LONDON (AP) – German anti-war film ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ won seven awards, including Best Picture, at the British Academy Film Awards on Sunday, building momentum on the gritty drama as the awards season at next’s Oscars month is approaching its peak.
Irish tragic comedy The Banshees of Inisherin and rock biopic Elvis each won four awards.
“All Quiet,” an instinctive depiction of life and death in the trenches of World War I, based on Erich Maria Remarque’s classic novel, earned Edward Berger the Best Director award. Other trophies included Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Sound and Best Film Not in English.
Austin Butler was a surprise winner for best actor for “Elvis.” Baz Lurhmann’s extravagant musical also won trophies for casting, costume design, and hair and makeup. Cate Blanchett won the Best Actress award for the orchestral drama “Tár”.
Martin McDonagh’s Banshees, the darkly funny tale of a broken friendship, won Best British Film.
“Best which award?” joked McDonagh of the film, which was shot in Ireland with a mostly Irish cast and crew. It is funded by the UK, and McDonagh was born in the UK to Irish parents.
“Banshees” also won awards for McDonagh’s Original Screenplay and awards for Kerry Condon for Best Supporting Actress and Barry Keoghan for Best Supporting Actor.
The awards – officially the EE BAFTA Film Awards – are Britain’s equivalent of Hollywood’s Academy Awards and are being closely watched for clues as to who might win at the Oscars on March 12.
Crazy Metaverse hype “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” the Oscar-winning frontrunner, was the night’s big loser, winning just one of 10 BAFTA nominations for its adaptation.
Actor Richard E. Grant was a suave and self-deprecating host – assisted by TV presenter Alison Hammond – for the ceremony at London’s Royal Festival Hall, where the UK Film Academy announced its moves to diversify, but said there was more to be done.
Grant joked in his opening monologue about the infamous altercation between Will Smith and Chris Rock at last year’s Oscars.
“No one under my supervision will be beaten tonight,” he said. “Except on the back.”
Guests and presenters walking the red carpet on the South Bank of the Thames included Colin Farrell, Ana de Armas, Eddie Redmayne, Brian Cox, Florence Pugh, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Cynthia Erivo, Julianne Moore and Lily James.
Heir to the throne Prince William, President of the British Film and Television Academy, was in the audience alongside his wife Kate. William wore a tuxedo with a black velvet jacket, while Kate wore a floor-length Alexander McQueen gown, which she also wore to the 2019 BAFTAs.
Helen Mirren paid tribute to William’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, who died in September. Mirren, who portrayed the late monarch on screen in The Queen and on stage in The Audience, called Elizabeth “the leading lady of the nation”.
The British Film Academy introduced changes to increase the diversity of awards in 2020 when, for the seventh consecutive year, there were no women nominated for Best Director and all 20 nominees in the Leading and Supporting Actor categories were white.
This year, 11 female directors received awards in all categories, including documentaries and animated films. But only one of the top nominees for best director was female: Gina Prince-Bythewood for The Woman King.
BAFTA Chairman Krishnendu Majumdar said the academy’s self-exploration has been “a necessary and humbling process”. He said the “vital work to level the playing field” will continue.
West Side Story star Ariana DeBose opened the show with “Sisters are Doin’ it for Themselves,” with an additional rap shoutout to some of the nominees, including Blanchett, Michelle Yeoh and Viola Davis.
Blanchett said it was “an extraordinary year for female performers. Being one of them is something very special.”
It’s been a strong year for Irish actors at the BAFTAs, with Deryl McCormack for the BAFTA Rising Star Award – despite losing to Emma Mackey – and Condon, Keoghan, Farrell and Brendan Gleeson all receiving acting nominations for “Banshees”.
McCormack hailed the event as “the Irish BAFTAs”.
“It’s a small country but to see the talent coming out of it is quite amazing,” he said.
Writer-director Charlotte Wells won Best British Debut for the moving father-daughter drama Aftersun. Three-time Academy Award winner Sandy Powell became the first costume designer to be awarded the Academy’s top honor, the BAFTA Fellowship.
The rough world outside of showbiz encroached on the awards ceremony when Bulgarian journalist Christo Grozev, who works for investigative website Bellingcat, said he was now allowed to attend the awards ceremonies because of a risk to public safety. He stars in Navalny, a film about imprisoned Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, which won BAFTA Best Documentary.
“Navalny” producer Odessa Rae dedicated the award to Grozev, “our Bulgarian nerd with a laptop who couldn’t be with us tonight because his life is being threatened by the Russian government and Vladimir Putin”.
Jamie Lee Curtis, a supporting actress nominee for Everything Everywhere, said the opportunity that awards season offers to celebrate cinema is more important than who wins.
“It’s a moment of celebration in the midst of everything,” Curtis told The Associated Press on the red carpet. “It’s tough out there. Overall. All at the same time. The whole time.”
Associated Press writer Hilary Fox contributed to this report.