At the Academy Awards on Sunday night, Hollywood will be on its best behavior. Tuxedos will be freshly pressed, speeches timed, and—if everything goes according to plan—foul language censored. But the Independent Spirit Awards at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on Friday night was its typical wild self: Ben Stiller brought porn stars onstage, Canadian metal band Anvil woke up all of Los Angeles, and Johnny Weir (and his affection for Sir Elton John) all but stole the show.
The Spirit Awards honored the best independent films and actors of the year. And, though it’s an underdog in most of the Oscar categories it's nominated in, Precious swept the night. The film took home the award for Best Feature, Mo’nique nabbed Best Supporting Female (a surprise to no one), and Lee Daniels walked away with Best Director. And because the directing award at the Academy Awards will almost certainly go to either Kathryn Bigelow or James Cameron, Daniels used the Indie Spirit Awards to enjoy a fleeting moment in the sun. “Kathryn Bigelow’s not here tonight,” the outspoken director said defiantly. “I am.”
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Precious’ Gabourey Sidibe also won the award for Best Female Lead. “I’m kind of a dork,” she said. “My mom used to pay me $2 to go to school. So I saved up enough money for a week to see Welcome to the Dollhouse. And I said, ‘I could do that.’ That’s when my independent spirit was born.”
After Anvil’s performance, indie darling Maggie Gyllenhaal came onstage with Ryan Reynolds to present the award for Best Male Lead. But she cut him off as he was reading out the first nominee, Jeff Bridges. “Can I say this one?” Gyllenhaal asked, before introducing her Crazy Heart costar. And, though he was up against A Single Man’s Colin Firth, Bridges took home the award, and mounted the stage to wrap Gyllenhaal in a bear hug. “You’re a great actress,” he said to his co-star, pausing—“so tender and so strong.”
Bridges wasn’t the only one to admire Gyllenhaal’s prowess. As the night wore on, and magnums of Moet were drained at every table, honorary Spirit Awards Chairman Ben Stiller took the stage to present the award for Best Picture. “It’s 1:15 a.m. on the East Coast right now, so anyone awake is looking for porn,” He explained, before summoning three scantily clad porn stars to the stage. “These aren’t just any porn stars,” Stiller said. “These are independent porn stars.” He continued to introduce them: “This is Maggie Jizzenballs, this is Parker Puss-ey, and this,” he paused to point to the male star among them, “Is Phillip Seaman Hoffman.” The crowd roared with laughter (and the real Philip Seymour Hoffman turned bright red).
While Eddie Izzard, the night’s host, warned that while the “F-word” was discouraged (and the “C-word” strictly forbidden), after the show, Taraji P. Henson paused to rate the show’s censoring success. “Lots of F bombs!” she said. “And I don’t think they bleep them out!”
Carey Mulligan, Helen Mirren, Colin Firth, Tom Ford, and Mariah Carey had taken their dinner seats in time for the live telecast of the show. But shortly after the program began, the diva everyone was waiting for entered the room: Olympian figure skater Johnny Weir ducked in late—wearing a bejeweled Viktor & Rolf tuxedo jacket.
“My favorite moment of the night was sitting next to Elton John,” Weir told The Daily Beast after the show. “And of course, he was wearing Louboutins.”
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Isabel Wilkinson is an assistant editor at The Daily Beast.