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'Slumdog' leads pack at Oscars

HOLLYWOOD met Bollywood at the Academy Awards, and the makers of Oscar champ "Slumdog Millionaire" hope it's a sign of future melding between the US dream factory with its counterparts in India and elsewhere in the world.

A tale of hope amid adversity and squalor in Mumbai, "Slumdog Millionaire" came away with eight Oscars on Sunday night in Los Angeles, including best picture and director for Danny Boyle.

The low-budget production was a merger of India's brisk Bollywood movie industry, which provided most of the cast and crew, and the global marketing reach of Hollywood, which turned the film into a commercial smash, said British director Boyle.

"We're Brits, really, trapped in the middle, but it's a lovely trapped thing," Boyle said backstage. "You can see it's going to happen more and more. There's all sorts of people going to work there. The world's shrinking a little bit."

It was a theme Oscar voters embraced through the evening with other key awards honoring films fostering broader understanding and compassion.

Sean Penn won his second best-actor Oscar, this one for playing slain gay-rights pioneer Harvey Milk in "Milk," while Britain's Kate Winslet took best actress for "The Reader," in which she plays a former concentration camp guard coming to terms with the ignorance that let her heedlessly participate in Nazi atrocities.

Penn had harsh words for protesters outside the Oscars holding anti-gay signs.

"I'd tell them to turn in their hate card and find their better self," Penn said. "I think that these are largely taught limitations and ignorances, this kind of thing. It's really sad in a way, because it's a demonstration of such cowardice, emotional cowardice, to be so afraid of extending the same rights to your fellow man as you'd want for yourself."

As expected, Australia's Heath Ledger became just the second performer to win an Oscar posthumously, receiving the supporting-actor award for the menace and mayhem he wreaks as Batman villain the Joker in "The Dark Knight."

The previous posthumous Oscar recipient was the British-Australian actor Peter Finch, who won best actor for 1976's "Network" two months after his death.

Penelope Cruz was the first Spanish actress to win an Oscar with her supporting prize as a volatile artist in a three-way romance in Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."

Ledger's award was accepted by his parents and sister on behalf of the three-year-old daughter he had with actress Michelle Williams. The win came 13 months after Ledger died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs on Oscar nominations day last year.

His sister, Kate Ledger, said backstage that her brother sensed he was creating something special with "The Dark Knight."

"When he came home Christmas a year ago, he had been sending me shots and bits and pieces of the film," Kate Ledger said. "He hadn't seen it, but he knew. I said, 'I have a feeling, this is it for you,' and I said, 'You're going to get a nomination from the academy.' He just looked at me and smiled. He knew."


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