UPDATED WITH FULL LIST OF WINNERS AND REACTIONS: Steve McQueen’s rallied from a slow stat to win the Best Film award tonight at the 62nd BAFTA Film Awards in London. The slave drama from Fox Searchlight had 10 nominations but won just two awards, after Chiwetel Ejiofor took the Leading Actor prize for playing Solomon Northup. Despite the marquee victory in the last major kudofest before the Oscars, it still seemed as though the night belonged to Warner Bros’ . The space drama picked up a leading six wins from its 11 overall nominations, including for Outstanding British Film — which will keep the debate going about just how British the pic is. Alfonso Cuaron won Best Director and the pic cleaned up in the craft categories, taking Sound, Cinematography and Special Visual Effects in addition to a nod for Steven Price’s Original Score. The BAFTA crowd at the packed Royal Opera House in Covent Garden exploded with each win for the movie, which had a leading 11 nominations going into the night.
Still, the 12 Years A Slave victory tonight maintains the film’s front-runner status going into the Oscars on March 2; the film also won the Golden Globe for Motion Picture-Drama. Many feel the Academy will lean the same way, honoring Gravity in the craft categories but not for the Best Picture. The two films have been going head to head all awards season, even scrapping to a rare tie in the PGA Awards contest. “It’s very important, ” McQueen said backstage after the victory. “The way the public here — but not just here, in the U.S. — by going to see the picture, means a hell of a lot.” Added producer Brad Pitt: “This is an excuse for us to all get to gather and say job well done. We’re very proud of our work here, and it means a lot to us because of the people we got to work with.”
In the actor races, Ejiofor was joined by Blue Jasmine‘s Cate Blanchett as Leading winners, while Captain Phillips‘ Barkhad Abdi and American Hustle‘s Jennifer Lawrence won in the Supporting categories. It marked one of three wins for Hustle, which also scored for director David O Russell and Eric Warren Singer’s Original Screenplay and for Hair & Makeup. The Sony pic came into the night with 10 nominations.
Philomena won the Adapted Screenplay award for co-writers Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope. It was also in the running for Outstanding British Film — which Gravity won to lead off the show and portend its big night — Best Film and Leading Actress for Judi Dench.
After the ceremony, Cuaron addressed some criticism that Gravity, from a big U.S. studio, was eligible for that Outstanding British Film category — though it was produced by Britain’s David Heyman, shot at Pinewood and Shepperton Studios with a crew of local technicians, visual effects were handled by the UK’s Framestore, and Cuaron is a British resident. “I’m happy for all the recognition that all these great British artists had in this awards ceremony, ” Cuaron said backstage. “I don’t need to set the record straight. There are rules that make a film eligible for Best British Film. Gravity definitely has all the requirements, except a couple of Mexicans that came here — legally! — and a couple of American stars. It was shot in this country, developed in this country, and with cutting-edge technology developed by British artists. Having said that, the real question about BAFTAs, is why it needs a definition for Best Film? Why does there need to be be Best British Film? It should be Best Film and Best Non-British Film.”
Among the other multiple winners tonight were The Great Gatsby‘s Catherine Martin winning for Costume Design and Production Design, making it a worthwhile trip for Warner Bros which also distributes Gravity. Disney’s Frozen solidified its status as Animated Feature front-runner with a BAFTA victory, as did Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act Of Killing from Drafthouse Films with its Documentary win.
Here’s how the event went down with myself and Joe Utichi on live-blog duty and Stephen Fry hosting for a ninth time:
Fry has hit the stage, saying the Royal Opera House filled with “faces so familiar, you want to lick them.” He praises Chewitel Ejiofor’s role in 12 Years A Slave, saying he found himself wishing it had been called 24 Years A Slave. “Is that wrong of me? I mean that in the best possible way if there is a good way for me to say that…” Fry asks Leonardo DiCaprio to blow a kiss to the camera as is custom; Leo obliges. Fry: “I shall never wash my eyes again.” He then refers to the Duke of Cambridge as Helen Mirren’s grandson (she’s up for the BAFTA Fellowship this year). He intros multiplatinum-selling English rapper Tinie Tempah and English soul singer Laura Mvula. Their opening duet is set to a montage from all the nominated movies.
Fry offers an advisory note we can all be thankful for: “When you are given a cup of tea, you don’t thank the kettle, the cup, the milk, the cow, the tea picker. … Award winners, I trust I make myself clear. The briefer you are the more we will love, reverence and adore you.”