Ben Affleck had them at “Good evening.” The organizers of the British Academy Film Awards (a.k.a. the BAFTAs: if you’re wondering what the ‘T’ stands for, it’s ‘television,’ now relegated to a separate ceremony) were surely fluttering their eyelashes at the Argo multi-hyphenate’s praise for their awards. He took to the stage with Bradley Cooper to present the night’s first award, Outstanding British Film, which went to the Bond film Skyfall, and uttered music to their ears: “Good evening, this is our first time at the BAFTAs and it’s thrilling to be here. I’ve always been a little bit in awe of the excellence of the British film industry.”
Maybe Affleck knew a grand night was in store: Argo bagged the night’s top prizes, Best Film and Best Director, as well as Best Editing. And Hollywood has been in agreement in recent years that it’s worth the transatlantic hop to brave BAFTA’s annually soggy red carpet (not much you can do about British weather), making one last stop before the Oscars. Even presenter Billy Connolly couldn’t dampen the mood when he insisted the BAFTA award resembled “a death mask on a stick.” Host Stephen Fry would have echoed the thoughts of the British film royalty gathered in the opulent Royal Opera House if he’d dared to utter: Hollywood, you like us, you really like us.
Fry didn’t unleash Sally Field’s legendary Oscar-night phraseology but he did conduct an all-night love affair with the Lincoln actress, making her sheepish by comparing her to Streep and Hepburn as “one of the true immortals.” As for Field, she revealed the night’s only true shock: that co-presenter Eddie Redmayne couldn’t join her on stage as he was busy “puking his guts out.” Cue feverish Twitter speculation as to what was actually wrong with Redmayne – stage fright? Norovirus? A sudden allergy to the tyranny of male facial hair ruling the evening (Fry, Affleck, Clooney, Sam Mendes…)? Redmayne’s Les Miserables co-star Anne Hathaway cooed during her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress that she wished she could be backstage “holding your hair back.”
Befitting the ghastly weather, it was a night of subdued fashion choices, apart from Marion Cotillard and Jessica Chastain, who were visions in canary yellow and electric blue, respectively, while Helen Mirren rocked the red carpet in a white frock and pink hair. Chants of “Bradley! Bradley! Bradley!” registered the highest shriek quotient of the night: if fan decibels were the deciding factor, Cooper would have streaked past his Best Actor competition without breaking a sweat.
In his seventh outing as BAFTA host, Fry promised “skillful, kidney-rupturingly hilarious wordplay” and cracked jokes at the expense of Helena Bonham Carter, Scientology, and The Hobbit. “If they can find a way to squeeze more films out of the slim volume that Tolkien wrote,” quipped Fry, who has already shot a role in Peter Jackson’s trilogy, “you can expect to see me in The Hobbit 9: Are We Nearly Home Yet, Gandalf?” He also squeezed mileage out of his confusion over the plots of the Best Film contenders. Zero Dark Thirty? “This was billed as history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man so naturally I assumed it was the National Rifle Association’s attempt to track down Piers Morgan.”
The night came off without a hitch or faux pas, which might have rendered it dull had it not been for David O. Russell looking so genuinely surprised at winning Best Adapted Screenplay for Silver Linings Playbook and so genuinely sour-faced at the news that Jennifer Lawrence had lost out to Amour’s Emmanuelle Riva. Meanwhile, Daniel Day-Lewis engendered authentic chuckles accepting Best Actor for Lincoln, poking fun at his reputation as a scarily obsessive Method Actor and joking about his preparation for awards wins. “I stayed in character as myself for the last 55 years and I had a selection of BAFTA sets dating from the late ’50s downscaled and placed in every single room of every house I ever lived in…” Maybe you had to be there.
Elsewhere, Quentin Tarantino gave a nervy, nervous acceptance speech picking up the Best Original Screenplay award, sounding not unlike a cocky sixth grader fumbling his words while picking up the Science Prize he was convinced was coming his way. Best Supporting Actor champ Christoph Waltz was a smoother operator, praising his Django Unchained director as “you silver-penned devil, you.”
Leave it to Fry to end the BAFTA proceedings on a slightly smutty note: “I don’t know when I’ve had more fun – certainly not without a water-soluble lubricant.” He clearly didn’t make it to the Weinstein bash, the night’s destination after-party in which Cooper fraternized with Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeremy Renner schmoozed with Alice Eve, Russell and Chris Tucker established their own impromptu dance floor, Cotillard shared a cigarette in the sleet with Juno Temple, and Tarantino yakked all night to Olga Kurylenko.