BAFTA LA’s Britannia Awards is a fun night of Anglophilic pleasure, especially when wry wit Stephen Fry plays host. He likes doing the Britannias because there are only five awards, which keeps the proceedings short, he says. And everyone knows they’re going to win; otherwise 80 percent of the nominees are disappointed, getting drunk in the bar.
The Britannias managed to nail down backing from TV Guide Network and three major studios for last week’s event. They supplied clip reels and various presenters from movies they could promote to the many Academy members among the BAFTA membership. Also, around Thanksgiving the whole BAFTA Awards nomination process gets under way, as screeners go out to voters.
Thus the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for excellence in film went to last year’s Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges, who stars in Paramount’s upcoming True Grit (which won’t start screening until after Thanksgiving), directed by the Coen brothers, as well as Disney’s VFX 3-D extravaganza Tron: Legacy. Bridges has been on the road touring with T-Bone Burnett in advance of a new album. His Tron co-star Olivia Wilde presented to him. Bridges thanked brother Beau, seated at his table, and said he’d love to work with him again as they did on The Fabulous Baker Boys. “I’m a working actor,” Bridges said. “I’ve gotten to play pretend and gotten paid for it all these years.”
Mustachioed Tron star Michael Sheen took home the award for British artist of the year. The crowd murmured at the arrival onstage of Carey Mulligan, who described Sheen’s work as “exhilarating, dark and ferile.” It’s true: this versatile chameleon can play anything, from prime minister, vampire, werewolf and nightclub leader to soccer coach. Sheen gave by far the best and most ribald acceptance speech of the night. “Thank you for making a Welshman happy,” Sheen said, reminding the audience that his first screen kiss was with his Wilde co-star Fry. “You never cease to engorge me, my director and leading man.”
Marion Cotillard, looking stunning with a top knot, and Cillian Murphy introduced Christopher Nolan, who accepted the John Schlesinger directing award for his output of seven films over a dozen years, which allowed Warner Bros. to promote Oscar-contender Inception. In accepting his award, Nolan praised fellow honorees Ridley and Tony Scott, saying, “I have been ripping them off for years.”
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer presented the Britannia Ward for Worldwide Contribution to Filmed Entertainment to the Scotts, with whom he has made many films; he credited them for “creating their own cinematic language.” Scott Free assembled their own mighty clip reel out of 100 films they produced, and their combined output of 35 features, from Ridley’s The Duelists, Alien and Robin Hood to Tony’s The Hunger and the upcoming runaway train thriller Unstoppable. Ridley did the talking as Tony stood by, recalling how his younger 16-year-old brother starred in his first Bolex movie. “He was cheap and available.”
Betty White brought down the house as usual, accepting the Charlie Chaplin award for excellence in comedy: “I wouldn’t be the lucky old broad that I am if it weren’t for the passion I felt about show business,” she said. “Chuck Chaplin and I never had relationship,” she deadpanned. “Well, maybe once.”
Vinnie Jones and pals were sitting at our table; the ebullient athlete/actor, who was discovered by Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), tipped the waiter and ordered Veuve Clicquot for his tables mates. He loves living in L.A., where he runs his own soccer league; he’s starring as the villain in The Cape, a currently filming NBC mid-season January replacement (trailer below).