BAFTA-LA Britannia Awards celebrated its 20th anniversary at the Beverly Hilton Wednesday evening, where pre-selected achievement awards were handed out to Daniel Craig, Quentin Tarrantino, Daniel Day-Lewis, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, and Will Wright. The Britannias serve as a good platform for BAFTA to make an Oscar push for its Brits in Hollywood, and this year the most recent and much-acclaimed 007 installment “Skyfall,” and Day-Lewis’ uncanny performance as the 16th president in “Lincoln,” were at the forefront.
The night was again hosted by actor Alan Cumming (“The Good Wife”), who donned a fire-engine red tuxedo. He noted all the Brits with fake dentition in the room (“I am being lit merely by the reflection of everyone’s teeth”), and attributed the toothy grins to people being “delighted Obama won, or just very, very relieved Romney didn’t win.”
“Sims” creator Will Wright received this year’s Albert R. Broccoli Award, marking the first time BAFTA has recognized the gaming community as an important and influential aspect of the entertainment industry. “The Sims” has totaled a massive $2.5 billion since its debut in 2000, on par with the box office haul of “Titanic.” Presenter Olivia Munn, known for her geek cred, also pointed out Wright’s kind contribution to gamers everywhere, supplying them with “hundreds of hours of no social interaction.”
Trey Parker and Matt Stone received the Charlie Chaplin Award for Excellence in Comedy, presented to them by their own “Book of Mormon” star Josh Gad. A very funny Gad noted the appropriateness of the Brits, “who gave us Shakespeare and Daniel Craig,” awarding Parker and Stone, who gave us “F you in the A and C.” A high compliment came from John Cleese, who said that he thought the duo were “better than Monty Python — not better than me, but better than Palin, Idle, the dead one…” Stone and Parker responded earnestly when accepting the award that “without Monty Python, we wouldn’t be here. Thank God for British comedy.”
Harrison Ford, who recently expressed interest in revisiting Han Solo for the next “Star Wars” installment, presented the ever-dapper Daniel Craig with the British Artist of the Year Award. Interestingly, the first recipient of this award in 2006 was Rachel Weisz, who sat next to hubby Craig during the awards ceremony. Ford joked that “with Rachel’s patient tutelage,” Craig had ascended to the status of BAFTA honoree. When accepting the award, Craig told his “Cowboys and Aliens” co-star Ford that he “probably didn’t remember this, because we were very drunk, but I told you that you’re the reason I wanted to get into acting.” Dame Judi Dench also showed up via video tribute, in full-on M mode, saying: “James, I give you my very best wishes. And an enormous kiss. On your mouth.”
Low-budget genre legend Roger Corman presented Quentin Tarantino with the John Schlesinger Award for directing, calling QT his “rebel in arms.” Tarantino seemed genuinely excited to be there, giving former Fox chairman Tom Rothman a big hug on his way up to the stage, and telling the audience that last month was “officially my 20th year in the business,” beginning with the October 1992 release of “Reservoir Dogs.” Tarantino said he felt indebted to the Brits, as “Reservoir Dogs” opened in the top box office spot in London upon its UK release, news that for him outshone even the film’s successful U.S. reception (where he felt “like the Coen brothers after ‘Blood Simple’ came out”). He thanked his late editor Sally Menke, and producer Harvey Weinstein, who along with actress Kerry Washington was seated next to him at the ceremony’s “Django Unchained” table.
Presenter Steven Spielberg capped off the star-studded evening by giving his “Lincoln” star Daniel Day-Lewis the Stanley Kubrick Award for Excellence in Film. Spielberg said that he sees Day-Lewis “as an actor who would have achieved success no matter what era he was born into – but he belongs to us now.” Of Day-Lewis’ rigorous Method approach, Spielberg elegantly quipped that “Daniel turns sideways into the light and disappears.” When Day-Lewis came onstage to accept the award, he brought an empty chair with him à la Clint Eastwood, remarking that he wanted to try it “as a challenge,” and noting that he was a bit groggy because he’d stayed up watching CNN until 2am the previous morning (the night of Obama’s reelection). He thanked his mother, who he said had always had faith in him even when he hadn’t, and that he was “quietly amazed” by the Britannia honor.