LONDON (AFP) - Silent movie “The Artist” and US actress Meryl Streep continued their march towards Oscar glory on Sunday after scooping top awards at the BAFTAs, the biggest night of the British film industry.
At a celebrity-packed ceremony at the Royal Opera House in London, “The Artist” won seven gongs including best film, best director and best original screenplay for Michel Hazanavicius and best actor for Frenchman Jean Dujardin.
Dujardin -- who is also nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of a silent film star threatened by the arrival of the ‘talkies’ -- paid tribute to his director, saying: “Michel, what have you done to me? It‘s all your fault”.
Brushing shoulders on the red carpet earlier with Hollywood stars George Clooney and Brad Pitt, a clearly excited Dujardin told AFP that he was overwhelmed at being ranked alongside such top actors.
“To be here -- it’s an honour to be nominated with such great actors, with Gary Oldman, (Michael) Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Clooney, pinch me, please!” he said, moments before beating all those named to the best actor award.
True to predictions, Streep was named best actress, although she lost her shoe on the way to collect her award and had to be rescued by Colin Firth.
The American has already won a clutch of gongs for her portrayal of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady,”and is tipped to take the third Oscar of her career on February 26.
The film has not been without controversy, but Streep said it intended “to locate something real, maybe hidden, but truthful in the life of someone we‘ve all decided we know everything about already”.
There were few surprises in the best supporting actor and actress categories, as BAFTA echoed last month’s Golden Globes and awarded them to Christopher Plummer for “Beginners” and Octavia Spencer for “The Help”.
At the age of 82, Plummer, who like Spencer is also nominated for an Oscar, becomes the oldest recipient of a British Academy Film Award.
Veteran British actor Gary Oldman missed out in his bid for a BAFTA for “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”, although the Cold War thriller won awards for outstanding British film and best adapted screenplay.
Long a highlight of the British film industry calendar, the BAFTAs have been growing in stature over the years and are now seen as one of the key indicators of Oscar success in a fortnight‘s time.
The guest list has grown with their importance, with Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Penelope Cruz, Billy Bob Thornton, Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter among those presenting awards this year.
John Hurt, the star of films as diverse as “The Elephant Man” and the Harry Potter films, was recognised with the BAFTA for outstanding contribution to cinema, an accolade he said was “fabulous”.
“Senna”, Asif Kapadia’s film about Brazilian Formula One racing driver Ayrton Senna who died in a crash in 1994, won best documentary, while Pedro Almodovar‘s “The Skin I Live In” was named the best non-English language film.
Paddy Considine and Diarmid Scrimshaw won the oustanding debut BAFTA for “Tyrannosaur”, while “Rango” won the award for best animated film.
Adam Deacon, the London actor who starred in gritty British teen drama “Kidulthood”, was given the Rising Star Award after a public vote.