Anne Hathaway won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in "Les Miserables."
LOS ANGELES — Anne Hathaway sang and starved her way to her first Oscar on Sunday with an emotionally raw portrayal of Fantine in “Les Miserables,” the sweeping yet intimate film adaptation of the stage play based on French writer Victor Hugo’s epic 1862 novel.
Hathaway, 30, was the favorite to win this year’s Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She used a strict diet of dried oatmeal paste to shed 25 pounds (11 kg), hacked off her long hair and spent six months perfecting the task of crying and singing at the same time for her heart-wrenching rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream.”
“It came true,” Hathaway said upon accepting her gold statue.
During press tours, she frequently spoke of her family connection to Fantine, a starving young mother forced into prostitution.
Hathaway was just 7 years old when she saw her mother, who was understudy for the role during the show’s first tour of the United States, play Fantine.
“Here’s hoping that some day, in the not too distant future, the misfortunes of Fantine will only be found in stories and never more in real life,” Hathaway said.
“Les Miserables” stars, including Hathaway and Best Actor nominee Hugh Jackman, were put through an intense audition and rehearsal process to prepare them to sing live take after take with cameras positioned right in front of their faces.
The tactic paid off. The film was a box office success and the soundtrack hit the top of the album charts in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
Hathaway picked up a Best Actress nominee for her leading role in the 2008 drama “Rachel Getting Married.”
Her rivals for this year’s Best Supporting Actress prize were Oscar-winners Sally Field and Helen Hunt as well as previous Academy Award nominees Amy Adams and Jacki Weaver.
Hathaway also is know for her roles in “The Princess Diaries,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “The Devil Wears Prada” and “The Dark Knight Rises.”
The selection was announced shortly after two films tied for the Oscar in sound mixing.
Mark Walberg, along with host Seth MacFarlane's alter ego Ted the bear, announced the category winners — first "Zero Dark Thirty," then "Skyfall."
Austrian actor Christoph Waltz and animated movie “Brave” took home early Oscars, as did "Amour" for best foreign film, as MacFarlane mocked both himself and Hollywood’s A-listers in his debut as host of the movie industry’s biggest night.
In one of the closest contests going into the ceremony, the Best Supporting Actor went to Waltz for his turn as an eccentric dentist-turned-bounty-hunter in Quentin Tarantino’s slavery revenge fantasy “Django Unchained.”
“We participated in a hero’s journey, the hero here being Quentin. You scaled the mountain because you’re not afraid of it,” said Waltz, who has now won two Oscars for roles in Tarantino films.
Waltz beat veterans Robert De Niro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alan Arkin and Tommy Lee Jones.
“Brave,” the Pixar movie about a feisty Scottish princess, took home the golden statuette for Best Animated Feature.
MacFarlane opened the show with three song and dance numbers, barbed quips about some of Hollywood’s biggest stars and running jokes about his own suitability to host the Academy Awards.
“I honestly cannot believe I am here. It’s an honor that everyone else said ‘no’,” said the creator of edgy animated TV series “Family Guy”.
But his biggest laugh came in a reference to director Ben Affleck’s snub in the directing race for his Iran hostage thriller “Argo.”
“The story was so top secret that the film’s director was unknown to the Academy!” MacFarlane quipped.
Presidential drama “Lincoln” went into Sunday’s three-hour plus ceremony with a leading 12 nominations, including a directing nod for double Oscar winner Steven Spielberg.
But its front-runner Best Picture status has been dented by the six-week victory streak enjoyed at other Hollywood awards by “Argo.”
The thriller, once considered an underdog when Affleck was overlooked in the Oscar directing category, is now thought to have the edge.
Best Picture, the top prize, will be announced at the end of the roughly three-hour live ceremony at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
If “Argo” does prevail, it will be the first movie to win Best Picture without its director even getting a nomination since “Driving Miss Daisy” in 1990.
Musical “Les Miserables,” comedy “Silver Linings Playbook,” shipwreck tale “Life of Pi,” Osama bin laden thriller “Zero Dark Thirty,” slavery Western “Django Unchained,” indie film “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” and “Amour” round out the contenders for the best film of 2012.
DANIEL DAY-LEWIS WAITS
After several years of nominating little-seen movies, this year’s nine Best Picture contenders have pulled in more than $2 billion in tickets worldwide.
Oscar producers hope the popularity of the leading movies, together with a show packed with musical numbers and a James Bond movie tribute, will make for a big TV audience for broadcaster ABC
Upsets could be in store later on Sunday by France’s Emmanuelle Riva, 86, in the Best Actress contest.
Riva, star of the harrowing Austrian entry “Amour,” emerged as a dark horse in the past few days in a race that had been seen as a battle between “Zero Dark Thirty” actress Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence of “Silver Linings Playbook.”
A win by Riva would make her the oldest person ever to win an acting Oscar.
“Amour,” the story of how an elderly couple cope with the effects of the wife’s debilitating strokes, is considered the overwhelming favorite for Best Foreign Language film.
Few surprises are expected in the Best Actor race and Best Supporting actress categories.
Daniel Day-Lewis as U.S. President Abraham Lincoln is considered an unstoppable force to become the first man to win three Best Actor Oscars.
The Oscar winners were chosen in secret ballots by some 5,800 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.