There is little doubt that a red carpet looks better in the burning sunshine of a serene Los Angeles afternoon than foaming under the cold rain of a London night. Still, it was going to take more than a downpour to dampen an event that has steadily flourished into one of the award season big boys.
The major surprises on the night were Brit hopeful Rachel Weisz losing out in the Best Actress category to Reese Witherspoon - and George Clooney having nothing to show for his onscreen rebirth via slick oil drama Syriana and the superb Good Night, And Good Luck.
But you can work this out for yourselves if you’ve seen the results or watched the show. You've seen a stick-thin Thandie Newton weep and you've watched Jake Gyllenhaal jig. But what happened when the gong-snatchers got backstage? Total Film were waiting in the shadows, notepad set to stun…
Controversy came in the shape of Pride & Prejudice helmer Joe Wright, who walked away with The Carl Foreman Award for special achievement by a first-time British filmmaker – then berated BAFTA voters for not even nominating his film’s leading lady, Keira Knightley. “I’m surprised she isn’t here,” said Wright. “I feel like she should be.” So her absence from the nominations was an oversight by BAFTA then? “Not wanting to put anyone in the Best Actress category down, of course but yeah, it’s a real shame.”
Despite Knightley’s decision not to attend, Wright will still be heading out to LA in March to support Keira in her bid for an Oscar. “Yeah, as an industry in the UK we should learn to care for each other more. Winning an Oscar will be all the more pleasurable because Keira’s work wasn’t recognised by BAFTA. We’ll go to LA and have a ball.”
The chirpiest winners of the night were James McAvoy and Jake Gyllenhaal. McAvoy nabbed the Orange Rising Star Award, and The Chronicles Of Narnia star told Total Film he’d barely slept in days: “I’ve had about four hours in three days. I was very nervous, I had a wee crack in my voice because I was hugely surprised to have won it – even if it does look a little like an ashtray.” So how will the award change the Scot actor? “Obviously I’ll throw my weight around on set now,” he jested.
Having snatched the Best Supporting Actor gong from under the nose of “The George twins,” as he labelled Clooney’s double nomination in the category, Gyllenhaal had nothing but praise for the Syriana star. “He came up to me on the red carpet and said ‘You’re so gonna lose.’ I gave him one of those,” Gyllenhaal throws a mock punch. “George has such courage as a filmmaker, when you consider the position he’s in, he doesn’t have to work like that but he does it from the heart.”
Brokeback Mountain helmer and Best Director winner Ang Lee couldn’t hide his delight over the public appreciation of his movie.
“The film breaks barriers,” a grinning Lee declared, clutching his award. “It’s grown from a small precious film into a big precious film and I am so blessed to win this award. Britain and its people will always hold a special place for me.”
Crash scribbler Paul Haggis revealed that he had to beg Thandie Newton to sign up to the project. “It took about eight months of solid begging. We’re just so happy she said yes.” So was Newton – who desperately fought back the tears backstage. “I really do feel incredibly lucky, I didn’t expect this at all.”
A grinning Philip Seymour Hoffman approached and casually placed his BAFTA on the floor: “I feel like breaking into song, I just love London and feel so comfortable here.”
Hoffman then jokingly revealed that his next project might not be such a departure after all, “I play Capote in Mission: Impossible III… no, can you imagine that?”
The last word came from the latest BAFTA fellow David Puttnam, whose eloquent acceptance speech had half the press room welling up. Lord Puttnam explained how he felt he had to show his appreciation of George Clooney as a filmmaker.
“I’m sorry he didn’t win Best Director because I know what he put himself through. He put his career on the line. He doesn’t want to hide and although you have people like Sean Penn doing the same, no one of Clooney’s stature has the guts to try it. I hope others will follow.”
So is there any chance of Puttnam producing films again? “I could imagine myself going back to documentaries but features? No, this award is my closure with the film industry,” he said.
So, after ten hours in a cheap suit and with a hangover already in development, Total Film bids farewell to our first night at the BAFTAs. What a life, eh? Certainly beats being the poor sod who’s having to clean up 1050 square metres of red carpet this morning…