Al Gore takes center stage at Oscars

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore took center stage at the Oscars as the big-screen adaptation of his slide-show lecture about the perils of global warming won Academy Awards for best documentary and best song.

Director Davis Guggenheim (L), former Vice President Al Gore and singer Melissa Etheridge celebrate their film "An Inconvenient Truth" winning the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature at the 79th Annual Academy Awards Governors Ball in Hollywood, California February 25, 2007. Etheridge won an Oscar for Best Orginal Song in the film. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

The 95-minute film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” and its plea for urgent action to address climate change, overshadowed much of Hollywood’s biggest night of the year on Sunday, and Gore himself drew some of the evening’s biggest ovations -- and laughs.

The award for best documentary feature went to director Davis Guggenheim and producers Lawrence Bender (“Pulp Fiction”) and Laurie David, the environmentalist wife of “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David.

But the Oscar marked a personal triumph for Gore, the 2000 Democratic presidential nominee who left politics after narrowly losing his White House bid to Republican George W. Bush and embarked on a new campaign calling attention to the threat of climate change.

“My fellow Americans, people all over the world, we need to solve the climate crisis,” Gore, the star and narrator of the documentary, said after taking the stage. “It’s not a political issue, it’s a moral issue. We have everything we need to get started, with the possible exception of the will to act. That’s a renewable resource. Let’s renew it.”

Handing the Oscar statuette to Gore, Guggenheim told the audience the movie was made “because we were moved to act by this man.”

One of the most commercially successful documentaries ever, Gore’s film widely credited with helping shift U.S. public opinion on the question of curbing man-made emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

The Oscar win also helped raise Gore’s public profile as many of his fellow Democrats are beginning to jostle for their party’s nomination for president next year, though the former vice president under Bill Clinton has repeatedly said he has no plans to run again in 2008.

Earlier in the evening, Gore pulled off a gag about his own murky political future when he appeared with actor Leonardo DiCaprio to talk about the Academy Awards’ new campaign to promote environmental awareness.

“Even though I honestly had not planned on doing this, I guess with a billion people watching, it’s as good a time as any,” a seemingly deadly serious Gore intoned as he pulled a piece of paper from his pocket to read: “So, my fellow Americans, I’m going to take this opportunity right here and now to formally announce ...”

Gore was then drowned out by the swell of music from the orchestra pit, and he and DiCaprio walked off stage arm-in-arm to raucous laughter.

Capping the victory for best documentary, rock star Melissa Etheridge won the Oscar for original song for the film’s musical theme, “I Need to Wake Up,” which she composed and performed for the movie.

“I have to thank Al Gore for inspiring us, inspiring me, showing that caring about the Earth is not Democratic or Republican, it is not red or blue. We are all green,” Etheridge said.

The film has topped $45 million at the box office worldwide and sold 1 million DVDs. With $24 million in U.S. ticket sales alone, it ranks as the nation’s third-highest-grossing documentary ever, excluding concert films and Imax movies -- behind “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “March of the Penguins.”

The book version of “An Inconvenient Truth” was published last year as a follow-up to Gore’s 1992 bestseller “Earth in the Balance.”