LOS ANGELES, April 25 (Reuters) - "Nomadland" won best picture while its star Frances McDormand took home the lead actress Oscar on Sunday on a night of several firsts and a return to Hollywood glamour after a long pandemic shutdown.
In a major upset, Britain's Anthony Hopkins won the best actor trophy for his role as a man battling dementia in "The Father." The Oscar had been widely expected to go to the late Chadwick Boseman for his final film, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom."
China native Chloe Zhao was named best director for Searchlight Pictures' "Nomadland," making her the first Asian woman and only the second woman ever to take home the trophy. She described making the film about the traveling van community in modern America a "crazy, once-in-a-lifetime journey."
McDormand's win makes her a member of an elite club that includes Meryl Streep, Daniel Day Lewis and Jack Nicholson as the winners of three acting Oscars. The late Katharine Hepburn won a record four.
"My voice is in my sword. We know the sword is our work. And I like work," McDormand said in accepting the award, echoing a line from the film.
In "Nomadland," the 63-year-old McDormand plays a widow who, in the wake of the U.S. economic recession, turns her van into a mobile home and sets out on the road, taking seasonal jobs along the way.
The publicity-shy McDormand was one of the favorites for the best actress prize, which she first won in 1997 for her portrayal of a pregnant police chief in crime drama "Fargo."
McDormand won again in 2018 for playing an angry mother seeking justice for her dead daughter in dark comedy "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri."
Hopkins, 83, has a six-decade film, TV and stage career, but is perhaps best known for playing the brilliant but twisted murderer Hannibal Lecter in the 1991 thriller "The Silence of the Lambs," for which he won his first Oscar.
He did not attend the ceremony. With Sunday's win, Hopkins became the oldest actor ever to win an Academy Award.
Youn Yuh-jung, 73, won the best supporting actress Oscar for her role as a cantankerous grandmother in immigrant tale "Minari." She was the first South Korean actor or actress to win an Oscar.
It has been 11 years since Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the director Oscar, for Iraq war drama "The Hurt Locker."
The Oscars telecast, stripped to its bare essentials by constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, had a look and feel like no others - devoid of the usual comedy and musical performances but chock full of lengthy oratory from the winners.
As promised in advance by producers, the 93rd annual Academy Awards ceremony immediately stood out as a sharp departure from televised Oscar presentations of the past, with no opening monolog or any of the glitzy song-and-dance numbers that typically fill the show.
Performances of the five Oscar-nominated best original songs were relegated to pre-recorded presentations broadcast during a two-hour pre-show ahead of the main event on the Disney-owned ABC network.
The very setting for Hollywood's highest honors was unlike any before it, a ballroom decorated in a quasi-cabaret style inside Union Station, the ornate but decidedly less conventional venue of a railway pavilion in downtown Los Angeles.
Coronavirus-related travel restrictions and public health measures forced a complete overhaul of the show, limiting attendance to just a few hundred nominees and presenters, some contenders joining the festivities by satellite from international locations.
The show itself opened with a camera following actress Regina King, dressed in a shimmering blue, sequined evening gown, as she strode through the grand hall of the rail station and onto the stage, surrounded by stars and their guests seated at socially distanced tables and booths arrayed around the room.
Events surrounding the Minneapolis trial of the former policeman convicted of murdering George Floyd, and renewed calls for sustaining the struggle against racial injustice in America, weighed heavily on the Oscars as well.
"If things had gone differently this past week in Minneapolis, I might have traded in my heels for marching boots," King said in an early moment that sought to strike an awkward balance between celebration and social consciousness.
"I know that a lot of you people at home want to reach for your remotes when you feel like Hollywood is preaching to you," King said. "But as the mother of a Black son, I know the fear that so many live with, and no amount of fame or fortune changes that."
Actor and filmmaker Tyler Perry spoke against hate during his acceptance of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, recounting the impact that major civil rights cases of the past had on his mother in the heavily segregated South.
"My mother taught me to refuse hate," Perry said.
He listed those he refused to hate, such as people of color and LGBTQ people, but he also extended a hand to police.
"I refuse to hate someone because they are a police officer," Perry said.
Following is a list of winners by category:
Nomadland, Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey and Chloé Zhao,
Actor in a Leading Role
Anthony Hopkins, The Father
Actress in a Leading Role
Frances McDormand, Nomadland
Actor in a Supporting Role
Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
Actress in a Supporting Role
Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari
Animated Feature Film
Soul, Pete Docter and Dana Murray
Mank, Erik Messerschmidt
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Ann Roth
Nomadland, Chloé Zhao
My Octopus Teacher, Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed and Craig Foster
Documentary (Short Subject)
Colette, Anthony Giacchino and Alice Doyard
Sound of Metal, Mikkel E. G. Nielsen
International Feature Film
Another Round, Denmark
Makeup and Hairstyling
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson
Music (Original Score)
Soul, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste
Music (Original Song)
Fight For You, from Judas and the Black Messiah; Music by H.E.R. and Dernst Emile II; Lyric by H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas
Mank, Production Design: Donald Graham Burt; Set Decoration: Jan Pascale
Short Film (Animated)
If Anything Happens I Love You, Will McCormack and Michael Govier
Short Film (Live Action)
Two Distant Strangers, Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe
Sound of Metal, Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michellee Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés and Phillip Bladh
Tenet, Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley and Scott Fisher
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
The Father, Screenplay by Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller
Writing (Original Screenplay)
Promising Young Woman, Written by Emerald Fennell
Additional reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian, Steve Gorman and Dan Whitcomb