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Oscars: Michael Haneke, Christoph Waltz Win on Big Night for Austria

Michael Haneke
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

After several failed attempts, the director won the foreign-language award for "Amour" as his home country had its best Oscar outing since 1961.

It's been a long wait with several failed attempts, but Michael Haneke has finally won the foreign-language Oscar for his home country, Austria.

When Haneke's Amour was unveiled as the  winner Sunday night, it marked the end of a long struggle by the Austrian government to have Haneke's films -- many of which, like Amour, have been in French -- accepted as Austrian in the eyes of the Academy.

Austria famously submitted Haneke's critically acclaimed drama Cache, which won him the best director award in Cannes, for the foreign-language Oscar in 2006 -- only to have it rejected on the grounds that the film's language was French. The outrage surrounding that snub was one of the main drivers behind changes to the Academy laws regarding the category. Now, the nationality is determined by the creative force behind the film.

While that has simplified things, it didn't help Austria in 2010.  Haneke's Palme d'Or winner The White Ribbon was a favorite for the foreign-language Oscar, but Germany -- which had put up the bulk of financing and was home to lead producers X Filme -- wanted to submit the film. It won out, and The White Ribbon received Oscar noms in the foreign-language category and for Austrian cinematographer Christian Berger.

"It would have made sense for Austria to have submitted The White Ribbon, but, in the end, we have to admit that, for such a small country, we have been particularly blessed with cinema talent," Martin Schweighofer, managing director of the Austrian Film Commission, told The Hollywood Reporter.

He cited Stefan Ruzowitzky's The Counterfeiters, which won Austria its first foreign-language Oscar in 2008, and Gotz Spielmann's Revanche (Revenge), which received a nom in the category in 2009.

Alongside Haneke, that deep Austrian talent pool includes Vienna hometown hero Christoph Waltz, who took home his second  supporting actor Oscar Sunday for his role as German bounty hunter King Schultz in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained.

Two Austrian Oscars in one night … that hasn't  happened since 1961, when Billy Wilder won three Oscars for The Apartment. The film took home the picture, director and original screenplay honors that year.

Haneke had missed a big night for Amour at France's Cesar Awards on Friday to focus on the Oscars. He caught a flight from Madrid to Los Angeles earlier that day. That meant Haneke also had to miss the Saturday premiere of his play Cosi di Tutti, which he is directing at Madrid's Teatro Real. He left a letter of apology and explanation for the audience.