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The BAFTAs: The Show Reviewed
Fry succeeds, but the BBC's broadcast fails

23 February 2003  |  Written by   

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Long before a single award was presented at this year’s BAFTAs, the ceremony could already claim to have been a huge success, simply by attracting an enormous number of A-list stars, the like of which has never been seen for a film do in London. The cunning re-working of the ceremony, rescheduling it to go out before the Oscars has been a huge success for the British Academy, bathing the whole British film industry in reflected glory.

Now all that's required is for the BBC to give the show the scheduling it deserves and put it out live. There’s a certain insanity first in delaying the broadcast of the BAFTAs to create edited highlights and then in cutting into Britain’s most prestigious film awards ceremony with the evening news, giving viewers the opportunity to check the internet for the winners of the biggest awards before that part of the show had been broadcast.

That aside, the show began well as the master of ceremonies for the evening – Stephen Fry – welcomed the A-list audience and the viewers at home, with trademark battiness, to the BAFTAs in London’s West End. ‘If London is Britain’s heart then the West End is the surgeon’s aorta.’

Explaining the academy’s decision to give him a third outing as compere as ‘a tribute to both my availability and my plain old fashioned cheapness,’ Fry launched into an opening speech of unusual eloquence and surrealism – after all, how many times do you hear the word ‘cartilaginous’ at the Oscars? – urging stars to keep their speeches short lest the huge BAFTA masks at the back fall down and crush them into a bloody pulp.

The first award of the evening was the Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film which went to The Warrior. Director Asif thanked, ‘everyone here for being so famous and for letting us in.’ Best Supporting Actor went to Christopher Walken – oddly there was no thank-you video shown, the trophy being taken away by its presenter, Angelina Jolie.

Almodovar makes plea for peace
Next up was Best Special Effects which went to The Two Towers followed by the Anthony Asquith Award for Achievements in Film Music which was won by a visibly-moved Philip Glass for his score for The Hours. Then we had the award for Best Film Not in the English Language; ‘a shoo-in,’ quipped Fry, ‘you’d think for Scooby-Doo.’ In the event, it was won by Pedro Almodovar for Talk To Her, who took the opportunity to make an eloquent plea for peace. ‘Cinema and war are two very different things…,’ said Almodovar before going on to tell the audience that; ‘we have to stop this army of darkness.’

Michael Caine presented the Michael Balcon award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema to two Assistant Directors, Michael Stephenson and David Tomblin.

Then to present the award for Best Cinematography, we had Gael Garcia Bernal, who prefaced his reading of the nominees by saying that millions had voted against war in Iraq, ‘but we still haven’t had a response,’ but votes were made for the 10 films ‘and we have the results right here’. In the event, the award went to the late Conrad Hall for Road To Perdition.

Best Supporting Actress was presented by Martin Scorsese to Catherine Zeta-Jones. ‘I’m very hormonal!,’ she shrieked, before slipping from her usual Mid-Atlantic twang to deepest Swansea, thanking everyone she’d ever met or worked with. Best Original Screenplay was won by Pedro Almodovar for Talk To Her and The Orange Film of the Year was announced as The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

Spanking Spike Jonze
Meryl Streep picked up the award for Best Adapted Screenplay on behalf of writer Charlie Kaufman – reading out a speech he’d faxed over and which had been given to her in a sealed envelope. As you’d expect from Kaufman it was supremely quirky, giving Streep directions on how she should read the speech. Thrown by it, in a great Freudian moment Streep read out that she wished to ‘spank’ rather than ‘thank’ Spike Jonze – a mistake that was clearly relished by the audience.

Best British Director went to Asif Kapadia for The Warrior. This was followed by Best Director which went to Roman Polanksi for Best Director and was collected by the film’s star Adrian Brody whose rambling thank-you speech told the audience that; ‘the important thing to acknowledge is that Roman has overcome a tremendous amount of loss in his life… telling this story allowed him the opportunity to tell something that was extremely personal without jeopardising his own memories.’

Introduced with great unctuousness by Stephen Fry as a ‘classic’, Sir Ian McKellen presented the award for Best Actress to Nicole Kidman. Kissing Meryl Streep before she mounted the stairs to the stage, Kidman told the audience that ‘this was really a big deal for me,’ thanking the British film industry for being so good to her in recent years and crediting her success to her co-stars Streep and Julianne Moore. ‘I divide it into three,’ she said, clutching her award, ‘so we share it together.’

A luminous looking Jennifer Connolly then presented the BAFTA for Best Actor to Daniel Day Lewis. ‘I’d like to salute my fellow nominees… both men and women,' said Day Lewis. 'I feel a great sense of privilege at having been included among you.’

The penultimate award for Best Film was presented by Tim Robbins to (wait for it)… The Pianist. Certainly not what the bookies, or perhaps the audience, were expecting – but good enough for us. And the show wrapped with the award for the Fellowship of the British Academy which was presented by Kristin Scott-Thomas and Michael Douglas to Saul Zaentz, producer of such cinematic greats as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, The English Patient and Amadeus, who castigated the American government for its pro-war stance and received a standing ovation for his troubles.

In his brief closing speech, Fry joined in Meryl Streep, ‘in wanting to spank you all,’ before scurrying off with all the other stars to numerous celebrity bashes being held all over London.

And so to our verdict. Well, masochistic as it might seem, watching the edited highlights on the BBC can never be the same as watching the full shebang and hearing the awards announced live. We want the full version next year and are launching our campaign for it right now. If you agree, email the BBC and say so by contacting

Full list of winners
Best film
The Pianist

Best British film
The Warrior

Best director
Roman Polanski - The Pianist

Best actor in a leading role
Daniel Day-Lewis- Gangs of New York

Best actress in a leading role
Nicole Kidman - The Hours

Best actor in a supporting role
Christopher Walken - Catch Me If You Can

Best actress in a supporting role
Catherine Zeta Jones - Chicago

Make-up and hair

Special visual effects
The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers

Best sound

City of God

Costume design
The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers

Production design
Road to Perdition

Road To Perdition

Best music
The Hours

Best film not in the English language
Hable con ella (Talk To Her)

Original screenplay
Hable con ella (Talk To Her)

Adapted screenplay

Carl Foreman award for special achievement in first feature film
Asif Kapadia - The Warrior (writer and director)

Best short film
My Wrongs 8245-8249 And 117

Short animation
Fish Never Sleep

Film of the year (public vote)
The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers

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