Hollywood, California - As a boy, Mexico's Alfonso Cuaron dreamed of becoming an astronaut. Instead, he has soared into Hollywood's stratosphere, winning the best director Oscar on Sunday for his space thriller Gravity.
Cuaron became the first Latin American to win the film world's top directing prize, with a 3D movie starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as two astronauts lost in space after an accident.
"Sandy, you're Gravity. You are the soul, heart of the film - the most amazing collaborator and one of the best people I've ever met," Cuaron said as he accepted his award, one of the many Oscars won by the film.
He beat out Hollywood legend Martin Scorsese - The Wolf of Wall Street, David O. Russell - American Hustle, Alexander Payne - Nebraska, and Steve McQueen - 12 Years a Slave."
The last American to have won the best director Oscar was Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2009.
The Mexico City native was a heavy favorite after dominating the awards season, winning at the Golden Globes, the Directors Guild of America, and Britain's Baftas.
The 52-year-old director wrote the screenplay with his 32-year-old son, Jonas, using innovative cinematographic techniques to recreate life in zero gravity.
The Oscar also caps an impressive series of successes for Mexican cinema in general, with prizes won in prestigious festivals and box office records broken domestically and in the neighboring United States last year.
'Best Space Film Ever'
Cuaron was previously nominated for an Oscar for best original screenplay for the Mexican road trip drama Y Tu Mama Tambien in 2002. He earned nominations for best adapted screenplay and film editing for the dystopian thriller Children of Men in 2006.
He also took part in a massively successful film franchise, directing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third installment in the series about the boy wizard.
Gravity has earned comparisons to the late Stanley Kubrick's epic 2001: A Space Odyssey.
James Cameron, director of science-fiction blockbuster Avatar, called Cuaron's film "the best space film ever done."
The film tells the story of veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney,) who tests a jet-pack suit on his last space flight, while Ryan Stone (Bullock) is on her first trip into orbit. They survive a collision with satellite debris and their spacecraft, leaving them adrift in the void.
Making the film involved its own technological challenges.
The filmmakers created a "cube of light," a box filled with thousands of tiny LED lights allowing Cuaron to move the universe around the actors.
For some scenes, the actors were placed in rigs that rotated or tilted while they were being filmed with a camera fitted on a robotic arm.
Dreams of Space
Cuaron, who has lived in London for more than a decade, is part of a golden generation of Mexican filmmakers that includes Babel director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro.
The trio, known as "The Three Amigos," founded a production company called "Cha Cha Cha Films." They've all earned nominations, but Cuaron became the first to win an Oscar.
A new generation has emerged, with Amat Escalante winning the best director award at Cannes for his drug drama Heli and Eugenio Debrez breaking box-office records for a Hispanic film in the United States with the comedy Instructions Not Included.
Mexican veteran filmmaker Felipe Cazals, who has known Cuaron since 1975, said his friend is more interested in making good films than winning prizes.
"He talks cinema, eats cinema, dreams cinema. That's his life," Cazals said.
As a kid in Mexico's sprawling mega-capital, Cuaron was a fan of the US television series Lost in Space, dreaming of becoming an astronaut.
But he inherited his mother's love for films and received his first camera when he was 10 before attending the CUEC film school at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
Congrats also to the cinematographer for Gravity, Emmanuel Lubezki, also of Mexico, who won an Oscar. Actress Lupita Nyong'o won an Oscar for best supporting actress. She was born in Mexico City to Kenyan parents.
"No matter where you are from your dreams are valid," Nyong'o said after winning the Oscar.Original Story