Both Cruz and Leo, who beat out Anne Hathaway today, have shots at Oscar gold tomorrow.
"They told me here it's important to say whatever you want and to swear—a lot. So I'll stick to my character in the movie," said a radiant Cruz, clad in a ruffly brown Alaïa dress.
"I'm always surprised when I hear my name," she told reporters backstage. "If I win [tomorrow] I want to be surprised. I don't want to expect it. If I don't win, I want to have a great night."
But first, she had a great day at the Spirit Awards, held as always in a big white tent on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif., where the vibe is more scarves and leggings than Harry Winston and Chanel and films that cost as little as $500,000 to make get credit where credit is due.
That's how we roll here at the Spirit Awards," quipped host Steve Coogan. "Who needs the Oscars, that world of back-slapping, that orgy of self-congratulation for the beautiufl people?
I look around me toay and I see people who are beautiful on the inside. At least, I hope you are. Nature can't be that cruel."
Best Foreign-Language Film honors went to festival darling The Class, the first French film to win the Palme d'Or at Cannes since 1987, while Best Documentary was handed to Man on Wire, about Philippe Petit's 1974 high-wire walk between the World Trade Center's Twin Towers.
Sorry to spoil the ending for you, but Petit was in the audience today to cheer on director James Marsh.
Milk scribe Dustin Lance Black won for Best First Screenplay and Woody Allen won for zillionth Best Screenplay for Vicky Christina Barcelona.
Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut, Synechdoche , New York, was also a two-timer, snagging its helmer a Best First Feature award and receiving the second annual Robert Altman Award, which honors Altmanesque ensemble work.
Also among those chillaxin' by the beach today were Justin Bateman, Ellen Page, Aaron Eckhart, Jon Hamm, Blair Underwood, Alec Baldwin, Michelle Monaghan, Laura Dern, Mary-Kate Olsen, Ben Kingsley, Claire Danes, John C. Reilly, Thomas Hayden Church, Andie MacDowell, Emile Hirsch, Cameron Diaz, John Waters, Zooey Deschanel and Michael Bolton, whom Coogan duly thanked for saving his old hair and loaning it to Rourke to use in The Wrestler.
Here's the complete list of winners from the 2009 Film Independent's Spirit Awards:
• Best Feature: The Wrestler
• Male Lead: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
• Female Lead: Melissa Leo, Frozen River
• Supporting Male: James Franco, Milk
• Supporting Female: Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
• Director: Tom McCarthy, The Visitor
• Screenplay: Woody Allen, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
• First Feature: Charlie Kaufman, Synechdoche, New York
• First Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black, Milk
Cinematography: Maryse Alberti, The Wrestler
Documentary Man on Wire
Foreign-Language Film: The Class
Producers Award: Heather Rae, Frozen River and Ibid
John Cassavetes Award: In Search of a Midnight Kiss
Someone to Watch Award: Lynn Shelton, My Effortless Brilliance
Truer Than Fiction Award: Margaret Brown, The Order of Myths
Robert Altman Award: Synechdoche, New York