LOS ANGELES – It was said to be a wide-open field for the best picture Oscar, but when the mobster thriller "The Departed" took the top prize in Hollywood Sunday, it still felt like an upset over oft-predicted winner "Little Miss Sunshine" nevertheless.
But "Sunshine," a road trip tale about a lovable yet dysfunctional family, did leave with both the best supporting actor award and the trophy for original screenplay.
When "The Departed" captured the coveted title Sunday, it was one of many curveballs thrown on Hollywood's biggest night of the year. But for all the talk of up-in-the-air Academy Award races, three of the four predicted winners — those in the major acting categories — took home a golden man named Oscar.
The regal Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker seized top acting honors for "The Queen" and "The Last King of Scotland," respectively, and Jennifer Hudson dared to dream and won the supporting actress trophy for "Dreamgirls."
The "Departed" win came just after one that wasn't so shocking, but much-anticipated all the same — that of the gangster story's filmmaker Martin Scorsese, who finally earned his long-sought-after best director statue.
"Could you double-check the envelope?" joked Scorsese, who had been the greatest living American director without an Oscar. He also had never delivered a best picture winner before, despite crafting such modern masterpieces as "Raging Bull" and "Goodfellas."
The perennial loser triumphed over arch-rival Clint Eastwood, who remained only a nominee for "Letters From Iwo Jima" this time around but has won against Scorsese in previous years.
Scorsese received his Oscar from three contemporaries and friends, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas. "So many people over the years have been wishing this for me," said the newly crowned best director.
Mirren became a member of Hollywood's royalty when she won the best actress Oscar for her portrayal of Elizabeth II in "The Queen." She won against Penelope Cruz for "Volver," Judi Dench for "Notes on a Scandal," Meryl Streep for "The Devil Wears Prada" and Kate Winslet for "Little Children."
"For 50 years and more, Elizabeth Windsor has maintained her dignity, her sense of duty and her hairstyle," said Mirren, who has been on a remarkable roll since last fall as she won all major film and television prizes for playing both of Britain's Queen Elizabeths.
"She's had her feet planted firmly on the ground, her hat on her head, her handbag on her arm and she's weathered many, many storms. ... If it wasn't for her, I most certainly wouldn't be here. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the queen," Mirren said, holding her Oscar aloft.
And Whitaker got the gold for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland." The soft-spoken actor took on an uncharacteristically flamboyant role as the barbarous yet mesmerizing Amin.
"When I was a kid the only way I saw movies was from the back seat of my family's car at the drive-in movie," Whitaker said. "It wasn't my reality to think I would be acting in movies, so receiving this honor tonight tells me it's possible. It is possible for a kid from east Texas, raised in south-central L.A. and Carson, who believes in his dreams, commits himself to them with his heart, to touch them and to have them happen."
It was also a dream come true for Hudson Sunday night, who captured the best supporting actress Oscar for her role as an ostracized soul singer in the musical movie "Dreamgirls."
"Oh my God, I have to just take this moment in. I cannot believe this. Look what God can do. I didn't think I was going to win," Hudson said through tears. "If my grandmother was here to see me now. She was my biggest inspiration."
Hudson's Oscar was earned for her very first movie, in which she plays a powerhouse vocalist who falls on hard times after she is booted from a 1960s girl group in a story based on that of Diana Ross' The Supremes.
Her role came barely two years after Hudson shot to celebrity as an "American Idol" finalist — but didn't win the reality-show singing competition.
Her "Dreamgirls" co-star Murphy, who plays a slippery, eccentric singer in the silver screen musical, wasn't as lucky Sunday.
In the first upset of an Oscar night that was full of surprises, Arkin beat out front-runner Murphy for best supporting actor for his role as a trash-talking, drug-abusing, dirty-minded grandfather in "Little Miss Sunshine," a low-budget film that came out of the independent world to become a commercial hit and major awards player.
"More than anything, I'm deeply moved by the open-hearted appreciation our small film has received, which in these fragmented times speaks so openly of the possibility of innocence," Arkin said.
In addition to prevailing over category favorite Murphy — who has never received an Oscar —Arkin won against Mark Wahlberg for "The Departed," Jackie Earle Haley for "Little Children" and Djimon Hounsou for "Blood Diamond."
Gore joined his documentary's director, Davis Guggenheim, onstage to accept the statue.
"People all over the world, we need to solve the climate crisis. It's not a political issue. It's a moral issue," said Gore.
Earlier, Gore appeared with best-actor nominee DiCaprio to praise organizers for implementing environmentally friendly — or "green" — practices in the show's production.
DiCaprio set up a gag with Gore, asking the 2000 presidential candidate if there was anything he wanted to announce.
"I guess with a billion people watching, it's as good a time as any. So my fellow Americans, I'm going to take this opportunity here and now to formally announce my intentions ...," Gore said, his voice trailing away as the orchestra cut him off.
"Little Miss Sunshine" won best original screenplay against "Babel," "The Queen," "Pan's Labyrinth" and "Letters From Iwo Jima."
The poignant comedy follows a ghastly but hilarious cross-country trek by an emotionally messed-up family rushing to get their darling but not classically pretty girl — 10-year-old supporting-actress nominee Breslin — to the "Little Miss Sunshine" beauty pageant.
"Sunshine" writer Michael Arndt had to quit his job as assistant to Matthew Broderick in order to complete the screenplay, an Oscars announcer said as he walked onstage to accept his award.
"When I was a kid, my family drove 600 miles in a VW bus with a broken clutch," Arndt said, describing a road trip that mirrored the one in the film. "It ended up being one of the funnest things we did together."
Also Sunday, "The Departed" writer William Monahan took home the prize for best adapted screenplay against screenwriters for "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," "Little Children," "Children of Men" and "Notes on a Scandal."
"The Departed" also won the film editing Oscar Sunday.
"The Lives of Others" from Germany snagged the foreign language film Oscar against Mexico's "Pan's Labyrinth," Canada's "Water," "Days of Glory (Indigènes)" from Algeria and "After the Wedding" of Denmark.
The winning film is about a playwright and his actress-girlfriend who come under police surveillance in 1980s East Berlin.
One of the evening's shockers came when Melissa Etheridge got the best song Oscar for "I Need to Wake Up" from "An Inconvenient Truth," trouncing "Dreamgirls" — which had three nominations in the category for three different songs from the film.
"Mostly, I have to thank Al Gore for inspiring me, showing me that caring about the earth is not Republican or Democrat, it's not red or blue. It's all green," Etheridge said.
Composer Gustavo Santaolalla won his second straight Oscar for original score for "Babel," a film "that helped us understand better who we are and why and what we are here for," he said. He won the same prize a year ago for "Brokeback Mountain."
The dancing-penguin musical "Happy Feet" received the award for feature-length animation, denying computer-animation pioneer John Lasseter ("Toy Story") the prize for "Cars," which had been the big winner of earlier key animation honors.
"I asked my kids, 'What should I say?' They said, 'Thank all the men for wearing penguin suits,"' said "Happy Feet" director George Miller.
The dark, Spanish-language fairytale "Pan's Labyrinth" got the first two Oscars of the night Sunday for best art direction and makeup.
It was a twist on the usual order of events at the Academy Awards, which typically open with an award in a supporting acting category.
For art direction, the jarring film — which takes place in Fascist Spain in the 1940s — beat out contenders "Dreamgirls," "The Good Shepherd," "The Prestige" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."
"To Guillermo del Toro for guiding us through this labyrinth," said art director Eugenio Caballero, lauding the writer-director of "Labyrinth," the tale of a girl who concocts an elaborate fantasy world to escape her harsh reality.
"Letters From Iwo Jima" won the sound-editing Oscar for Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman. Murray's father was an Iwo Jima survivor.
"Thank you to my father and all the brave and honorable men and women in uniform who in a time of crisis have all made that decision to defend their personal freedom and liberty no matter what the sacrifice," Murray said.
The record holder for Oscar futility, sound engineer Kevin O'Connell, extended his losing streak to 19 nominations without a win. This time, O'Connell and two colleagues were nominated for sound mixing on "Apocalypto," Gibson's portrait of the savage decline of the ancient Mayan empire, but they lost to another trio of sound engineers that worked on "Dreamgirls."
"Apocalypto" lost in all three categories in which it was nominated, all for technical achievements. Gibson, whose "Braveheart" was the big winner at the 1995 Oscars, had been condemned by many in Hollywood for an anti-Semitic rant he made during his drunken-driving arrest last summer.
Comedian Ellen DeGeneres was at the helm of the Academy Awards show this year.
"Ever since I was a little girl, I always wanted to host the Academy Awards," DeGeneres said in her opening monologue, joking that she never dreamed of winning an Oscar, only emceeing the show.
"Let that be a lesson to you kids. Aim lower," DeGeneres quipped.
Once an evening of back-slapping and merrymaking within the narrow confines of Hollywood, the Academy Awards this time looked like a United Nations exercise in diversity.
The 2007 Oscars featured their most ethnically varied lineup ever, with stars and stories that reflect the growing multiculturalism taking root around the globe.
"What a wonderful night. Such diversity in the room," said Ellen DeGeneres, serving as Oscar host for the first time, "in a year when there's been so many negative things said about people's race, religion and sexual orientation.
"And I want to put this out there: If there weren't blacks, Jews and gays, there would be no Oscars," she said, adding: "Or anyone named Oscar, when you think about that."
FOX News' Catherine Donaldson-Evans and The Associated Press contributed to this report.