Gladiator was selected best motion picture drama at Sunday evening's Golden Globes ceremony, but it was only one of two awards for the Roman saga in a sweep-free, egalitarian distribution of statues.
"For a few anxious minutes I didn't think I'd get to take this baby home," Gladiator director Ridley Scott confessed to the Beverly Hilton audience.
Director Ang Lee snared two potent honors by winning best director and best foreign film for his martial-arts romance, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The '70s rock 'n' roll story Almost Famous won best comedy. But no film gained a distinct boost in the race to March's Academy Awards.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which sponsors the awards, also honored a handful of movies that have struggled at the box office, such as Wonder Boys, Nurse Betty and O Brother, Where Art Thou?
On the other hand, Steven Soderbergh — a favorite with two films in the running, Traffic and Erin Brockovich — traveled light on his way home; but his actors did get some time at the podium.
Drug-trade drama Traffic earned Benicio Del Toro an award for supporting actor in a drama, and Stephen Gaghan won for his screenplay.
Julia Roberts won best dramatic movie actress. "I'm just shamelessly filled with joy right now," she said at the end of an emotional, rambling speech in which she thanked everyone from the real Brockovich and her boyfriend Benjamin Bratt — who was sitting in the audience — to the craft services people.
Tom Hanks won the dramatic actor Globe for Cast Away, a role for which he shed more than 40 pounds to appear starved and George Clooney won best actor in a comedy film for O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Renee Zellweger of Nurse Betty won best comedy film actress, while Kate Hudson of Almost Famous won a supporting actress statue.
Zellweger, who played a delusional soap opera fan in Nurse Betty, almost missed her award because she was in the restroom, a fate that befell Christine Lahti in 1998 when she won for Chicago Hope.
"A moment I'll never forget," she said after rushing to the stage. "A moment I almost didn't have."
NBC's The West Wing was named best television drama series and its star, Martin Sheen, won best actor in a TV drama for playing the president. "I am quite certain there's been a big mistake but I'm going to keep this until the recount is final," he quipped.
Sela Ward, who plays a divorced mother re-entering the dating world, was named the top actress in a TV drama series for ABC's Once and Again.
Sex and the City won best comedy series, and star Sarah Jessica Parker won for a second consecutive year as best actress in a comedy series. Frasier star Kelsey Grammer was best actor in a comedy series.
Robert Downey Jr., who faces another drug-possession trial, won best TV supporting actor for his role as Calista Flockhart's boyfriend on Ally McBeal. Backstage, he joked about his latest scrape with the law. "I just want to share this with my fellow parolees, er, nominees," he said. "This really means a lot. I really appreciate all the good will that comes from everyone."
In the music categories, Gladiator earned the original score Globe for Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard, and Bob Dylan won original song for "Things Have Changed" from the Wonder Boys soundtrack.
Al Pacino received the Cecil B. DeMille Award, which honors outstanding contributions to entertainment.
A befuddled Elizabeth Taylor nearly announced the winner of the night's final award, best motion picture drama, as she began to open the envelope without reading the nominees. Host Dick Clark had to rush over and instruct her on how to read the TelePrompTer. "I'm new at this!" Taylor explained.
Nominees are chosen by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's roughly 90 members, who cover Hollywood for overseas publications.
— The Associated Press and New York Post contributed to this report.