While the show may have been fast, "Million Dollar Baby's" path to the screen was anything but. At an early stage in the film's development, Arnold Schwarzenegger was considered for the role of the boxing trainer played by Eastwood, and Sandra Bullock was once contemplated for Swank's part as a boxer in search of a mentor.
Warner Bros., Eastwood's longtime studio home, initially declined to participate in the film, worried that boxing movies weren't commercially viable. The rejection came even though Eastwood's film cost only $30 million and after his "Mystic River" became one of 2003's best-reviewed films and a box-office hit for Warner Bros.
Tom Rosenberg's Lakeshore Entertainment agreed to bankroll "Million Dollar Baby," and after other studios passed, Warner Bros. relented and agreed to share the film's cost.
Unlike most movies that are put through endless rewrites, Eastwood filmed the first and only draft of screenwriter Paul Haggis' "Million Dollar Baby" script in 37 days, and finished the movie so quickly that Warner Bros. was able to move up its opening from a planned 2005 debut to Dec. 15.
"Million Dollar Baby" also withstood a barrage of criticism from conservative critics, who objected to the film's handling of euthanasia. But the controversy failed to resonate with Oscar voters.
Even though it would appear that this year's awards strengthened the return of studio dominance to the Oscars, only one of the best picture nominees, Miramax Film's "Finding Neverland," was fully financed by a major studio.
"The Aviator" was funded by financier Graham King, "Ray" was backed by billionaire Philip Anschutz and "Sideways" was made by Fox Searchlight, the specialty film division of 20th Century Fox.
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Two critical favorites won in the writing categories. The wine-soaked road movie "Sideways," which had won the majority of awards from critics' organizations and swept Saturday's Independent Spirit Awards, received best adapted screenplay, for Jim Taylor and director Alexander Payne. The best original screenplay Oscar went to the team behind the quirky romance "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind": Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry and Pierre Bismuth.
It looked like it was going to be Scorsese's first visit into the winner's circle; in the show's first half, "The Aviator" won all but one award — best supporting actor — for which it was nominated.
For her depiction of a young Katharine Hepburn in the film, Cate Blanchett won the best supporting actress award. Hepburn, who died in 2003, holds the record for the most Oscar wins for a performer, with four Academy Awards for best actress.
"Thank you, of course, to Miss Hepburn," said Blanchett, who carried one of the late actress' gloves in her purse. Blanchett said after her win that she had hoped to meet Hepburn, who was still alive when she accepted the part. "I was aware that she was very ill, so I was very sensitive not to be pushy" about trying to meet her.
In his eighth nomination, production designer and costume designer Dante Ferretti collected the art direction Oscar for "The Aviator." The movie's Sandy Powell won the costume design award, while longtime Scorsese collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker won the editing award. "The Aviator's" Robert Richardson took the cinematography statuette.
This year's ceremony, which was held at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre, could have marked the Oscar farewell for Miramax under co-founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein. The two are negotiating their exit from the Disney-owned film division.
As expected, "The Incredibles" was named the best animated feature, as the Disney-Pixar movie topped two rivals from DreamWorks, "Shrek 2" and "Shark Tale."
For the first time in Oscar history, a song from a foreign language film — Jorge Drexler's "Al Otro Lado Del Rio," from "The Motorcycle Diaries" — earned the original song award.
Roger Mayer, the president of Turner Entertainment Co., was given the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his charitable and film preservation.
"Dog Day Afternoon" and "Network" director Sidney Lumet received an honorary Oscar, his first trophy after nearly 50 years in the business.
"I'd like to thank the movies," said Lumet, who is still working behind the camera on the upcoming "Find Me Guilty." "I got the best job in the best profession in the world."