth.

The film, dramatizing British monarch George VI's struggle to vanquish a crippling stammer, led the awards with 12 nominations.

The best actor victory was expected for the 50-year-old veteran of the screen and stage. His acclaimed portrayal of the reluctant king swept virtually all the critics and industry awards leading up to the Oscars.

"I have a feeling my career has just peaked," Firth deadpanned to laughter as he accepted his first Oscar. "I am experiencing stirrings somewhere in the upper abdominals which are threatening to form themselves into dance moves, which joyous as they may be for me would be extremely problematic if they make it to my legs before I get off stage," he added.

He thanked "all the people who have been rooting for me back home" and his Italian wife Livia for putting up with his "fleeting delusions of royalty" while filming.

Firth was also Oscar-nominated last year in the lead actor category for his role as a closeted gay professor in the drama "A Single Man." He becomes the sixth best actor Oscar winner in 10 years to win for playing a real-life character.

Pregnant Natalie Portman claimed the best actress honor for her role as neurotic ballerina Nina in "Black Swan."

Portman trained five hours a day for six months to prepare for "Black Swan," a project she and director Darren Aronofsky first discussed about nine years ago. When they started shooting the film in 2009, it had not secured any financing.

Her character, desperately insecure and possibly still a virgin, contends with professional jealousies and rivalries as she secures the dual lead roles in "Swan Lake." The film was a commercial and critical hit, with worldwide ticket sales of more than $200 million. As a bonus, Portman last year announced she was pregnant and would marry the baby's father, a dancer she met on the "Black Swan" set. She previously received an Oscar nomination in 2005, for her supporting role in "Closer."

Two actors from "The Fighter" won the supporting honors. Melissa Leo starred in "The Fighter" as Alice Ward, the feisty mother of two New England boxing heroes played by Mark Wahlberg and Oscar nominee Christian Bale. While her characterization of the brassy matriarch was not exactly sympathetic, Leo has gone out of her way during awards season to paint Ward as an unsung heroine with a good heart. It marked Leo's second Oscar nomination after she received a nod two years ago for her lead role in "Frozen River," an arthouse drama that grossed just $2.5 million at the North American box office. "The Fighter," by contrast, has earned about $88 million to date.

Network censors bleeped Leo Sunday for dropping the F-word during her speech. Backstage, Leo jokingly conceded it was "probably a very inappropriate place to use that particular word."

"Those words, I apologize to anyone that they offend. There is a great deal of the English language that is in my vernacular," Leo said.

Her co-star, Christian Bale, later took home the award for best supporting actor for portraying real-life fighter Dicky Eklund, who trains his half-brother while battling his own crack addiction.

Bale joked that he was keeping his language clean. "Melissa, I'm not going to drop the F-bomb like she did," Bale said. "I've done that plenty of times before."

The Welsh-born Bale lost 30 pounds to play Eklund. He dominated the awards shows leading up to the Oscars, but pundits had said he might face some strong competition from Geoffrey Rush for "The King's Speech."

The original screenplay win for "King's Speech" capped a lifelong dream for screenwriter David Seidler, a boyhood stutterer born in London in 1937, a year after George took the throne. Seidler, who overcame his own stutter at age 16, had long vowed to one day write about the monarch whose fortitude set an example for him in childhood. Seidler thanked Queen Elizabeth II, daughter of King George, "For not putting me in the Tower of London for using the Melissa Leo F-word." The film includes two scenes where the king spouts profanity in anger to help force out his syllables. "Toy Story 3," also nominated for best picture, won for best animated film, becoming the fourth Pixar release to win the category in as many years. In perhaps the least surprising result at the Academy Awards, the hit cartoon beat out another Hollywood crowd-pleaser, "How to Train Your Dragon," and the British-French co-production "The Illusionist." "Toy Story 3," the most popular film at the box office last year with worldwide sales of $1.1 billion, marked the third film in a series about a group of action figures and toy-chest favorites who come to life when humans are not looking.

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Other winners were Aaron Sorkin for best adapted screenplay for "The Social Network,"  "Alice in Wonderland" for art direction, "The Social Network" for film editing, "Inception" for cinematography sound editing, sound mixing and visual effects, and "The Lost Thing" for best animated short.

"In a Better World," a Danish drama depicting the effects of violence among generations and nations, won the Academy Award for foreign-language picture.

Trent Reznor, best known for his work with Nine Inch Nails, and Atticus Ross won for best original score for "The Social Network."

Randy Newman's "We Belong Together," from "Toy Story 3," won for best original song.

"The Wolfman" won for achievement in makeup, and "Alice in Wonderland" for best costume design.

"Strangers No More" took home the award for best documentary short subject, and "God of Love" for best live-action short film.

"Inside Job," a look at America's financial meltdown, won for best documentary feature.

Sunday's show opened with co-hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco inserted into a montage scenes from best-picture nominees, built as a series of dream sequences a la Oscar contender "Inception."

Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, who is providing the grub for the post-awards show's Governor's Ball, also made a pass at the carpet, handing out some of the smoked salmon on flat bread he had prepared for appetizers. He also gave out chocolate Oscars.

Although it was bright and sunny over Los Angeles, it was very chilly with a cold wind blowing along the carpet. The stars didn't don jackets that would cover up their designer clothes but many of the industry's behind-the-scenes people wore fur coats and wraps.