The flash of cameras, the cheer of crowds and the glare of spotlights tracing across the sky marked a very special occasion taking place on London's Park Lane tonight. The Dorchester Hotel was the seat of all the action as Hollywood's best and brightest joined a choice selection of British movie-making talent for the 2003 Empire Awards. Hugh Grant, Dustin Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Benicio Del Toro, James Van Der Beek, Natascha McElhone, Danny Boyle, Steve Coogan and half the cast of The Lord of The Rings were among the many faces lit up by the paparazzi as they joined the Empire team and other honoured guests for this year's ceremony. The evening's host - none other than Richard E Grant - kicked off the proceedings as the stars were seated for the very best nibbles money can buy. As the coveted awards were revealed, ready to be bestowed upon the winners - as voted for by you, the Empire readers - tensions were high and, as the first envelope was opened, it was Die Another Day star, Rosamund Pike, who nabbed the first award of the night: Best Newcomer. Fellow nominee, Cillian Murphy, did his best to hide disappointment as Pike took to the stage, gushing over her gong. Next up was the award for Best British Actress and it was Samantha Morton's part as a shaven-headed psychic in Minority Report that won the vote. Three of the nominees for Best British Actor waited on tenterhooks as the winner was announced but, to the dismay of Andy Serkis and Steve Coogan, it was Hugh Grant who had the winning ticket, claiming the second Empire Award of his career for a stellar performance in About A Boy. "I'm genuinely very pleased because I don't win any prizes - least of all for acting." The film didn't quite make the cut for the Sky Movies Best British Film Award, however and it was Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later that came out on top, with the gong itself gratefully accepted by Boyle, Andrew MacDonald, Alex Garland and stars, Cillian Murphy and Naomi Harris. Steve Coogan and the real-life incarnation of his character in 24 Hour Party People, Tony Wilson, were clearly thrilled to present the Independent Spirit Award to the film's producer, Andrew Eaton, who accepted it on behalf of himself and director Michael Winterbottom. Comedian Johnny Vegas was equally excited to be receiving the Best Actress Award for the second year running, this year on behalf of Kirsten Dunst. Vegas managed to steal the show for the second year running and received tumultous applause when he (finally) left the stage. The Sony Ericsson Award for Best Scene of the year was a shoo-in for George Lucas' climactic showdown with an overwhelming number of votes naming Episode II's lightsaber duel between Yoda and Count Dooku the year's most memorable moment. Dooku himself, Christopher Lee, took time off from terrorising the galaxy to accept the award on behalf of himself and the diminutive Jedi master. "To you, his regards he sends," conveyed Lee. Minority Report bagged a further two awards, becoming the evening's star performer, with Tom Cruise being named Best Actor and Steven Spielberg Best Director. Neither could be present to accept their trophies in person but both spoke to the audience via recorded video clips, with Spielberg's including a cameo appearance from another major Hollywood star. Winning the coveted status as Best Film was, yes you guessed it, The Two Towers giving Tolkien's epic the top spot for the second year running. A gaggle of Middle-earth emissaries comprising Sir Ian McKellen, John Rhys Davies, Cate Blanchett, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, and Andy Serkis, all took the stage to receive the award in Peter Jackson's stead. The final gong of the event, the Lifetime Achievement Award, brought the house to its feet in standing ovation as Dustin Hoffman humbly received his award from Benicio Del Toro for a long and distinguished career. Smashing the record for the longest speech (of any Empire Awards) Hoffman called Johnny Vegas back up to the stage for an impromptu double act before summoning Hugh Grant, Samantha Morton, Sir Ian McKellen and Christopher Lee up to share in his honour.
The Empire Awards 2003
This year's winners announced!
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