`Black Swan’ wins top honor at indie Spirit Awards

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SANTA MONICA, CALIF. (AP) - The ballet thriller “Black Swan” won four prizes Saturday at the Spirit Awards honoring independent film, including best picture, best actress for Natalie Portman and director for Darren Aronofsky.

James Franco was picked as best actor for the survival story “127 hours,” while the Ozarks crime story “Winter’s Bone” earned both supporting-acting prizes, for John Hawkes and Dale Dickey.

All three films are up for best picture at Sunday’s Academy Awards, where Portman is considered the favorite to win the best-actress Oscar and Franco is a co-host alongside actress Anne Hathaway.

With plenty of overlap among nominees at the Oscars, the Spirit Awards are a warm-up for Hollywood’s biggest party.

The British monarchy saga “The King’s Speech,” the best-picture front-runner at the Oscars, won the prize for best foreign film.

“Black Swan” also took the cinematography award for Matthew Libatique.

Portman and Aronofsky joked about the difficulty in getting “Black Swan” off the ground, with cash tight and few people believing the film could ever make its money back.

“My ballet teachers were, like, every day, `So when do we get paid?’” said Portman, who won for her role as a ballerina losing her grip on reality.

Aronofsky thanked his financial backers for believing in the film. “Now, they’re (expletive) rich,” Aronofsky said of the money men behind “Black Swan,” a $100 million hit.

Aronofsky said he has been blessed with fearless actors in all of his films and had gushing praise for Portman.

“To have this incredible performer give you everything she’s got and then train for a year. I’ll always be in debt to Miss Natalie Portman,” Aronofsky said.

Franco, in film school at New York University when the “127 hours” script came his way, said he was inclined to pass except for the insistence of his manager, agent and publicist, who told him it was a film he had to do.

“I just finished my thesis film, so independent film is something that’s a very, very big part of my life and very important to me, so this means a lot,” said Franco, who stars as real-life adventurer Aron Ralston, who cut off his arm after he became trapped by a boulder in a canyon.

“The King’s Speech” director, Tom Hooper, said he has not been following Oscar predictions but confided backstage that he was jittery about the awards show coming a day later.

“I think anyone would be not in their right mind at the prospect of making a speech in front of half a billion people,” Hooper said.

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