LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Mark Rylance won the Academy Award for best supporting actor on Sunday for his role as an unflappable Russian secret agent in Steven Spielberg's Cold War-era drama Bridge Of Spies.
It was the first Oscar for 56-year-old Rylance, an acclaimed British stage actor and playwright.
His win was the first true surprise of the Oscars night, as he bested sentimental favourite Sylvester Stallone (Creed), as well as Christian Bale (The Big Short), Tom Hardy (The Revenant) and Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight).
"I want to just say thank you to my fellow nominees. I don't know how they separate my acting from your glorious acting in these wonderful films that you are in," Rylance said after receiving his award.
"It's a wonderful time to be an actor and I'm proud to be part of it."
This month, Rylance won a best supporting actor Bafta for the part - something of a breakthrough for a star whose biggest successes until now had come in the theatre and, latterly, on television.
"I've always just adored stories, hearing them, seeing them, being in them," he said before thanking director Steven Spielberg and co-star Tom Hanks.
In Bridge Of Spies, he played real-life Soviet intelligence officer Rudolf Abel, who was arrested by United States authorities in New York in 1957 and charged with conspiracy. Abel was held in prison while an American defence lawyer, portrayed by Hanks, argued his case.
The soft-spoken Rylance is often described as the greatest English stage actor of his generation.
He has won three Tony awards for theatre performances, most recently in 2014 for playing the Countess Olivia in the all-male Shakespeare Globe's Broadway production of Twelfth Night.
He also served as the first artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London from 1995 to 2005. Earlier this month, he won a British Bafta award for his role in Bridge Of Spies. He plays a giant through motion capture technology in Spielberg's upcoming Walt Disney film The BFG.
Repeat telecasts of the 88th Annual Academy Awards will air on HBO (StarHub TV Channel 601) on March 2 (9pm), March 4 (10.30pm) and March 6 (4pm).