The 2016 British Academy Britannia Awards is BAFTA’s big event in Hollywood, where the Brits honor fellow countryman and anglophiles for their tinseltown contributions. Last night’s gala was quippy, clever and very British. Before the event began, I caught up with lovely Emmy winner Shohreh Aghdashloo; currently starring on the Netflix hit “The Expanse, ” and Mykelti Williamson, who’s already garnering raves for his yet to be released “Fences.” He told me that, “it was an honor of a lifetime, to be in this film with Denzel.”
Then the show began, and Ben “Doc Brown” Smith, an English rapper comedian and actor, whom I didn’t know–he played a Detective in the English version of “Law And Order”– and as they say, he killed it. He started by comparing the Brits and Americans. “”You tricked Tony Blair into going into Iraq. Hey, we tricked you into taking Piers Morgan.” Piers went along with the joke, and stood up and waved to the crowd.
Referring to honoree Samuel Jackson, Doc quipped, “Everyone has a favorite Sam Jackson movie, “Pulp Fiction,” “Jackie Brown,” “Hateful Eight.” I’m cultish, mine is the Capital One Credit Cards.” Sam also played along and gave a thumbs up. Doc went on, “It’s the first time America heard a black man say, “What’s in your wallet?” Referring to honoree Ang Lee’s choice of controversial films, Doc noted, “Ang is still pushing the boundaries. His next movie is a straight musical.” Doc noted that if the audience didn’t like what he was doing, he’d get honoree Ricky Gervais to “go Golden Globes on your asses.”
Jennifer Lawrence then came to give the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film to her good friend Jodie Foster. Jennifer noted, “It’s very rare for a woman to write/produce and direct and be completely normal. “ After extolling her more, Jennifer introduced her by saying, “here’s my vote for the next president of the United States.” Jodie, following video tributes from Julia Roberts and Kristen Stewart, gave a heartfelt speech by saying, “ I make movies. It’s good hard work done with pure love. I’m going to stick around, I’m not done yet.”
Jake Gyllenhaal, paid tribute to his “Brokeback Mountain” director Ang Lee by noting, “Ang knows that to tell a big story, you have to keep it small.” Ang then explained, “Jake says I was modest during Brokeback Mountain. “It wasn’t wisdom. I was so tired. I literally was half asleep during the whole shoot.” He went on to apologize to all the actors he’s worked with by explaining, “Actors have always been tortured by my bad English and my bad sense of humor.”
The lovely Gugu Mbatha-Raw introduced Ewan McGregor with the Humanitarian Award for his work on behalf of displaced people worldwide. He spoke passionately about his work on behalf of UNICEF and dedicated his award to them. Tom Hanks presented British Artist of the Year to his “Inferno” co-star Felicity Jones, comparing her to Botticelli’s Venus (they shot the film in Florence). Jones noted, “I’ve never seen one man so obsessed with tiny Italian cars. He was stopping on the streets of Florence to take endless selfies with the tiniest of cars.”
Christopher Guest gave the Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence to his good friend Ricky Gervais. Chris noted, “I’m honored to present this award to my good friend. It would be a better honor if he were presenting it to me, would make more sense. Listen “The Office,” “Extras,” — if not for his personality he would be a great person to admire.” Steve Carell on videotape quipped about Gervais, “I get lost in his eyes.” Larry David got more graphic: “He deserves the award for the biggest balls. I don’t know how he walks around with those things.”
A poignant clip was then played with Ricky and David Bowie singing, which prompted applause from the crowd. Ricky said, “I’ve been to a lot of award ceremonies and someone always gets up and says, “Oh I didn’t think I’d win so I didn’t prepare a speech. Well I knew I was going to win, and I didn’t prepare a speech. Which shows you what contempt I have for Hollywood. I humbly accept this award, it’s an honor.” He took a beat and added: “No it isn’t. “I have so many people to thank, but I’m a star so I can’t be bothered.” Even his longtime girlfriend of 30 years, Jane Fallon, wasn’t spared. “If I’m honest she hasn’t done fuck all, I mean she’s here cause of the free Champagne.” Jane, of course, agreed and held up her glass. Ricky did ask for another award next year, “Come on it’s a free trip.”
Brie Larson ended the night by presenting the Samuel L. Jackson with the Albert R. Broccoli Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment. The awards were sponsored by Jaguar Land Rover and American Airlines. Also attending; Simon Helberg, Jack Huston, Producer Julia Verdin, Producer Bonnie Arnold, Brit powerhouse agent Duncan Hayes, Producer Manager Eric Ortner, Producer Brian Gott, Screenwriter Marc Iannarino, Nigel Lythgoe, Pixie Lott, Jane Seymour and more. As the Brits would say, “brilliant” show!