The 38-year-old British filmmaker took home the best director prize at the Oscars on Sunday night for "The King's Speech," a historical drama about how King George VI overcame a debilitating stutter to rally the British Empire on the eve of World War II. The movie is only Hooper's second major theatrical feature, after his soccer picture "The Damned United." He also directed the HBO miniseries "John Adams."
The last time someone with so little big screen experience won the best director Oscar was novice Sam Mendes in 1999 for "American Beauty."
In accepting his award, Hooper thanked stars Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, whom the director said had joined him in a "triangle of man love." His most personal appreciation went out to his mother, who attended a reading of the stage version of "The King's Speech" in 2007 and called her son right after.
"She said, 'Tom, I think I've found your next film,' " Hooper said to laughs. "The moral of the story is: Listen to your mother."
The director category was one of the few nail-biters of the evening. Hooper won the Directors Guild of America prize, which has mirrored the Academy Awards pick nine times in the past decade. But "The Social Network" director David Fincher had won a slew of critics' awards as well as the Golden Globe, and even the top directing honor from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in Hooper's home country.
Hooper's win continued a magic-carpet ride for Weinstein Co.'s "The King's Speech." Once considered a longshot for the top film industry prizes, the movie gained momentum as awards season went on; Hooper's win at the DGA was seen as a key turning point.
Since he came to prominence with "Speech," Hooper has been weighing offers in Hollywood. But the filmmaker has yet to decide on his next project.