SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- The oddball romance "Silver Linings Playbook" was named best picture Saturday at the Spirit Awards honoring independent film, Hollywood’s last pre-game show before the Academy Awards.
"Silver Linings Playbook" led with four wins, including best actress for Jennifer Lawrence and director and screenplay for David O. Russell.
Lawrence is the best-actress favorite at Sunday’s Oscars for her role as a young widow in a shaky new relationship with a man fresh from a mental hospital.
"The Sessions" earned two acting prizes, for John Hawkes as a man in an iron lung hoping to lose his virginity and Helen Hunt as the sexual surrogate helping him through it.
The award for best supporting actor went to Matthew McConaughey as a flamboyant stripper in "Magic Mike."
In barely three years, Lawrence has risen from a relative unknown to superstar hero of "The Hunger Games" franchise and potential Oscar winner at just 22. Her quick ascent began with another Spirit Awards nominee, "Winter’s Bone," which won the top honor at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and earned Lawrence her first Oscar nomination.
Lawrence said she loves independent film for the thrill of freezing with the crew in the middle of the night because they all believe in a story.
"That’s why I do what I do. I love that feeling. I mean, I’d rather be warm," Lawrence said.
McConaughey, also a best-actor nominee at the Spirit Awards for "Killer Joe," is a Hollywood A-lister but a relative newcomer to key film awards.
"I had to take my pants off to win a trophy," McConaughey said, adding that five of his last six films were independent productions and the "most creative fun of my acting career, hands down."
Hunt, also nominated for supporting actress at the Oscars, was coy backstage about what she’ll be doing before Hollywood’s big night.
"I will be eating breakfast and getting dressed," Hunt said of her day at the Oscars, where she previously won as best actress for "As Good as It Gets." "I don’t have any plans, but I’m going to put a dress on."
"Silver Linings Playbook" filmmaker Russell noted that his initial trip to the Spirit Awards was 19 years ago, when he won the prize for best first film for "Spanking the Monkey."
His son Matthew, an inspiration for "Silver Linings" because of his battle with bipolar disorder, was a year old at the time, and was in the crowd to watch his father claim his awards.
"He gave me this movie, so I want to thank him, Matthew, for this movie," Russell said.
"Silver Linings Playbook" centers on the relationship between a man (Bradley Cooper) just out of a mental hospital and a young widow (Lawrence). The film is up for best picture at the Oscars, where Russell is nominated for adapted screenplay and director and Cooper and Lawrence are in the running for the lead-acting honors.
The film’s producers said they had expected fellow Oscar best-picture nominee "Beasts of the Southern Wild" to win the top Spirit Award and that they have no expectations of winning the big prize at the Oscars, where Ben Affleck’s CIA thriller "Argo" is the best-picture favorite.
But they gushed praise for filmmaker Russell.
"Your brilliance as a filmmaker is without peer. Your spirit of collaboration knows no bounds," said producer Jonathan Gordon.
Russell said backstage that he was thrilled to go the Oscars, or as he called it, the "World Series," but he also has no illusions about winning there.
"Thank God, Monday, I’m going back to work," Russell said. "That’s how you avoid the postpartum depression."
Hawkes won the supporting-actor Spirit Award two years ago as Lawrence’s co-star in "Winter’s Bone," a role that also earned him an Oscar nomination. He missed out on an Oscar slot this time but said that independent film is a "big part of my life, and I’m really happy for that. ... `The Sessions’ is a truly independent film made for very little money and shot very quickly."
Austrian writer-director Michael Haneke’s old-age love story "Amour" won for best international film, a possible prelude to the Oscars, where his film is the favorite to win the foreign-language prize and is nominated for best picture.
"I have the impression I am the oldest man in the room," the 70-year-old Haneke joked in a room filled with young filmmakers.
The ceremony was hosted by Adam Samberg at the awards’ usual venue, a tent along the beach in Santa Monica just west of Los Angeles. It is presented by Film Independent, a group of filmmakers, industry professionals and cinema buffs. The show was aired later Saturday on IFC.
Among other winners:
- Best first film: "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," from director Stephen Chbosky, who adapted the picture from his novel.
- First screenplay: "Safety Not Guaranteed," Derek Connolly.
- Cinematography: "Beasts of the Southern Wild," Ben Richardson.
- Documentary: "The Invisible War," directed by Kirby Dick.
- John Cassavetes Award for best film made for less than $500,000: "Middle of Nowhere," directed by Ava DuVernay.