'12 Years a Slave,' Oscar frontrunners sweep Spirit Awards
Producer Pitt, actress Nyong'o and director McQueen pose with their awards for "12 Years a Slave" backstage at the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica
By Piya Sinha-Roy
SANTA MONICA, California (Reuters) - Harrowing slavery drama "12 Years a Slave" swept the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday with five wins, just one day ahead of the Oscar ceremony on Sunday.
"12 Years a Slave" won five of its seven nominations at the awards show for independent movies made on small budgets, including the top award for best feature.
Oscar frontrunners Cate Blanchett, Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong'o also took home Spirit Award trophies on the eve of the movie industry's biggest honours.
"12 Years a Slave" producer-director Steve McQueen dedicated the best picture Spirit Award to lead actor Chiwetel Ejiofor and supporting star Michael Fassbender, who were both nominated but did not win.
Actress Nyong'o and director McQueen pose with their awards for "12 Years a Slave" backstage at the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica
"Michael Fassbender is a genius, he's brave, he's feminine, he's masculine ... that's what Michael Fassbender is. Chiwetel was the soul and heart of this movie, and gave the most nuanced performance you've ever seen," McQueen said.
McQueen also won best director, and is a strong contender in the Oscars director race on Sunday.
The Spirit Awards, held in a giant tent on California's Santa Monica beach, is usually a sunny and crisp affair. But this year guests were armed with umbrellas and rain boots as bursts of heavy rain pattered on the tent.
AWARDS HONOR OSCAR ACTING FRONTRUNNERS
Rising star Nyong'o, who made her film debut with "12 Years a Slave" and is nominated for an Oscar on Sunday, jumped in delight as her name was announced as best supporting actress, giving Ejiofor a hug and being carried to the stage by McQueen.